Culturally Unfit | Column 2.
You’re in elementary school. You aren’t very popular and mostly keep to yourself and your friends. It’s recess and you’re on the playground with your friend. You suddenly find yourself surrounded by the biggest bully at your school and the minions that follow. They start laughing at you and calling you offensive names. You feel tears welling up in your eyes, but then stop and breathe for a second, because you realize you aren’t alone. As you turn slowly to your friend, someone you call a best friend, for help, for a defense, for a voice since you seemed to have lost yours - you notice them slowly backing away and joining the circle of cruelty.
Does that seem at all familiar?
Fast forward 30 years and one of your friends is friends with someone who has been cruel to you. Nothing has really changed except your eyes aren’t welling up with tears, and you probably don’t even think about it the same way.
Has the level of how much it bothers you changed? Is your reaction different?
How does it feel?
Experiencing that type of abandonment when you haven’t yet developed confidence in your individuality - while learning about friendship - results in a lack of trust. You reject the opportunity to live, learn and feel the value of being different. That lack of trust expands into resentment towards your differences.
The people who desert you probably don’t think it’s a huge deal while they are doing it. It’s one moment in time and they don’t realize the implications in either playing along or staying silent and not defending you. They probably never considered how you might feel after, or simply thought an apology in private would resolve the situation allowing them the best of both worlds. They are likely unaware of what other things you might have been struggling with, and how you needed support more than even you understood. They also might have been in a position of fearing rejection if they defended you.
The negative impact of the lack of support at a young age doesn’t go away. The handling of being abandoned simply changes. This behavior of people wanting to fit in and deserting friends when they are intimidated by someone ‘popular’ or in the majority, is hurtful to them as well. Both the person hurting someone and the person being hurt, are hurting. They are both suffering from a lack of confidence in who they are, and are reacting out of fear of rejection and humiliation.
We realized in speaking with our Poppi community members, that this exact experience came in many different shapes and sizes. This scenario is very common to many people and raises so many questions.
Do you feel any differently when you’re older and a friend doesn’t defend you?
How do you handle that situation as an adult? Do you say something?
How did that situation as a child insert itself into your future relationships?
Has your ability to trust and forgive been impacted by these playground experiences?
The most shocking part of the discussion to many people was realizing that missing a critical defense on the playground, had an immense subsequent impact on their ability to have trust in themselves and others. It was alarming to most how it starts so much younger than we think.
Going with the majority or with the popular side isn’t always the right side. It’s rarely the right side. But standing up for the unpopular opinion or even questioning the popular vote is so intimidating, it leaves many to go with the masses instead.
It happens as a child.
It happens with colleagues.
It happens with friends.
It happens with family.
It happens in relationships.
So what really happened on the playground?
Let’s break it down…
In a moment of complete despair, sadness, anger, and confusion you’re probably more upset with that friend for not defending you, than you were at being bullied.
That friend was supposed to do what we are taught friends do, have your back and defend you. In our minds, that person made a conscious decision to join the bullies, and even if it was out of fear for also being bullied or simply wanting to fit in, it crushes you.
Most importantly, what we took away from that day at the playground, was that there is one more person who believes the bullying view of you, and it’s someone who was a trusted person, so it seems all the more likely that it’s true. You feel more alone than ever. Our individuality had not yet been discovered by ourselves for good, and for power. It is easy to defeat when it’s not fully developed and accepted.
What happens next?
Like any outcome to a situation, they vary depending on the individual and the experience. We had many discussions with our Culturally Unfit community to fully understand the many scenarios that followed the playground.
In any situation, if you are not given attention or selected first, you feel devastated. It’s almost irrational how devastated you feel. You are unable to defend it, explain it or live it, because deep down inside you know it’s completely unreasonable.
High tolerance and acceptance for disloyalty:
You forgive easily. Maybe you tell yourself it’s because life is too short, or what they did wasn’t that bad, or you can understand; but in truth, you’re accepting less than you deserve. This high tolerance for disloyalty roots from the fear of being deserted again, and can lead to many situations where you are easily taken advantage of.
Heavy resentment & embarrassment:
Since the playground, you have tried to conceal, and reject any part of who you are and where you come from that sets you apart from others. In your mind the bullying was a target at you being different, so in turn you desert your heritage, your culture, your traditions, and roots.
Find yourself lonely:
Being alone feels safe. Nothing can harm you; nothing can happen when you’re alone. Being alone turns into loneliness. Being in a crowded room turns into loneliness. The loneliness is so severe it becomes a comfort zone and can lead to some disastrous decisions, and you might find yourself in bad company.
Seeking the approval of others:
‘I’m just really caring’, ‘I’m just a really good friend’. Sound familiar? You find yourself working so hard for other people’s approval. For some, it’s almost with each and every person you see and spend time with. The exhausting efforts lead us to seek comfort in that safe, alone, lonely time.
Become a bully:
For some of us, we develop similar characteristics and behaviors we observed as kids that were accepted. In some instances where we thought we were becoming ‘strong’, we ended up bullying others. We relive those experiences subconsciously and immediately resume the role of the character not crying. We see an opportunity for a redo, but go about it in an unhealthy way.
What can we do about it?
When there is a disruption to the development of something tangible we intervene instantly. It’s much harder when you can’t see what hasn’t yet developed, especially when there isn’t a focus on it.
When we are young children, adults don’t want to call out the differences amongst us and bring attention to them, as they fear it will fuel negative behaviors. Interestingly enough, their fear is if you point out differences, it can lead to bullying, to loneliness and all those other outcomes we discussed. Ironic right?
What we at House of Poppi have learned from our own experiences, is that individuality is a monstrous part of our personal development and that needs to be recognized, cultivated, and encouraged openly. When we were younger we weren’t aware there was any power and anything special in being different. When the differences aren’t brought up the first time with positivity, it’s fair game.
You never know how someone’s differences were treated the first time and what they are still recovering from. So the next time you have your ’15 minutes’, defend something right regardless of who’s watching.
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