Finding yourself after you’ve been bullied

When I was younger, I was bullied. I no longer have hard feelings about it and in certain ways, I am happy that I was, because it learned me a lot. I learned how to raise my voice, how to stay away from people I don’t trust, how to follow my gut feelings and how to disappear whenever I wanted and to answer diplomatically. These sound like sad things for a child to learn, but they were very useful later in life. However, there are always things that you will carry with you, especially when it happens so young; I was 10 when it slowly started and 15 when it stopped.

Learning to have friends

When it stopped, I learned how to get and maintain friendships. I got a very close group of friends that were pretty loud, so they learned me that it was okay to be seen. That you didn’t have to be afraid of negative reactions when you do something silly. I started to speak up more and not be so strict with myself. I learned that it was okay to make social mistakes, that they wouldn’t immediately let me fall when I did something weird. Within about a year, I was in the core group, which wasn’t something I could have imagined before. Mind you, because I didn’t communicate very much at all during the years before, I hadn’t really picked up on some things, so I had to re-learn how to be social and close to people in a lot of ways. After a year or so, I could even cry with them when needed. This was something I hadn’t done since I was 12, because I saw crying as showing weakness.

In this period, I also met my first boyfriend, who helped me even more with being honest and being close and open to other people. Since I still didn’t fully trust others to do the best for me, especially physical trust was hard for me, but he helped me through that.

The fear

As with a lot of people, looking back made me realize that the negative thoughts that remained after the bullying was in the core of my depression. I had always shielded myself from having to many feelings and I had learned to shut them off whenever I needed to, but in this safe environment, it wouldn’t let me keep it in anymore and I became very depressed. I thought that my new friends would later let me fall anyways, I began to test the loyalty of by boyfriend by being way to sad (he was at the time the only person who new what was going on) and I felt like everyone only tolerated me, instead of genuinely liking me. The thought that people actually liked me was still to surreal, especially because the transition from being bullied and ignored to having friends happened in just a few months when I had to transfer schools (because the first school was to small, we had to transfer after our third year, so not because of the bullying).

Since I had learned to conceal most feelings, my friends and parents didn’t know and I didn’t want them to, which made it worse and worse, until I was 18 and the worst was over. I learned a lot about depression and I gave myself the best therapy I could and finally, it worked. I read books about CBT and applied the techniques to myself, as well as learning about the brain and the chemistry in there. This made me realize that depression is just an illness and that it was nothing to be ashamed of, although it did still sometimes feel that way. This was the point that I finally told my parents and friends what happened and what was going on and all of them were incredibly sweet and helpful and I would trust all of them with my life since then. The depression did linger on until I was about 20, but it wasn’t as critical as before, probably because I was not alone in the fight anymore.


Now, another era began and it was the start of university. I did all the university things you do in the Netherlands; I joined a sorority, started studying quite far away from my parents, lived with a housemate and of course, I also studied a lot. The key change was I think mainly due to joining the sorority. I had a group of friends there of 12 other girls that would eat dinner every monday, to then go to have drinks at the sorority, but I also joined a lot of committees and after two years, I knew many people there.

My sorority is known for being a little posh (but not to much) and being slightly arrogant. What I love about it is actually that most people are indeed somewhat arrogant, but not in a degrading way; they just are overconfident about themselves. Being in this group op overly confident people helped me to become more secure about my own decisions as well and I started to finally do the things I liked, instead of what my friends wanted. I also took on a sales job and I loved the thrill and the chase. I was actually pretty good at persuading people and being that bold and social, who would have expected that from the girl that didn’t dare to even have normal conversations with classmates 3 years prior?

And now?

Having my confidence as high as never before, I started a board year, where I was able to lead 33 other students in all things marketing related. That year did make me realize I still didn’t fully get rid of my history; getting feedback remained a challenge, since I kept on feeling it as critiques instead of tools to become better. I did slowly get better, but I can’t say I am the best at it, but I am better at it than before. After my board year, I took half a year off to work in retail and just take a break. I had never had workweeks of less than 40 hours with all my committees and study combined, so this was a good time to really get into contact with myself again. I learned:

  • That working more than 40 hours a week can be counterproductive if it stops you from taking time to learn from mistakes.
  • To see what I was good at and what environments are best for me
  • To find out what I liked and how to incorporate that into a job.

Now, I am halfway through my master’s, I have a job in retail that I love and I am still figuring out who I am.

The thing is that when you go through a journey like me, it takes such a long time to find out how to behave, what kinds of people are the best for you, what way you want to go and what helps you not to get back to the place before, that you forget to learn about who you are. It is now more than 10 years after I started getting bullied, and I am just finding out what kinds of music I like, what kinds of clothes I like, what kinds of hobbies give me the most energy and that some of those things may not necessarily be the most popular things. In a pretty posh world, looking like a sweet, decent girl, I found out that I love punk music and that I am pretty good at grunting. This doesn’t mean that my looks don’t fit me, it is just that my looks portray a different side of me than my music taste.

I hope you found it useful to read my story and see the phases I went through after getting bullied. Being bullied was not the end of the world for me after all, so it doesn’t have to be for you. Do you notice any of the phases in yourself? And how do you cope with those negative side effects? If you want more posts like this, please subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, so you’ll never have to miss a new post!

Lots of love,


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Hi there! My name is Lisa and I am the author of Mind and Body Intertwined. I have a bachelor's and a master's degree in psychology. During my study, I found out how much the mind and the body are connected and it fascinated me, which is why I started my blog. Would you like to join me on this little corner of the world?

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[…] my long-time readers will know, I’ve been bullied in the past. As with all people that have experienced this, it left some marks. One of them is the […]