Hey everyone! 

This blog is a little different than my usual ones: I wrote this for Shesbeenthere.com . It is a little more personal than I usually get so please enjoy:

As tears came to my eyes, I balled my fists and cleared my throat. I couldn’t take it anymore; “Listen to me, you can say whatever you want and do whatever you want to me, but I am a strong woman and nothing you do is going to affect me or bring me down.”  After my statement, the entire room was silent. I quietly sat down, and suddenly everyone in the cabin, which was around 10 people, cheered and clapped.

My name is Michaela Shelton. I am 23 years old, I recently graduated from San Jose State University, and my aspiration is to become a writer. Since elementary school, I was always a victim of bullying. I would get made fun of for multiple reasons including the clothes I wore, my hair and my weight (. I was always very petite and lanky).

Most of the people making fun of me were the “popular kids”. Growing up I minded my own business, but I still became a target to the children in my grade, particularly the boys. The names I was called ranged from giraffe, to tree, to darky (because of my skin tone) and ugly. How did I react to the bullying? Most of the time I would just sit their quietly and take it. I wanted to respond so badly, but my biggest fear was getting into a fight or provoking the children to tease me more. Little did I know not responding was only giving them approval to bully me.

After years of hiding in the bathroom at lunch to avoid being bullied, and crying every single night, I decided to finally speak up for myself. I did not know what the result would be, but I told myself the next time someone disrespected me, regardless of who it was, I would stand up for myself.

Shortly After making this declaration, I had a church camping trip to attend. Although the children at church picked on me, it wasn’t as bad as the children at school. However, I reminded myself that the declaration I made had to be fulfilled. If I did not get into the habit of standing up for myself, I never would.

The camping trip was going great. Everyone was being nice and happy to be away from home. The trip was three days long and day one was great. Even the children who usually teased me were inviting me to play with them and sit with them at lunch. I thought finally I was being accepted and would become “popular.”

However, this royal treatment was short lived. One of the older kids named Danny, walked over to me while I was hanging out inside one of the cabins. He instantly starting to belittle me calling me stick figure, ugly, bald headed and dark. That moment was when I could not take it anymore.  Everything anyone had ever said to me replayed in my head and I had a deja vu moment of me freezing up and remaining irresponsive. Now that you are all caught up, I will repeat my reaction to Danny. I simply looked him dead in his eyes and said the words, ““Listen to me, you can say whatever you want and do whatever you want to me, but I am a strong woman and nothing you do is going to affect me or bring me down.” I felt so big at this moment. I felt like I could do anything and overcome any obstacles life threw at me. Even if Danny or anyone else continued to belittle me, it didn’t matter! All that mattered was I had the courage to speak up for myself and would continue to throughout the rest of my life.

When this incident happened I was only 13 years of age. Now 10 years later, I reminisce and consider this moment a transformative experience.  I hoped that after this people would stop bullying me and they didn’t. However, my reception of what was happening was drastically different. I learned how to use my sense of humor to overcome the bullying and I learned to express how I felt at all times.

This blog is to inspire women who have dealt with bullying in any form or have children who are currently dealing with it. Bullying can happen via social media, in the workplace, verbally, physically and many other forms. The lesson I learned was that life is what you make it and standing up for yourself will show people you’re not a force to reckon with. To someone going through similar experiences, my biggest advice is speak up for yourself and do not be scared to be yourself. I thought I had to change for people to like me and to gain popularity, but after growing up and meeting awesome, supportive and encouraging individuals, I see that the people bullying me were the ones with the problem, not me. Also, if anyone has been damaged by bullying I want them not to be ashamed to seek help. I went to therapy when I was 14 years of age, because I had transformed into an angry and bitter child, due to the years of bullying.  It is never too late to get help and therapy can help suicides and other tragedies be avoided.

I have become very outspoken and I have learned to pick my battles. Many people in my life value my self-expression and I know that if I was not bullied throughout my childhood, I wouldn’t have developed into who I am today. This incident serves as the first time I stood up for myself.