Growing Up Bullied

Please Watch The Intro Video First. Thanks!

So, this post gets a bit more serious and even more raw. Feeling down isn’t something to be ashamed of, nor is it something to be avoided. Failure is the mother of success. Being bullied — well, I feel it has made me stronger. It still isn’t an easy thing to be open about. However, I’ve learned that by being open, I will help many others.

This one… is a difficult share.

In fact, it’s taken me almost a year for me to finish this post & work up the nerve to share it. You’ll likely feel put off, angry or even offended. And, that’s okay. Everyone should feel the same way when hearing about someone getting bullied.

I’ll definitely share some specific stories; but, I won’t turn this into a book long sob story. Really, all I want to share is some perspective.

Bullying is a huge deal these days. And, I’m glad that it is. It’s being covered on many media outlets. And, it was even covered (with an amazing production, I might add) in one of my family’s favorite shows Girl Meets World. Yes… I’m an unabashed Disney fan.

I’m going to share just a little bit about my experiences being bullied. As this is a sensitive topic, I want to first say that anyone’s experience being bullied is unique. No one experience is the same. Just because one person perceives something one way does not invalidate or discriminate against someone else’s experience.

I’m merely offering my perspective, growing up bullied.

Growing Up Bullied

My earliest memory of being treated ill was when I was just before 3 years of age. I was trying to climb up to this one area of the playground and I didn’t have the upper body strength to do so. Now, you have to appreciate that this was an “old” style playground. Mostly made from wood and not exactly safe by any means. I was trying to reach this 3rd platform where it was created to be a type of watch tower. The 2nd level was where the slide was. And, the 1st level under it was basically a sandbox play area.

To get to the 3rd level, you had to do a pull up and then throw your legs over the edge to climb up. For a toddler, that wasn’t easy. For someone who was 4-5 years old, it was a piece of cake. That’s when I got this nice bit of input after failing to climb several times.

YOU can’t come up here! Up here is only for the big kids.

Haha. It’s not like its scarring or anything. But, it was then that I realized people can actually treat you in a manner that isn’t so much kind.

Well, when I finally got into 1st grade, that was when the trouble really began. I was the only Asian kid in my class and I think one of 3 Asians in the entire school. This was my first experience of racial bullying. Typically, it was language stuff like talking to me in “ching chong” words. Other times, kids would come up to me, play with their eyes and slant them asking me if I was “Chinese, Japanese, or Korean?” Specifically, Chinese was slanted up. Japanese was slanted down. And, Korean was one eye slanted up, the other slanted down.

And, it didn’t stop there.

Physical bullying became a problem. I had my lunch smacked down from my hand. Balls thrown at my face. I was tripped. Chased around. Beat down. As I can recall it, 1st and 2nd grade was rather tame. It was 3rd grade that was the worst of it.

The school spanned more grades with pretty rough kids. There were also territories of the playground I wasn’t exactly aware of. I was thoroughly taught the importance of it. It was also this year that I befriended an African American kid by the name of Phillip. While I was one of two Asians in the school. He was the only “black kid.” Strength in numbers, right? We stuck together pretty often on the playground. It was the only way to feel safe. We were both scrawny kids for our age so our best bet was actually to blend in with kids younger than us. And, to get back to our classroom as early as possible.

Emotionally, the name calling, fear generating, threats and what not was probably the worst. Whoever came up with the phrase “sticks and stones” put on a strong face. We all know words hurt. When we get older, more mature, develop thicker skin — sure, we can hold true to that. But, as a small child? There’s just no way.

The biggest tragedy of growing up bullied was that I felt disliked. I was people didn’t like me. And, what was even worse than that: I didn’t like me.

I became my biggest victim. Sure, I ended up picking up martial arts and what not. That was good for me in part. Still my biggest remedy was hiding. Martial arts only helped so much. When groups of kids singled me out and we got into a fight — I guess these days we call it an “altercation” — I’d eventually get the better of them. But, I’d be the one to be sent to the principal’s office because I “won” the fight.


If I turned the other cheek, I’d just get a beating or at the very least a scampering. If I “told on” any of the bullies, they’d just deny it. After all, they have their group of friends to back them up. I’m just the weird, Asian kid who is making up random accusations.

It probably wasn’t until the end of middle school that I started realizing ways to deal with bullies. It was also around that time that I finally broke out of my shell. In retrospect, I probably invited a little bit of negative attention as a late bloomer. It still holds no excuse to be targeted or to be bullied. Eventually, it just clicked for me. I knew what I needed to do. I left my school and went to high school somewhere else.

A fresh start.

If we fast forward all this, it was ironic in that when I went back visit to my old middle school where bullying basically progressively got better and even stopped; I went back, hoping to prove to whoever was left that I was worth my while. Ben Fung came back victorious! From a different school, now, as a “cool kid.”

Ironies of ironies, I found out that I was always cool.

Yup. during a senior comeback tour, I visited my old middle school just to see who would still be there as seniors in high school. Apparently, I was upon my return (and, apparently was always) as popular as ever. EVERYONE on campus basically found a way to jet out of class to come say “Hi” to me.

I never knew! And, as I’m typing, I wonder how much of this negative taint actually was a spawn of me not liking me, from a very early age. That I interpreted all my post-3rd grade experiences through such a negative lens, a negative view of myself?

Fast forward again another 10-15 years, I’ve recently gotten word that in other social circles which I’ve long been absent from, they apparently still talk about me. And, not only do they talk about me, they reference me with fondness, respect, and a bit of… legend? As if I was some great character of the past, a once and still welcome social presence who brought goodness into their lives.

Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this. Growing up bullied, the biggest tragedy was my mind. I felt worse about everything in life. I felt worse about me. And, everything I thought of fell into and darker, depressed place.

I did learn some things, though:

  • If you don’t stand up for yourself, no one else will.
  • People who dislike you will always fight dirty, lie, cheat, and stab you in the back.
  • I rather fight and get beat up, than get teased on a daily basis. Self-Victimized.
  • If you fight for someone else, be ready to take the fall for it. Especially if you win.
  • Sometimes, the only victory is change. Changing the environment. Changing oneself. Changing for better opportunities.

If you expected a happy ending to this post, I’m sorry I don’t have one to give. Bullying sucks. Growing up bullied, my wife has told me it still affects me from time to time. It’s not that I’m crippled because of it. It’s simply that I still see certain things in life with that lens… that I’m unwanted… a target.

If there is ANYTHING you take away from this post, it is this: If there is bullying going on, it’s on YOU to stop it. You, the person being bullied. You, the bully, who needs to stop and apologize with the rest of your life. And, you, the observer who should be intervening. If there is bullying going on; parents, you need to step in with a mannerism that doesn’t allow for bullies to get away with things. Merely talking to the teacher only makes thing worse. Typically, your kid has already suffered for weeks. If you are stepping in, make it a legal matter — and, get your kid out of dodge. Finally, if you are being bullied. Stay strong. I survived. You will too. It does eventually end. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, and nothing can really make it right. I can tell you that it eventually doesn’t matter the way you feel it does now.

I don’t think back on my childhood and remember the bullying. It’s not a big concern for me anymore. If anything, I feel it actually made me tougher — though, that in and of itself, is a double edge sword.

What I do think back on is how I wish I handled it differently. While I can’t change the past. I am writing this now so that you reading it, can make better your future. If you need someone to talk to about bullying, I’m definitely here. So are your friends, family, teachers, counselors, and many other loved ones.

A final lesson of sorts that I’ll share is this: I thought so much worse of myself because I grew up bullied. I was surprised and am continually surprised to find out how well people thought of me when I thought the worst of myself.

So… as I mentioned in the intro video. If you see any of it going at all. If you see someone standing over another. It is YOUR job to stand with the other… the person being bullied. And, if things eventually get rough, good on you for defending someone weaker.

If you need a peak into how deep bullying goes, spend 2 bux and watch this 30 minute episode. It is really well done. And, it drives home the ultimate victim in bullying — people learn to hate themselves.