This story was written by Adriana from PERU, via UN Online Volunteers.
I am 18 years old and I live in Lima, Peru. I consider myself to be a kind, intelligent and sensitive person, and I love to do normal teenage things like listening to music and having fun. I believe I am happy, but it has not always been this way.
Living in a traditional society as a woman brings certain things with it. Like not being considered equal to man, or having to act as society dictates. I have never actually been quite okay with that, so I did not stick to it, even as a child. That is when the bullying started.
I have been bullied since first grade – from when I was just 5 years old up until fifth grade at 11 years old. I was shamed for a number of reasons. The first one: playing with the boys and preferring ‘boy’s toys’.
I never really thought much about it, it just felt natural to play soccer and ask for cars instead of Barbies. Do not get me wrong, I was quite feminine too. But girls my age preferred jumping rope and not interacting with the boys. So I did not have many friends at school, because girls wouldn’t play with me and boys would not talk with me.
I did not care about it because I still had a couple of friends to play with, and that is all that really mattered to me. I mean, I was a 5 year old – all I wanted to do was play and have fun.
Later on, when I was 8, the only two friends I had moved out of the country. I was left alone to try and find someone to hang with. By then, I did not play with the boys anymore because they did not like playing with “the girls”, and the girls liked to just sit around and talk. Still, I was okay with it if I could get a group of girls to be with.
But I could not get any group to accept me. What made it worse was that I was always top of my class. The other kids did not like me because I was smart. Kids just did not want to hang out with me, and I did not understand why that was.
Kids just did not want to hang out with me, and I did not understand why that was.
I started thinking something was wrong with me, and I started to not like myself. To feel uncomfortable in my own body, wanting to be like one of the popular girls.
That time was the lowest point in life. I would spend hours crying in the school toilets, alone and wishing for a friend.
It was then that I received one piece of advice from the person I love the most: my mom. She had been there through it all. She told me the others were just jealous, that there was nothing wrong with me. She told me to just be myself and not to stress out about what other people thought about me. That helped me rebuild my self-esteem, and I learned a valuable life lesson that I still use today: if you like yourself, or at least learn to love what you are with flaws and all, nobody can bring you down.
Years later it started getting better. I made a couple of friends who liked me for who I was. Best of all, I didn’t need to change myself. When I changed schools, it all got better. I made a whole lot of new friends and had they best years of my life so far in high school. They were so good; sometimes I don’t even remember I was bullied at all.
Remember, you just have to be strong and keep on going. Things do get better sooner or later. Do not let anyone tear you down.
This story was part of Safety First for Girls (SAFIGIs) #SharingNotShaming campaign.