How a 1-in-5er Became a Phoenix Rising Out of the Ashes
Imagine walking into your high school cafeteria. You spot your “friends” at a lunch table and set your books down at the head of it. After walking away to pick up your meal from the cafeteria workers, you come back to an empty table, except for the pile of trash that now occupies your seat and the surrounding area.
This is one of the many occurrences I endured as a victim of bullying from elementary school to high school. I was 1 in 5 students bullied daily and among the 37% of students who experienced cyberbullying (PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center). Similar to testimonies shared by other victims, I always felt different from my classmates. I was a shy and very petite girl with the longest hair in my grade. I was raised in a Christian home and always excelled with my grades, sports, and other extracurricular activities. I was President of the Student Council and Vice President of the Key Club as well as a Peer Leader, dancer, actress, singer, and much more.
As we all know, being different can make you into a target rather than being loved, celebrated, and accepted for the incredibly special and unique person you are. Because of my experience, I struggled to believe in that and my self-worth. I had no self-confidence despite my numerous accolades. After years of struggling with this internal battle through college and beyond, I came out stronger than the sticks and stones thrown by my bullies. Finding this inner strength is credited to God for helping me to stay true to who I am, my parents and family for loving me as me, and my friends for teaching me how to open up my heart again to friendships.
When we think of bullying, we tend to look at the way victims are affected in the moment rather than the long-term effects. We know in the moment that victims will feel a conglomerate of emotions such as sadness, confusion, and frustration, but what about 1 year after that instance? How about 5, 10, or even 20 years? Statistics show that victims of bullying are more likely to struggle with their mental health, specifically with anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, poor grades, and dropping out of school (PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center). 27% of them will feel negative about themselves, 19% will feel negative about their connections with family and friends, 19% will feel negative about how well they exceed in school, and 14% will feel negative about their physical health (PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center).
These long-term effects are what inspired me to create my platform and podcast, both titled 1 in 5: From Bullied to Healed, which pay an ode to the first statistic I shared above. 1 in 5: From Bullied to Healed is a message of unity for victims of bullying everywhere. It is a reminder that they are not alone and a push to always stand strong in the face of their bullies. It is a beacon of hope, like the guiding light of a lighthouse. 1 in 5: From Bullied to Healed is not just meant to bring victims of bullying a few steps closer to healing. It is meant to spread awareness to those who have never been bullied about the crucial importance of continuing the conversation about bullying 24/7. I created this initiative to help anyone who is going through the same pain that I went through. Am I 100% healed today? No - but I now know the overwhelming value of my self-worth, love myself for the unique person I am, and have much more self-confidence compared to 10 years ago.
What is the secret to taking that first step towards healing? Sharing your story - and sharing it proudly for the world to hear. If you are a “1-in-5er,” I encourage you to tell the world about how your bullies tried to strip away your self-worth, self-confidence, and self-love…but then, you won. I know how scary it is to take this first step, but once you do, I promise the hurtful words and actions from your bullies will no longer make you feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. I promise you will be reassured that you are not alone. I promise you will think back to that day many years later and be so proud of yourself for the fearlessness, bravery, and courage you showed. Most importantly, you will impact or even save someone’s life because of your testimony.
If you are ready to share your story with the world, I would be honored to have you join me as a guest on my podcast, 1 in 5: From Bullied to Healed. I am only a message away through my official Instagram: @missnewjerseyinternational, Facebook page: Miss New Jersey International 2020, or email: JNDiPasquale@gmail.com. You can listen to previously-recorded episodes of 1 in 5: From Bullied to Healed on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and most other music streaming platforms. For the month of October, I will be releasing a new podcast episode each Thursday in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month.
Always remember that together, we will go from Bullied to Healed.