Side of Me You Probably Never Know

By Laili Muttamimah - July 11, 2018

Credit: David Cohen on Unsplash

It took some days for me to think before writing this. This issue must be sensitive and (I know) my energy will be drained while typing every word down. But honestly, I'm just tired of some phenomena that happen lately in this country. Yes, it's not a 'new song'. Probably, happens in every single places and souls. But, it's getting worse day by day when some people already saw this issue as a normal thing--or the worst, joke.

For last three weeks, Indonesian media served a lot of news about personal harassment of public figures. Names like Via Vallen and, the 'hot' new one, Bowo Alpenliebe, were hanging around on online media pages and being the headline for one or two times. Via got many negative judgments from people (especially, those who live on social media) because of her sexual harassment case. And now, Bowo, the only 13 years old guy who accidentally got viral because of his Tik Tok posts, received thousands of disapprobation comments on his account until his family decided to take him home-schooled because he was being mocked at school. From those cases, we can see where the personal harassment will be headed--bullying.

Nowadays, there are a lot of movements are voicing for "Stop Bullying!", also pages that provide free counseling for the victims, but in fact, this phenomenon is very difficult to eradicate. Plus, the digital era is widespread, many people can use fake accounts to attack each other on social media, and we can find cyber-bullying almost everywhere. Maybe sometimes we also ever laughed to someone's post and didn't realize that it turned out to be part of bullying.

One thing I noticed from the bullying victims: they don't do anything that LITERALLY harms others. Well, I understand people think Bowo's actions on Tik Tok are considered to be bad for young generation, but Bowo never directly does bad things to people who bullied him. He didn't steal, corrupt, or beat people, just had fun with all his posts. It's kinda same as those children (or even adults) are bullied out there, most of them didn't bother other people's lives, but (sadly) people just hate them. We may ever mocked at group of people just because they wear weird clothes, have disproportional body, or become maniac of something, but oftentimes we don't know WHY we do that. We just don't like them without any reason. But most of them, never directly bother our lives.

I know, there are many people who might get worse bullying than Bowo or Via, even end up suicide because of depression. Yes, bullying action through social media exacerbates the impact. Therefore, thinking of standing in Bowo or Via's shoes brought me to childhood memories, because bullying was very close to my life. In fact, I even can say that I'm growing up by that bullying action, because I (almost) always get bullied at school.

It started when I was kid

When I was in elementary school, I had bullied twice: by schoolmates and neighbors. At that time, I (luckily) befriended with those who quite popular in class--also superior. I never know why I suddenly joined them, probably because of group task or seating arrangement. I must be the one who bullies others if you look at my kind of friends, but unfortunately, I was bullied by them. Yes, my own friends. Or strangers I ever thought 'friends'.

I was trusted to become a class leader for three years. It was not only chosen by teachers, but also the votes of class. I remember how often I was scolded by teachers because my classmates were undisciplined. They were often running away when the teacher left classroom, making trouble, disturbing the girls (yes, pulling their skirts!), even fighting. Therefore, I decided to be more assertive to them. I wrote names of those who broke the rules and scolded them who made a fuss. I knew they hate me, but I just don't want to be scolded by my teachers anymore.

My group of friends are typical of rebel students. They went to canteen when teachers were not in class or watched the boys playing football in the field outside the school. I often came over to them and asked to go back to class, but they always argued on me. Since that day, they started oppressing me, without explaining why they were so mad at me.

At first, they just mocked me, but then their actions became more physical, like hitting my head with books, scratching a ruler into my hand, even pushing me. I also ever found my bag in trash bin (which full of foul-smelling fluid) and got present with two lizards in it. It really sucks! But I didn't know how to fight and just cried at home.

The bullying didn't stop even if I was in the neighborhood. There is a group of girls who often played with me since toddlers. We grew up together, so I thought they will be my BFF. But when we went to 5th grade, they suddenly kept distance from me. Whenever I asked them to play, they always refused. They chose to play with older girls and left me. They might think that I'm still too childish, because when they were busy talking about boys, I was still thinking about Barbie clothes. Finally, I became friends with children who were younger than me. Then, that group of girls mocked me: Idih, kasihan nggak punya temen jadi mainnya sama anak-anak kecil! (BUT HEY, WE WERE ALSO STILL 11 Y.O! WE HAVE NOT EVEN PMS YET!!!). I remember that I really wanted to be part of their dance group to celebrate Independence Day, but they said I didn't deserve it. Until one day, they approached me that I (finally) allowed to join their dance group IF I provided my house for the practice site--and I immediately accepted it. But two days later, I unexpectedly got exclude from the dance group for no reason.

Fortunately, my parents taught me to write since childhood. With old computer and Ms. Word, I learnt to write short stories and read many fiction books. I didn't know that writing activities will make a big impact for my life at that time, just enjoyed all the stuff and never 'tried' to be their friend again.

They called me slanderer and... slut

The most severe bullying action I got in junior high school. I was still in the same school with the girls from elementary school and neighborhood, but we are no longer friend. Again, I didn't expect that I will join some popular girls at school because some of them lived nearby my house, so I always came home with them after school.

One day, I ever liked a guy and told one of my friend in the group. She seemed to support me, but two weeks later, I found this girl was dating my crush. I was disappointed and asked her for the reason because she knew my feelings. But she thought I'm accusing her, then we never talk to each other anymore.

Problem was getting complicated because this girl is quite powerful in our group. She incited other friends to stay away from me. She spread lies about me and said that I'm a slanderer. All my friends hated me, days in school were really messed up. They made fun of me through Facebook posts almost everyday. Thereafter, more and more girls were keeping distance from me. Every time I walked in school corridors, they yelled at me "Look! The slut is coming!'

I cried in the toilet and found two girls from my class accompanied me (thanks Aghnia and Nurul). I really hate a group of possessive girls. In fact, I only had problem with one girl, but then all of her friends suddenly took part in our problem. They immediately judged me without asking, only saw the problem from one side. This bullying made me stress, I cried every time back from school. It ruined my grades and class rank from 2 to 15. My mother was worried to see me, then she came to the girl's house and asked what happened. She explained my condition, told her that we should make up. However, the girl was just pissed off. She texted me: dasar anak mami! Bisanya ngadu ke orangtua! But, I don't care anymore, I know my mom just want to help and do the best for me.

Face of horse sh*t

The bullying didn't end at all. During high school, I got bullying again, but this time the target was my face and done by the boys. I was 15 years old and puberty started working on me. Some acnes appeared on my face. I went to the dermatologist, and she said my skin was oily and sensitive. On the other hand, my mother bequeathed this acne hormone to me. Finally I did facial biweekly, but the acne on my face was still getting worse.

Doctor forbade me to use powder, so I went to school with bare face. The boys started making fun of me, some of them just asked "Muka lo kenapa, Lel?" and the rest often laughed at me. One day, while I was walking in the classroom corridor, a guy yelled at me "Is it face or a horse sh*t?" I was angry and beat him. But, his mockery became more severe. Since that day, the 'acne' word sounded very sensitive for me, I even often blamed my mom who (the doctor said) bequeathed this disease. The boys may never know that their mockeries broke my confident. My ex even gave comment on my face when we were still together and asked repeatedly "Are you too lazy to wash your face?" Oh Dude...

The only one who can make the bullying stops is yourself

Certainly, bullying is not a simple matter. I admit, I cried and hated myself for years because of bullying. I regretted being Laili and thought other people's lives are better than mine. However, in the end, I found the answer: we are the ones who can eradicate this bullying action. The key? We must find and love ourselves first!

In that 'dark era', I often spent time for writing. I practiced my writing skills, went to writing seminars, also read a lot of books. In another way, writing feels like a catharsis for me, where I can 'walk away' from reality. Since high school, I entered in many writing competitions, although never be the winner. Until when I was in 11th grade, I finally became the 1st winner of short story writing competition in Bekasi. My name and photo appeared in one of the columns in local newspaper. My teachers knew that and really supported me. Since that day, my chance in writing began to open. In 2013, I published anthologies with other authors titled "Choco-Love" and "My Broken Promises" by indie publisher Meta Kata. And, one year later, when I was 17, I finally published my debut novel "Inseparable" by Ice Cube, Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.

That's when I realized writing is my passion. Writing has been my best friend since childhood, but I never realized it. Finally, I started to love myself. I tried not to bring myself as "Laili--The Face of Horse Sh*t" or "Laili--The Slanderer" but "Laili--The Aspiring Writer". It's not an arrogance, but labeling from me to myself. After that, everything began to change. My friends also see me as "Laili--The Aspiring Writer". They read and talked about my novel. No more mockery about acne, because they already know my value.

Believe me, being in bullying victim position was really torturing. We listen more to bad things about ourselves than try to accept that we also have many good sides. I'm really sure, we grow with each other's uniqueness, but maybe we haven't realized it yet. To be in 'find and love yourself' position certainly need process for years. Until now, I'm also still climbing to that stage. I haven't found myself completely, but at least have realized the values within me. That is what can rebuild my confidence, after having been dropped for almost eight years.

For you who may feel the same, we can never control others to not doing bad things to us, but we can control ourselves to ignore it. Please, recognize yourself, find out what you like and something that makes you feel 'strong', and learn to love yourself. We don't have to be a great person--a successful CEO, a rich man, and so on--to be respected. We just need to respect ourselves first.

So, please keep going in the process and be patient, then one day you will hear those who ever bullied and mocked you call "Hey, my friend!" :)

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2 komentar

  1. What a powerful story! You may know this by now but i wanna say it again. Since the very 1st day i saw you di meet and great parmagz, i know you are a very kind and beautiful person inside and out. And has been inspired by you because i also wanted to be a writer back in the day (that dream still lives within me actually). Sometimes I can see your insecurity but you always able to overcome them and that makes me semakin ngefans kak lails. Keep on being your amazing self. Love ya!

    1. Love you too, Mel! Thank you for your endless support!! <3