Happy Pink Shirt Day New Zealand! Bullying and its effects on mental health is a big issue here in Aotearoa, so the Catalytic team turned up to our meeting in pink shirts today to show our support for kindness and inclusion.
On Friday 19 May 2023, Aotearoa is becoming a "sea of pink" as schools, workplaces and communities join the Pink Shirt Day movement.
By taking part, you're helping to stamp out bullying by celebrating diversity and promoting kindness and inclusion.
The Catalytic Foundation, along with the DOW ALL-IN ERG Fund, have supported Xabilities and their founder Tamara Grant to work with neurodiverse people and their inclusion in the community and workplaces. Here's what Tamara had to share about bullying.
Bullying sucks! Being Neurodiverse, even as an adult, you find yourself receiving a fair share of bullying with some people not realising what they say is offensive. Some do it just out of fear that some people are not typical people, making them feel uncomfortable. I wonder if the people who bully me, do so out of the annoyance, as they have spent their whole life hiding and masking who they are and take it out on people who either can't hide it as well or don't want to.
Below are my personal rules on what is okay and not okay, as a Neurodiverse person. I find it is very easy to be bullied and find myself around the wrong people and not realising when I am being abused or mistreated. Due to being placed in these situations, I have come together with 4 personal rules, to keep myself safe socially.
1.) How to live above bullying and not let the words disempower me and ruin my day?
I see through the words, due to my social norms not being typical due to my autism. I set certain rules for myself to support my self-growth. When someone says something offensive and I can't help but respond by asking them, how can I do better? If they chose to respond I listen, and from a non-bias point of view, I gain insight into how this person sees me which allows me to continuously grow and improve ONLY IN MY OWN WAY OF COURSE. This strategy usually calms the other person down while sometimes letting you gain insight into yourself.
2.) How to know when it's not okay
If the person cannot give you details on why they said the offensive words, THIS IS NOT A YOU PROBLEM! They're speaking from their own insecurities and using you as a punching bag. There's nothing you can say that will make the situation better and it's best to walk away! Feeding into the problem in school, work or relationship violence or discrimination is just going to worsen the situation.
Imagine negativity as a greedy hippo, and food is your words, body language, your overall reaction, the more you feed the greedy hippo food the bigger and greedier the hippo will become. This is the same in an argument, conflict, fight, or any state of negative communication.
The more you feed the hippo or the person with your reaction, the bigger the problem will grow. It's unnecessary pressure and stress and it's best not to feed the situation and walk away while waiting for the situation to calm down on its own.
If you are in a state where it has got manic, violent or unsafe. (Feed the hippo some yummy food so you can walk away safely), sometimes in a place where you are unsafe, and you cannot get away, best to agree to whatever the other person is saying, so they will calm down and you can make a safe escape plan, (lying is never okay but if one's life or safety is at risk, this is a tactic that can work).
3.) How to not be the bully
Sometimes you may get the feeling that "they deserve it", or "I can't help myself". If I ever get these feelings I know it's from a place of lack of emotional awareness and that I am expressing insecurities. This will turn you from the victim of bullying to the bully, it's a good thing to be aware of.
4.) How to know when someone is trying to express their feelings, but it comes across as bullying?
Sometimes people yell, have a negative tone of voice, or ignore you. I see this as a sign they are having problems regulating their emotions. This is NOT A YOU PROBLEM! It is their own personal problem. In response to this, I can nicely ask them to change their behaviour as I do not like it. Sometimes they will respond nicely back to you and other times they will make excuses for them from hurting your feelings. No matter how big or small, feelings are feelings, and no one has a right to hurt them! If they are unable to change, again, this is NOT YOUR FAULT, and it is best to walk away and let them cool down. It is a choice to talk negatively to someone, and it is up to you whether you want to sit there and take it. If you do choose to sit there and take it, it is your choice what words give you power!
What do I mean by you have a choice in what words give you power? It takes time to train but in life, people say things that can be offensive, whether it's a stranger, or family and friends, it can happen anywhere. With time and being self-aware of what words are empowering you and disempowering you, with time you gain knowledge on what you want to download and what you choose to walk away from. Why does this take practice? Because in a state of unstable mental health, everything can feel like an attack, so choosing what words give you power, is a combination of not just knowing what disempowers and empowers you but also having a level of knowledge for the environment around, when someone is trying to help you grow by telling you things you may not want to know, and when someone is telling you things out of their own insecurities e.g. bullying you.
In summary, I use all these 4 stages at the same time, as I find they give balance towards self and environmental awareness, to protect myself from bullying and make sure I am not a bully myself.
Signed Tamara Grant Founder of Xabilities
For more information about neurodiversity and inclusion, visit www.xabilities.com.