Fear and Self Doubt at the End of a Pointed Finger

A few months after I moved to West Virginia from Oregon, a girl in my junior high gym class pushed me into a dark corner of an unused shower, got in my face and screamed at me for being too smart. As she pointed her finger into my chest, she told me that I had better stop acting like I was better than everyone else. She was joined by two other girls whose spittle sprayed across my face as they railed at me – screaming that every time I got a high score on a test or assignment, I ruined the curve for everyone else. They also told me that I talked funny, should  accept I was in West Virginia and needed to start acting like it.

Even though the incident probably lasted only a few minutes, the repercussions have lasted my entire life. Yet I never told anyone about what happened, and, up until now, it’s been a secret between me and the three others involved.

But this week, with all of the negative comments and finger-pointing after the presidential election, the memory has come flooding back.

After the incident in the shower, I hated myself and believed I was somehow to blame for the situation. While I never purposely got a bad grade, I was still bullied into submission. I spent years locked in the prison of being a follower rather than an individual. Throughout my adolescence, most of the opinions or beliefs I espoused weren’t really my own. Instead, I was simply parroting what I had heard and what I thought would help me fit in.

Even worse, I was full of self-doubt about who I was and what I believed.

Thankfully, I grew up and I grew strong. I grew to be an independent woman who could think for herself, believe in her own intelligence and develop a conscience that extends far beyond her own wants and needs. I also grew into a woman who isn’t tolerant when people make judgments about or reject someone who acts or thinks differently than they do. I know all too well what that feels like.

That’s why some of the harsh comments and reactions to this week’s election took me right back to the shower where I was being bullied.

I understand why some people are angry and frustrated. I felt the same way after the 2000 and 2004 elections. But I didn’t to purposely make others feel bad about their beliefs and opinions. Yet that’s what I’ve been witnessing, and to me, the reactions mirror how the girls in the shower treated me.

People are angry at the election results and are trying to find someone else to blame. The girls were angry about their own grades and had to find a scapegoat, which was me.

Romney supporters are screaming that those who voted for Obama are idiots, morons, traitors and worse. The girls didn’t question my intelligence, but they did question my standards and integrity.

Some extremists are complaining that Obama rallied minorities and people on welfare to vote for him and, in those complaints, they are insinuating that these individuals don’t have the same status as  “real” Americans. The girls complained that I, a newcomer to a community where they had lived their entire lives, should be conforming to their definition of normal.

The main difference between now and when I was a teenager is that I am not going to be quiet when I hear or witness such behavior. It’s wrong and people should be told it’s wrong. Neither do I feel bad about myself or my beliefs. I now recognize that anyone who points a finger is simply trying to transfer their own fear and self-doubt to someone else.

Instead of pointing fingers we should be joining hands so together we can tackle some of the tough issues we face.  After, all, it’s’ hard to be angry, fearful or full of doubt when your fingers are touching someone else’s.

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About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a daughter in high school, a son starting his latest adventures at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on November 10, 2012, in current affairs, My life, News, perspective, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thanks for being brave and putting your experience out there so some may learn from it. Loved everything you have said. My favorite is your last paragraph!!!!

    • It was simply a learning experience, Betty. But looking back out how I responded (not telling anyone and feeling like there was something wrong with me) makes me proud of who I have become…I would never allow that to happen today.

  2. Thank you for your honesty, Trina. I’m sorry for your horrible experience, but grateful that through that experience, you’ve come to be both accepting and outspoken.
    Like you, I have been really taken aback by many blog posts on WordPress this week, with terrible name calling and so much hatred. It’s wrong, and its scary.

    • We seem to have lost the ability to appreciate differences for what they are…sometimes they are neither right nor wrong just based what we personally value. I can understand adolescents doing that… but adults? Sad, so sad.

  3. Thank you for this post Trina. I had a similar experience in high school with a great big bully girl who intimidated and threatened me in a way that lasted for the rest of my life. Now I can see that the extreme reactions to the election are due to fear. And what we can do in response is stand up calmly for what we believe. Thanks for sharing.

    • So agree with you. .. i am not letting myself get sucked into the rhetoric… even when I know what is being said is inaccurate. Instead, I just continue to encourage those efforts that I feel are beneficial.. Sorry to hear about your experience in high school.

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