I was bullied growing up. When I was in elementary school, there were a group of girls who took pleasure in pulling my hair during class when the teacher wasn’t looking, or punching me at the cafeteria after school (I went to an exclusive school for girls, so don’t think for one second little girls can’t throw a punch). I never understood why they picked on me. I don’t think I ever cried, except when I got home to my parents, asking what I can do to stop them. My parents told me to stand up to bullies, and from then on, I did.
The bullies turned this around and would tell my teachers I was starting a fight, when in fact I was only defending myself against all their attacks—physical, verbal, emotional, psychological. I was on my own, and there were usually three or four of them. I was doing well in school, and when these girls weren’t ostracizing me for being teachers’ pet, they were inventing stories to get the teachers to scold me. It never worked—I was always at the top of my class.
Of course high school was a lot worse, but by then, I was also a lot tougher. At first I was bullied for the way I dressed and talked—something I endured in grade school, too. And since I’m a fiercely loyal friend, a lot of the times I was bullied were when I was standing up for friends. One girl started bullying me because she was the unwanted party in a sort of love triangle involving one of my closest friends; since she couldn’t get to my friend directly, she started spreading nasty rumors about me and making life hell for me in school. This only made me focus more on my studies and making sure I got into a good university.
College was a lot better, but there’s no escaping bullying there, too. I wouldn’t let other people take credit for my hard work, even if those people happened to be dating professors. I was bullied out of awards I deserved, but no matter: I still graduated with honors and got jobs in companies I wanted.
I’d like to say it stopped when I graduated, but bullying continued in the workplace, too. In one job, I was bullied by someone who was ten years my senior because I got a job at the same level as her. In another, I was bullied by a junior staff whom I didn’t allow to do as she pleased with our social media sites; I was the editor. She retaliated by attacking me on social media and spreading nasty rumors about me, but she never got the satisfaction that I was affected.
There’s more where those stories came from, but they’re no longer worth the airtime. I realized adults can be even bigger bullies, and that even at this age, people still get a kick out of making fun of how someone looks, talks, or writes. But at this point, I’ve developed a thicker skin and stronger stomach, and I can just brush it off faster than I used to.
I never wanted to talk about these experiences, but they’ve always been there at the back of my head, challenging me to rise above them. Now, as I am about to get married and start a family, I’m beginning to worry about my future children, however: Will they go through the same horrors I went through growing up? Will they handle it better than I did? How can some people, young and old, be so evil?
Why do people get bullied in the first place? I got my answer at a Penshoppe event, where they revealed a study found that people are bullied because they are different. Because they aren’t like the bullies or everyone else for that matter. Because they think differently, speak differently, talk and act differently from everyone else. I know from experience that this is true.
A study they presented reports that 1 out 2 Filipino students have experienced or witnessed bullying in their schools. It has also taken a new form especially with social media, which provides a more convenient avenue to spread hate and thrive on people’s insecurities.
In a world where being different results to being mocked, isolated, and bullied, now is the time to empower today’s youth to celebrate their uniqueness. This is what local retail brand Penshoppe aims to communicate with the launch of their newest campaign #IAmDifferent. As the brand’s first public CSR project, #IAmDifferent aims to form a movement to inspire everyone to embrace who they are despite what other people may think.
With the help of international brand ambassadors Bella Hadid, Lucky Blue Smith, Kaia Gerber, and Sandara Park, among many other big names, Penshoppe brings its focus to the widespread issue of bullying plaguing the Filipino youth. This campaign presents a timely opportunity for everyone to start talking about the pressing issue of bullying in the country.
At the core of this campaign is Penshoppe’s newest collection of tees and caps which are emblazoned with the campaign statements “I Am Different” and “Different is good.” Each t-shirt from the limited edition #IAmDifferent collection features construction from luxe fabric and with a special identifier: a unique serial number at the back.
Proceeds from the #IAmDifferent collection will benefit the development of a module that discourages bullying and encourages acceptance in public school children, in partnership with Teach For The Philippines, a for-purpose, non-stock, non-profit organization that works to provide all Filipino children an inclusive, relevant, and excellent education. The organization enlists some of the country’s most promising young leaders to teach for two years in public schools throughout the Philippines. Through their experiences in the classroom, Teach for the Philippines transforms its leaders into lifelong advocates for education equity.
The movement has already started on social media, with a growing number of posts tagged by ClubPenshoppePH members Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte, Sofia Andres, Tanner Mata, Maria Fabiana, and Emilio Perez. Local personalities have also lent their voices to the cause, including Alab Pilipinas head coach Jimmy Alapag, SheTalks Asia co-founder Vicky Herrera, entrepreneur Patti Grandidge, singer/songwriter Keiko Necesario, and others.
Wear your differences proud! Visit penshoppe.com to know more about how you too can embrace what makes you different and take a stand against bullying.