...and the lies we tell ourselves when we're kids.
I remember when I was a kid my parents told me to ignore the people who were bullying me and they would eventually get bored because they couldn't get a rise out of me. Hah, what a crock. Do your problems go away when you just ignore them? Gee, I sure wish that my deadlines could go away just because I ignored them. The truth is that this kind of advice just helps kids to internalize a victim mentality, that they have to just suck it up and suffer in silence until their problem goes away. They become the ones "in the wrong" because they're not thin-skinned enough to take a little teasing from the kids at school. But this just makes it worse because 1) the kid becomes more and more withdrawn, thus marking them out as an "other" and a ripe target for being picked on and 2) in the mind of a bully, a lack of response is a challenge to see how much more punishment the target can take before they finally snap. By just ignoring something you make yourself even more a target because you don't resist and this sends a message that you can be pushed around with impunity. I think this also carries on later in life as a withdrawn, introspective kid grows up into a withdrawn, introspective adult. The more confident and outgoing people naturally and instinctively assert their will over those they see as passive or submissive. In some cases, race can also work against you, especially for us Asian males who are stereotyped as quiet and/or submissive.
I don't blame parents though. Much. Parenting is hard and it's tempting to take the easy wrong over the hard right. Oh sure, you could go the opposite direction and tell your kids that they need to take the people who are giving them problems 'round the back and lay them out but that's not really the right answer either. I mean, how does it look if someone says some stupid shit to you and then you respond by slamming them into the dirt? Plus, if you fight back, you become the problem because ultimately, while your tormentors did instigate the fight they did not themselves raise a hand against you. School administrations are bureaucracies just like government agencies and they are unwilling to do anything unless somebody bleeds. Don't believe their lies, they don't really care about you. How could they, when they have hundreds of other little brats to worry about and what happens to one little, weak, insecure kid doesn't affect them personally? So, already the deck is stacked against you.
What's even worse is when you start to delude yourself into going along to get along. I remember when I was younger I used to comfort myself with the fact that I'd get a good job because I was smart and willing to do work while the rest of them were dumb jocks and they would never make it in life if they couldn't play for the NFL. The responsibility for this little bit of idiocy lies solely with me because I didn't want to look at reality: if you're smart and willing to work you become skilled labor and labor is always a buyer's market, not a seller's. You struggle to keep your job against the millions of people just like you who are smart and willing to work. You're replaceable. Meanwhile, those guys with the outgoing personalities and people skills who picked on you? They have parleyed their way into management. As a manager you don't have to have any real skill at the field you are managing. You just have to be willing to make decisions and accept responsibility when those decisions turn out to be wrong...or pawn it off onto someone else. But you know what's even worse? When those bullies, far from being the dumb jocks you thought they were, are actually just as smart as you and end up going to elite colleges where they make friends, connections, and influence. Well then, you'd better hope to God they're never your boss. I guess on the bright side, it's a big world and that's not likely to happen.
Now, I know what I'm thinking - "Hey Ben, you sure spent a lot of time bitching about a problem and you don't really give a solution so what's the point?" If you were thinking that too, you're exactly right. I don't have a solution and I don't think that one size fits all when it comes to dealing with these kinds of problems. I know that I was able to tough it out when I was a kid and sure, it left me withdrawn and somewhat dead emotionally, but nine years out from high school, I have never had to see the face of any one of those knuckleheads. On the other hand, they went to Cornell, Columbia, and Yale, and went on to start their own businesses, and I joined the Army. Go figure. Would I do it this way again if I could go back? Heck no! It wasn't worth the price I had to pay. But at this point, I don't know any other way. Think back to Samuel L. Jackson's speech in xXx about the lion in the cage at the zoo. Eventually he forgets what it's like to be free. Yeah, that sounds about right. It just took 15 years.