By: Kara Dunford
[ In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, How to be a Redhead is featuring stories about bullying and how redheads can turn their lives into success stories. This is my story.]
As a writer, I have devoted a magnitude of time studying the English language and analyzing words. Nouns especially strike my fancy. Noun: a word used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things. A noun sounds innocent enough, right?
How do you feel about the following words used as nouns: Carrot Top, Red, Ginger, Freckle Face, Firecrotch, Redheaded Stepchild?
Do they trigger painful memories of bullying, like they do for me? Words can cause tears, words can hurt feelings, words can diminish self-esteem, and words can ruin your day; but remember words can also bring a smile to your face, words can lift your spirit, words can build self-esteem, and words can make your day.
The beauty is, words hold power, therefore, words can change opinions and preconceived misconceptions.
My story of overcoming negative comments and bullying begins and ends with the word acceptance.
Acceptance is a word that comes to mind when I recall childhood experiences of being bullied. As one of only a small handful of redheaded children in the Midwestern suburban community I was raised in, I stood out in a crowd. With long red hair, a plethora of freckles dotting my fair skin and standing heads taller than my peers with lanky arms and legs, I was an easy target for bullies.
Sometimes individuals need to be educated regarding a particular sector or minority of society because they do not accept or understand, they are distracted by physical differences and are blind to the similarities of humankind. Ignorance can sometimes lead to hate and violence, simply because of lack of exposure or a misunderstanding.
Through a variety of experiences I’ve learned that I needed to:
1. Accept that not everyone is open to befriending others or treating individuals with respect. Over the years, throughout childhood and surprisingly into my twenties I have refined my approach of reacting to bullies and bigots. Bullies and individuals that feel entitled to express negative and potentially hurtful comments about one’s physical appearance are oftentimes troubled individuals with self confidence issues themselves, therefore they must put others down to build their own confidence.
2. With maturity and through many experiences I’ve learned the best approach for me is to respond to negative comments with a piece of educational materials. For instance if an individual makes a comment that I perceive as loaded with a hurtful or negative connotation regarding my appearance I may reply with an educational tidbit such as, “I am perfectly comfortable with my fair skin, as it is the result of a mutation of the MC1R gene impacting skin pigmentation.”
3. My tip for young redheads who may face bullies in her life is to first accept the beauty and uniqueness you have been blessed with and understand that not everyone is as open and accepting of those who may look or act differently than the majority. Turn every negative comment or intended insult into an opportunity to teach a lesson and breakthrough to an individual who may not have been raised in a welcoming or accepting home.
4. Words hold power; it’s up to you to disperse the world with positive and educational notes. Stay strong and remember you are fiery and fabulous, you can change the world one word at a time.
Rock it like a Redhead!