I haven't really celebrated my birthday in years ever since junior high school. Partially because of the so-called ‘birthday celebration tradition’ in the boarding school which was honestly just another form of bullying that made me want to be invisible or hide out somewhere on my birthday. So I grew up hating the attention that I never even bothered to tell people it was my birthday (most of the time I just forget my own birthday). The worst part is when I eventually find everyone's birthday insignificant. At times, I feel guilty for feeling this way when my loved ones and close friends want to celebrate, and I just want to avoid these kinds of celebrations. The few times it's happened, it was seriously a case of pasting on a happy face and toughing it out, and being relieved as hell when it was over.
I thought it was just the way I’m put together but little that I know that they are the result of a decade of ingrained defence mechanisms and survival practices. Childhood bullying leaves deep scars and recovery is not a quick process, especially if we did not deal with the bullying when it occurred. Too often, bullying is not taken seriously and is treated as a normal rite of passage. It's time for us to move away from any perception that bullying is just an inevitable part of growing up, but a significant disadvantage in childhood that can have life-long consequences. Just because people can make lemonade out of lemons, it doesn’t mean that bullying is a good thing. Even those who are able to see the positive side of having been bullied often had other negative ramifications.
While programs to stop bullying are important, teachers, parents and policymakers need to focus efforts on early intervention among children to prevent problems caused by bullying from persisting into adolescence and adulthood. My time as an intern at UNICEF Malaysia, has opened up my eyes to UNICEF's commitment to protecting children from all forms of violence and bullying as well as supporting their mental and psychosocial well-being. Turning 24 this year, I decided to overcome my birthday blues by doing something meaningful. With your help (and some birthday love), we can stand up to bullying, and make a big difference to the lives of children in need to feel safer, more included and accepted. Donate now!