At Spiffy, we were honoured to be asked to work with Kidscape for Anti-Bullying Week, as bullying is something I am far too familiar with. As a child and teenager, I was overweight and struggled with my sexuality, which made me a target for bullies. I was once pushed down the stairs, and when I reported it, my teacher said, “I’m sure she didn’t mean it”, when all I remember is looking back up at this girl who thought the whole thing was hilarious. I was regularly made fun of, teased, referred to as “fat boy”, turned into the butt of the joke, and even ridiculed by certain teachers for some of my more effeminate mannerisms, most notably during PE.
Because I didn’t fit in with the stereotype of what a boy should be, and I was much happier listening to the Spice Girls than playing football, I forced myself to hide who I was and shy away, convincing myself that all the things that made me “me”, weren’t good enough. All these instances had a huge impact on my confidence and kickstarted what has become a lifelong battle with anxiety, body image and self-worth.
I held onto so many negative beliefs about myself as I grew up. I believed I wasn’t “worthy” of having a boyfriend unless I was thin, that when I was struggling, I should just get on with it and my emotional pain didn’t matter; the things that brought me joy were something to be ashamed of, and that being gay was abnormal. It’s taken many years of introspection, therapy and learning more about myself to unpick these beliefs and rewrite them. And although I’m in a better place now, it’s still something I struggle with on a regular basis.
Children, teachers, parents, adults all need to understand the impact of their words and their actions. Perhaps a throwaway comment about something which feels fairly innocuous to you is actually just reinforcing these horrendously painful and damaging beliefs children are building up about themselves. Believe me - these words stick around for years to come. As a 34-year-old man who runs his own business and lives a happy life with his partner, the words those people used and their actions still creep up on me.
We created the “I’m the best at being me” enamel pin because that’s exactly what we want children to believe. We want children to celebrate what makes them unique, take joy in who they are, believe in themselves and not let anybody else convince them otherwise. We’re so happy to donate £2 from the sale of every pin to Kidscape to help them continue to do their vital work and help other children grow up in a world where they get to be whoever they want to be.
Paul Young is the Co-Owner of Spiffy - The Happiness Shop.
If you share our vision for all children to grow up in supportive communities safe from bullying and harm, please donate today.