Marie-Anne studies psychology in Paris. I had the opportunity to meet her during my first project aimed at highlighting women with inspiring journeys. Our first encounter really marked me and just like that, I asked her if she wanted to be the first contributor to Women of the World.


♦ Trigger warning : mention of suicide ♦

Today, I have decided to write about a sensitive subject to address, which is school bullying. It is important to mention that in 2017, I was lucky enough to be a part of the Miss France contest. Apart from the sequins and the amazing experience, I wanted to become Miss Auvergne and represent my region at the national contest for a very particular reason explained by my life story.

From 10 to 14 years old, I was a victim of school bullying just like many other students. The bullying was quite passive; what I mean by that is that no one hurt me, but I was constantly ignored by others. These circumstances strongly contributed to my extremely negative self-image. During this period, I was convinced that I simply did not deserve friendship from my classmates nor love from anyone. This feeling of not being enough followed me through many years and like it or not, sometimes, when I experience hard times, I have to face these exact same parasitic and unfounded thoughts. The difference is that today, I know that I have the right to claim happiness, just like everyone else.

When someone becomes Miss, they are immediately in the public eye. I wanted to access this status for two reasons. First, I wanted to prove to my former classmates that I succeeded at something they would never be able to succeed at. However, the main reason was to prove to myself that I could be whoever I wanted without needing anyone’s approval.

It is obvious that when the public follows you, you can speak up and, most importantly, be heard. This is the reason why, from the outset, I wanted to draw attention to the theme of school bullying and make it my priority during my year of “reign”. A year was ahead of me, I needed to make the most of it! I am proud of what I accomplished during that year. I took part in the show Ça commence aujourd’hui on the channel France 2 where I shared my experience according to the program’s concept, with the company of other guests. I also visited schools and colleges to talk to students and raise awareness about the subject.

On International Women’s Day of 2018 in Aurillac, I was particularly distraught to intervene in a college where everyone heard about the 13-year-old girl from another school who took her life because of bullying, two weeks before. My own sister also had to overcome the suicide of a primary school friend who hanged herself. She was 15 years old. Both girls killed themselves by hanging. In my small town called Riom, another 13-year-old girl threw herself down the college stairs and died in the ambulance. School bullying was also the cause of her desperate action.

It is sickening and far from what we can accept, but it happens way more often than we can imagine.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to understand that the fight against school bullying is a societal problem in which I am engaging myself. In the end, even though I suffered a lot from the harassment, I only realized recently that I was also a bully.

When I was in 5th and 6th grades, a girl in my class was even less popular than me among our common classmates. Let’s call her Noémie.

Noémie absolutely loved horses and made it known a little too much. She had average grades and did not wear trendy clothes. She was also very shy and giggled whenever someone talked to her. Just like me, she was given the nickname SAF (Sans Amis Fixes) [1]. So, while other people were harassing me, I did not hesitate to throw bad comments her way and judge her openly or behind her back. I made her endure exactly what I was enduring myself.

For a few months now, I have been digging into my memories to find her last name to look her up on Facebook, just to see what she has become. Given that, ever since I realized that I participated in school bullying to fit in and protect myself from other people’s attention, I carry a heavy burden of guilt. I deflected the bullying onto a poor girl who had done absolutely nothing wrong.

The moral of the story is that school bullying is a scourge that is even worse than it is depicted, and it is important to make children and teenagers aware of it. One can be bullied and a bully. When you are young, what you want is social validation, and you do not care how you obtain it. Putting down others is still the easiest way to get it.

If you have children around you or if you work with them, please take good care of them and truly listen to them. The weight on their shoulders is heavy. They are growing souls; we must preserve the adults they will become.

I thank you for taking the time to read this. I am proud of sharing my experience and I hope it will guide your thinking on the subject.


 

Marie-Anne, May 2nd, 2020

 

Follow Marie-Anne’s blog  L’Estudiantine and on instagram @lestudiantine.leblog.

 

[1] Without fixed/permanent friends

Content translated by Emilie Marcotte, with the help of Chanelle Lavoie.

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