Mental wellbeing for young people

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Being yourself in school

Joel Harris photo Joel Harris · 05 Oct, 2020

Being bullied is not only a horrific experience when it happens, but it can have a really long-term effect on us. Joel talks about how being bullied in primary school affected how he behaved at secondary school, and how that finally changed in sixth form.

Hello Headstrong UK, how are you all doing? I hope you're really doing well. My name is Joel Harris, it's really good to be talking to you today.

Today, I want to chat about my school experience. I want to share about my high school experience and what it was like for me.

So in primary school, so from reception to Year 9, I was picked on quite a bit. I was picked on, I was laughed at, I had dyslexia, so I'd never get anything right in spelling. I had a faith, so people would laugh at me. My dad was a pastor. I had a speech impediment for the first two years, so I couldn't speak as well. People were taking the mick out of that. I just wasn't really, that liked in primary school. People would bully me.

And I remember it having a massive effect on me. I remember going to big boys' school, as you'd call it then, I remember moving to high school saying to myself, I wasn't gonna be picked on again. I wasn't going to have that experience again. And this vow of protection, this idea that I didn't want to be hurt, made me pull into myself as I went into high school, made me not be myself in high school.

I was quiet. I was timid. I wouldn't talk to people. I wouldn't crack jokes. Like, I wouldn't be myself and who I was outside of school because I didn't want people to see me. Cause if people saw me, it gave them the opportunity to pick on me. I created a false personality. I created a false mask for high school.

If you know me, you know I love to express myself in questionable fashion senses. In high school, when it was non-uniform days, I'd wear the blandest outfits simply because I didn't want to get picked on.

So I, from Year 7 to Year 11, had this persona in high school that wasn't me. And it was exhausting. It was tiring. It was exhausting. I was shattered. I wasn't happy because I'd be going to this place from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM and I wasn't being myself. And if you know anything about your body, you aren't designed to act for that long. You're designed to be you. You're created to be you and I wasn't being me. And it was exhausting, I didn't have a fun time, I would say, in those five years. It wasn't good times. I wasn't looking forward to it and it caused my mental health to be bad.

And then in Year 11, I moved. I moved to a different sixth form and I had the amazing two years. Best two years I've ever had because I was myself. I deliberately tried to be myself, I deliberately tried to express myself, to be who I am designed to be. And it helped my mental health. It helped my life because suddenly my life wasn't here, I'm this person, here, I'm that person. Suddenly my whole life, I'm Joel.

And it was amazing and looking back, I realise how different my high school experience would be, If I was myself. If I was not putting on the personality, but being myself.

So I thought, what can I say to you guys? If you're feeling like this, if you're feeling a bit, like I'm not being myself in high school, I've come back from six months break because of lockdown and suddenly, I'm not myself. Suddenly, I'm nervous. Suddenly, I'm not being who I feel like I am. What can I do?

And I thought I could give you a whole list of things what would be helpful, but you'd forget them by tomorrow. So I want to give you one tip. One idea that can help you go about your way in school and in any area of your life where you're not being yourself.

And that is surround yourself with people who make you happy. Surround yourself with people who make you happy. Because I think you'll realise a lot of the time, you can try and hang out with cool people try and fit into certain groups. Though you don't fit in and it actually doesn't make us happy. So find people in your school who make you happy, they don't have to be popular, they don't have to be the cool kids, and hang out with them. Because when you're happy, when you feel accepted and you feel happiness, you'll become more yourself.

And that's my story. Take care.


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