I now stand (and have for several years) at a terrifying, towering height of 5.2″. That’s right. I am short. I shop in the petite range. I buy shoes from the children’s section.
I have never been particularly tall. I love my height. I don’t have an overbearing presence by nature (in that sense anyway – my personality, on the other hand, is larger than life!). My physicality enables me to melt into the background when it suits me.
When I was in primary school, it suited me quite a lot! I was the second shortest girl in my class; rather timid and bullied frequently.
On the school bus, one particular girl would take great pleasure in bullying me every day, on our way to and from school. Anyone who has ever been bullied knows the feeling of total submission, the inability to fight back.
Then came the glorious day when she discovered the art of ‘Chinese burns’. She practised them on me on the morning drive and perfected them that afternoon. She took my left arm in her hands, gripped it like she was drowning at sea and it was the only life-raft in sight. She twisted.
The agony was like nothing I had ever experienced prior. It crippled me. I yanked despairingly at her arms, begging her to release me. She did not. Blinded by pain and desperate for it to end, I lowered my head, and bit. Hard. She leaped back. I froze. She ran home.
I dawdled home. Dazed. Stunned. My mother opened the door to me and cheerily asked how my day was. A smile spread across my face. “Great,” I said, and truly meant it. That was the day I fought back.
The phone rang. “How could you let your savage child bite my daughter? Bite!” A shrill parent shrieked down the phone. My mother isn’t one for tit-for-tat. She apologised and hung up. “Well it was about time,” she said. That was the beginning and end of the discussion.
This may not be the kind of story my school would advertise in their anti-bullying campaigns, but it is one I am proud of to this day.
Why bring that up?
It was about 15 years ago, and I can assure you that she and I have both moved on (yes, we have been in contact – on and off – throughout the years).
We are often the first to criticise others for their actions or statements, but the last to consider whether we are equally deserving of said criticism. How many times have you complained about something, only to later feel the sting of hypocrisy?
I will not type an entire lecture on the topic of hypocrisy and the frustration of double standards. I am headed in a slightly different direction.
Don’t practice what you preach, but preach what you practice.
I personally believe the way to go is not to behave in the manner that you have demanded of others, but to advise others with knowledge and experience to guide you.
Great, but what happens when I’m forced into a position where I have to do/ talk about/ recommend a course of action I have not practised previously? Certainly, this may happen. There is no harm in taking on whatever is being asked of you, and in fact, you may miss out on many an opportunity if you only ever ‘stick with what you know’. That said, there is also no harm in caveating what you say or do, letting the person asking know that you are not an expert in his particular field. You will absolutely do your best, but there may be someone more experienced to help them out.
Obviously, nobody is flawless, we all have faults and quirks, and are inexperienced in many areas. However, if we preach what we practice and criticise others less, I believe we will find our environment – be it work or primary school – will be a much more welcoming space.