There’s a lot of discussion these days around what it will take to change the world. From protests to public forums, access to education and easier activation, there are a lot of good places to start. However, those places can also be really overwhelming. We favor starting small and starting simply where you are. Perhaps, with something everyone has the power to demonstrate: kindness.
The below article from Darling Issue No. 7 provides a clear illustration of why kindness matters and can be so revolutionary. Today, tomorrow, always.
By Lauren Paul
Fifteen years ago I knew a girl who felt alone and who wanted to die. I knew that girl, because that girl was me.
When I was in middle school, I had a diary. Each night, I would recall the torment I experienced in my middle school hallways. I would cry as I wrote about the names those girls called me and the rumors they started. I wrote about the boys they would have harass me in front of other students, the food they would throw at me at lunch, the death threats I would receive over instant messenger … I would plead with those diary pages to help me disappear, to magically fast forward life into a time where I wasn’t confined to the horrors of middle school passing periods and PE locker rooms.
In seventh grade I had a sleepover with my best friend Lacey, the only girl who stood by my side when our group of girl “friends” decided to turn on me. I was sitting in my closet looking up at my hangers. Without any explanation, I stood up, picked out a hanger and bent it to fit my neck. I walked back into the room, wrapped the hanger around my neck and hooked it to a knob on my dresser. On my knees, I leaned forward and felt the pressure against my neck. Lacey looked at me shocked. I was twelve and I had been convinced that I was worthless.
… I would plead with those diary pages to help me disappear, to magically fast forward life into a time where I wasn’t confined to the horrors of middle school …
In my heart, I knew I didn’t want to kill myself, but that pre-teen, insecure, undeveloped brain and heart just didn’t know how to cope with the torture these girls put me through at school. It felt impossible to see outside those hallways and to know that there was more to life; to realize that this was just an unfortunate chapter and that in reality there was a future ahead filled with love and adventure. All I knew was my little middle school world and it felt like the most important thing in the universe. What I was able to count on was that one day I would use my experiences to help other girls. I didn’t know at the time that my high school and college years would be drama-free, filled with amazing girl friends and that I would end up grateful for those tear filled experiences because they would lead me to my life’s work and passion, Kind Campaign.
While studying film at Pepperdine, I had the amazing opportunity to intern on Tom Shadyac’s documentary, I AM. That experience left me invigorated to start a conversation through a lens. It was the summer going into my senior year, and my friend Molly Thompson and I grabbed lunch. As we chatted, I told Molly about my inspiration to make a documentary about female bullying. She instantly connected having had her own bullying experiences and we decided to jump into the documentary together.
Molly and I began shooting interviews in Los Angeles and Orange County. We couldn’t believe how vulnerable girls and women were being on camera and how heartbreaking their stories were. Although we both had our own testimonies, something about hearing story after story made some things clear:
1. Girl-against-girl bullying is a universal experience that up to that point, had been swept under the rug.
2. Female-bullying can completely change the course of a girl’s life.
3. There were no existing organizations doing anything about it.
After several months sitting behind the camera we realized we needed to start a movement.
Molly and I founded our non-profit Kind Campaign in February, 2009 with the hopes of creating awareness and healing through programs and media centered around a conversation about girl-against-girl “crime.” The moment we founded the organization, we struck a national chord and have been running to keep up with it. Immediately upon graduating with degrees in Film Production, the two of us drove across the country for two months shooting our documentary and began implementing our assembly program into schools across the nation.
Our documentary, Finding Kind, now screens in schools and communities almost every day of the school year and serves as a life-changing education tool for hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. and Canada. Over the last five years, Molly and I have spoken through our assembly program in over 450 schools across North America and have completed five anti-bullying school tours. With our assemblies, screening program, Kind Club curriculum, and strong viral community, Kind Campaign now serves as the premier anti-bullying movement for girls and has impacted millions of individuals across the globe.
Having been immersed within this conversation since 2009, there are a few truths about female bullying that have become very clear to me:
1. Every single female has deeply rooted insecurities.
2. Technology has created an accessible platform for cruelty by way of anonymity.
3. Our media helps mold girls’ self-esteem which affects how they treat other females.
4. Everyone has a story. The “bully” hurts others because she is hurting.
5. Bullying, whether you are the “victim” or the “aggressor” can completely alter the course of someone’s life and affect the type of adult she develops into.
6. WE ARE EACH CAPABLE OF CREATING CHANGE.
In spite of the sadness that I see, I am always so encouraged by the life-changing moments that we witness through our work. When Molly and I bring our program into schools, it’s as if a light bulb goes off and girls realize, ‘Wow, life would be much more fulfilling if I was kind to girls at school and didn’t participate in gossip and drama.’ Through our work, we have learned a lot about why bullying takes place and how traumatizing those experiences can be. But more importantly we have learned that once you start a dialogue and raise their level of consciousness, girls become immensely determined and excited to break the universal cycle of girl-against-girl “crime” and to be a part of our kind revolution.
During our assemblies, we watch girls stand in tears in front of their peers and genuinely apologize to other students. We watch girls forgive and mend broken friendships. We listen as they share kind words about girls they have only seen pass them in the hallways. We watch real change in front of our eyes and its a deeply emotional and empowering experience.
… it’s as if a light bulb goes off and girls realize, ‘Wow, life would be much more fulfilling if I was kind to girls at school and didn’t participate in gossip and drama.’
Females are the most beautiful, fragile, emotionally interesting creatures on the planet. By connecting through the unique experience of being a female and uniting within that oneness, I believe that we have the capability to break the universal “mean girl & mean women” trend, and instead uplift and lean on each other creating a more confident, powerful and kind female population. Working towards that goal is more simple than some may think and it applies to everyone, young and old. If something you are going to say or do to someone else, is going to have a negative effect on that person, DON’T SAY IT and DON’T DO IT. It’s that simple.
By being intentional about applying kindness towards your actions you can truly change the world. If not THE world, you can certainly change YOUR world, which is a beautiful start.
Connect with Kind Campaign at www.kindcampaign.com.
Images via Callie Giovanna