Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

Overcoming the negative impact of bullying

By Sibusisiwe Khosa, youth reporter from Emalahleni FM, Mpumalanga
06 February 2024

Being bullied at school can have a lasting, negative effect on a learner’s life. Youth reporter Sibusisiwe Khosa, from Emalahleni FM in Mpumalanga participated in the UNICEF-supported mental health dialogues and speaks out about her experience of bullying, and how she overcame its negative impact.

A smiling you women

My name is Sibusisiwe Khoza and I have suffered a lot from bullying which caused me to have social anxiety, low self-esteem and depression.

I have eczema which leads to white patches on my skin. Although this was a medical condition, kids at school saw it as an opportunity to bring me down. Sometimes my eczema got to the point where the patches started showing on my face and that’s when some students decided to make fun of me. They would spread rumours that I bleached my skin to get lighter and the cream burnt me or that I had a foreign disease that they could contract if in contact with me.

These rumors really got to me because I started losing friends and every time I saw my reflection I would get mad at myself for being this ugly. The bullying and teasing led to the decrease of my self-esteem and the start of my social anxiety.

I began hiding my face with face masks and wore winter clothes even when it was hot. I avoided going out with my family and the few friends I had left. I began trying out every skincare product I could find to try to get rid of my “hideous” skin. I remember spending most of my time asking God why he had made me ugly and weird.

This went on for a while and it eventually got to a point where I got really depressed.  I quit everything I loved doing with the fear that I wasn’t good enough for anything. Every time I walked out of the house it felt like the whole world was watching and staring. I felt like a monster and hated that I wasn’t like the other kids.

When I got to high school, some of the rumours had subsided and the kids at school were now used to how I looked. But, for some reason, I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that everyone was staring.

Until, one day, I decided that enough was enough.

I remember seeing these words on social media: ‘Why fit in when you were born to stand out’. And I started seeing the patches on my skin as beauty marks; these patches on my skin are what make me unique and different from everyone else. This change in my attitude boosted my self-esteem and I continue to work on tackling my depression and social anxiety.

To whoever is reading this, I want you to know that you are beautiful just as you are. Always think positively about yourself and your looks. I aspire to inspire those who feel that they are not good enough because they don’t meet the beauty standards of this world. I want each and everyone to know that ‘different is beautiful’.

UNICEF has been working with Radio Workshop to support young people to lead the mental health conversation and talk more freely about challenges to reduce stigma and shift the narrative.

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The UNICEF South Africa Blog provides a platform for children, young people and leading child rights experts, including UNICEF staff, to share their insights and opinions on child rights and wellbeing. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect UNICEF's official position.

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