As I indicated in a previous post, I was pretty badly bullied in junior high school. It had always been my worst, most paranoid fear that people pretended to like me, but actually hated me. Then, one morning I woke up, went to school, and realized that it was true!
I was with the same group of classmates in all my classes. Among this group was a clique of girls who really disliked me, for a variety of reasons. In part, they were jealous of my academic accomplishments. But it was partially my fault as well. I didn't bathe often enough, because of pressures I perceived within my family, and I eschewed all things fashion, for similar reasons. I was also very vulnerable. I didn't feel completely accepted at home, so I was already wobbling through life. They just gave me a push and knocked me over.
If I sat at the lunch table first, they would find another table to sit at. They would offer chewing gum to everyone but me. They would roll their eyes and discount anything I contributed to the conversation. And they would plan parties in front of me and not invite me.
(But, when it came time to do homework or play review games for exams, I was the first one picked. They knew where my abilities lay, and what they could get out of me!)
I survived by befriending the boys in my class. They would put up with me. I couldn't go to any social events with them, but at least I sort of had friends sometimes. But they weren't exactly on my side, because if they were interested in dating any of those girls, their allegiance couldn't keep them tied to me.
I made it, and I'd say the worst long-lasting effect I still experience today has to do with invitations. For example, I pretty much can't pick a lunch table and wait for my friends to go through the cafeteria line. I just stall and wait for one of them to show up, and pick a table together. Also, I tend to wait for invitations instead of taking the initiative in social situations. I have a hard time sitting down at somebody's lunch table if I run into them in the lunchroom, for example. But I'm working on that!
There have been some benefits, though. I'm certainly more sensitive to how others might feel, and as a result I basically never make fun of people, even when others are doing it. I temper my words carefully, and offer constructive criticism rather than just laying into people. I don't judge people based on their appearance and I try to appreciate people's individuality and differences, enjoying them rather than condemning them, as best I can.
I think I probably would have tried to be a considerate person should these experiences have never happened to me. But as easy as it is to understand something abstractly, unless you've experienced it yourself, it's a little harder to understand concretely. (For example, I knew that in principle people's academic performance could be adversely impacted by the divorce of their parents, but I didn't really get it until it happened to me.)
So while I will never believe that the things those girls did to me were all right or okay, it did shape me into the person I am today, and to some degree, it was for the better. The same could be said for all the adversity in my life, I suppose.