What comes to mind when you think of bullying?

I read this in We The Urban on the idea of perception: “If you are willing to look at another person’s behaviour toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.”

When you grasp the notion that people only understand you from their level of perception, you’ll stop seeing the need to over-explain yourself. Having read this, what is the first incident of labelling or name-calling or bullying, whether from your own experience or that of others you know, that comes to mind?

Many years ago, I had a ‘teacher’ who shamed me when I left her dance school (now closed down) to pursue my Singapore Girl dream. You see, Singapore Airlines cabin crew was a job I secured while still in my final semester of university, and I couldn’t wait to start earning enough regularly to pay off my school loan. In 2013, the job market wasn’t fantastic for a psychology graduate. I’m not a privileged rich girl born with a silver spoon, I worked hard with zero to no tuition to earn my place in schools like Nanyang Girls’ High School and Hwachong Institution, and just to graduate from NUS, teaching KPOP dance classes in my university days was a way for me to stop taking allowance from my parents to be independent. To me, the 20-odd thousand loan was everything weighing on my mind during that last semester. When I finally resigned from that job, the then ‘teacher’ told everyone in the school (colleagues and students alike) that I was joining SQ to find a rich husband and boyfriend, because that’s just so like me.

What did that even mean?

That was not the only shaming she did to me, or to others. There were more cases of bullying from her senior position that one by one most of those who saw her for who she was, eventually left before or after I did. The list of those who discovered this goes on. My parents didn’t give birth to me to take your shit, was what I thought. And for a couple of years I still held anger when I thought of the bad rep she gave me at one point. Once I left, I basically distanced myself from everyone in that social circle.

Having been in the corporate world for 5 years (SQ days not considered), I’ve had far more worthy teachers who have helped and guided me in more ways than one, so that I can be an improved version of myself with each passing day, in both my work and daily life. If I had been older and wiser, I would have left that toxic environment and her much sooner. Bringing anyone down is not the way to go up. It reflects only the ugly in you. You will only become a better person if you elevate those around you in their own best possible way.

Nonetheless I thank her for that ruthless life lesson. Flying with SQ gave me a lot of freedom to reassess my life, and it’s true that time heals, as the emotional impact it had left me with grew dim over time.

In 2 years after graduation, I paid off my school loan (while having fun in SQ, no less!). After that 2-year-long gap year, I worked in PR, marketing, analytics, and finally saw that the IT industry is where I see myself growing in and learning with in the long haul. If I work hard for myself, I won’t even need to find a rich husband right?

You see, words meant to bring you down will definitely hurt on first impact. But think of the level of perception from which this viewpoint comes from. Keyboard warriors who caused the death of Hana Kimura, did they really know her? Were their accusations grounded? Weren’t they just hiding behind their keyboards watching her burn. If you’ve been on the receiving end of such bullying, I hope you gather as much strength as you can, navigate past the hurt. and level with the intention of whoever’s out to hurt you. See them for who they are. And who they are does not determine who you are. How you see yourself matters the most.

Stay strong, spread positivity. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.

I hope you have good late-night pensive thoughts too.


2 responses to “What comes to mind when you think of bullying?”

  1. Celine Jessandra Avatar
    Celine Jessandra

    Hello Yz, I believe I am the toxic “teacher” mentioned in your post above. To this day, I have fond memories of you and I wanted to write to let you know that I accept, and I wish I could have done better. No excuses. While I remember being concerned about your career choice (my medieval mind unable to conceive that a young girl travelling would be safe), I cannot recall the comment about “finding a rich husband”. However, if it is true that I had said it – I sincerely apologise.

    I think you did the right thing by distancing yourself from what you felt was toxic to you, and am glad to know that you are doing well now. All the best!


  2. Hi Jean, I might be able to totally understand how you feel, but I was somehow in a similar situation and possibly in happened in the same dance school as well. The environment was toxic where the principal only looks at superficial assets of a person to be part of the family/crew when they did the audition.

    I remembered clearly that during the audition, I came up with 2/3 of the choreography with the team as i wanted to help everyone in the team to get through together. But in the end i was the first few along with some other low key students to be eliminated, and the reason was? I did not contribute to the choreography. They did not even gave me a chance to re-aud or explain, myself, but outright just tell me say i did not contribute. Later did i found out that they eliminated me because they only wanted to choose crews that are very skinny and can be like them. Whereas i am someone that is who doesn’t speak much and slightly bigger in size than a petite girl? I am not fat or big BIG kind, i am in the middle range of my BMI.

    I always had fun during the classes taught by the various dance teachers like Jootz or Jojo, and i always put in my best even during the one of the early recital. I really appreciate the teachers competencies in seeing the potential of the students and does not put anyone down. But the principal of the school, whenever i am in the school i will always hear her gossiping or talking bad about someone else. I am probably one of the someone else that she has been wanting to eliminate to keep her crew clean of ugly people in her view. It was so obvious that when i tried to greet her in school, she will just walk away or turn away acting as though she really did not hear me. I mean like i am one of the paying student as well, not like i come to the school free. Why am i being treated like some pauper, just because i am not her standard of good looking.

    In the end I left and never turned back. But this serves me a lesson that not all good looking people has a heart of gold inside as much as they acted like one.


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