So, I've never really been someone who was particularly adept with words. For those of you who are familiar with my writing on School of Shine or on my blog, you may be thinking, “What? Ella, you're a writer!” While that's true, my passion and ability for writing was a discovery I made only recently in my twenties. Prior to that, communication was a skill that I barely possessed and struggled with greatly. Especially in spoken form.
I believe I can attribute this to a number of factors: my natural introversion; my lack of self-esteem at the time; the negative reactions I'd receive whenever I did try to speak up; how busy and complex the thoughts and feelings inside of me were and how impossible it seemed to be able to share them coherently, etc.
There were, and sometimes still are, a whole lot of opinions, thoughts, and feelings that never leave my brain, simply because I don't feel confident that I'll execute them so successfully.
But the times when I was the worst at this, were the times when I needed to defend myself.
When I was younger, I was ready with my armour and sword if someone hurt one of my friends. But if someone were to hurt me - my knees would tremble, my brain would space out, and my words would fail me. Me being at the receiving end of an insult or the butt of a joke was a horrible experience, only to be made worse by my inability to defend myself verbally.
Until I discovered that I didn't need to use words to successfully defend myself.
I was 12 years old and had just started high school in the UK. I had a rather painful experience in my primary school socially, so I was ready for a fresh start.
I was about to enter the front courtyard at school, when two of my new classmates approached me. One very short girl and her very tall friend.
Without much warning, the short girl threw her empty coca cola can at me with a malicious grin, hitting my chest.
Shocked and embarrassed, I decided that the best way to handle this situation was to just pick up the empty can and put it in the nearby bin.
But that didn't seem to end things, as the short girl ran to the bin, took out the can and threw it at me again.
As I kept trying to be the bigger person by returning the can to the bin and she kept proving her callousness by hurling it towards my person, a small crowd started forming. Older girls at the school hovered around, feeling awkward and uncertain as to how to respond to a bullying incident happening between three first year students.
By this point, I wanted to dig a hole in the ground and hide there forever, never to resurface again.
But I wasn't just mortified - I was also angry. How dare she ruin my chance to feel socially confident and treat me like literal garbage!
I was so angry that when the empty cola can was again on the ground, I instinctively took swift action.
It was a race between me and the short girl to get that can, knowing that if she were to get to it first, she'd throw the thing at me again.
Fortunately for me, I was quicker.
I grabbed the empty can and comfortably held it high in the air, out of the short girl's reach. From lobbing the can at me numerous times, just a moment ago - she was now the helpless girl, struggling to reach the weapon she chose for my humiliation.
It's been 12 years since that incident and it remains in my memory as one of the proudest moments of my life.
As someone who often struggles to defend and advocate for herself, that moment was a huge realisation for me that I'm capable of taking back my power when it has been taken from me. Even when my words fail me and I'm incapable of forming coherent responses on the spot.
Sometimes, if you can't find the words to stand up for yourself or to speak your truth, an action will do the job just as well and even better. Actions are louder than words and they send a stronger message to those on the receiving end.
And for those of you who are curious to know what the results of that event were - the tall girl and I became casual friends and the short girl never bothered me again.
By: Ella Capek
Ella is a British-Israeli in her early 20’s studying to eventually become a music therapist. On the side, she writes on her blog Wide-Eyed Wanderer, where she's been sharing her travel experiences for 3 years. Her hope is to continue doing everything that she loves in the realms of music, writing & travel, while also consuming as much green tea and brownies as possible.