This is a subject I tend to avoid talking about. However, I think that as someone with a social media following, I have an undeniable opportunity to help others by sharing my experiences. I can only imagine how much it would have helped me to see someone I follow on social media say that they went through it too and to show how happy they are on the other side of it. I don’t want to dwell on the nitty gritty of my time at school and university, but let’s just say it wasnt all sunshine and rainbows. In short, I was never bullied physically. I was tormented mentally, socially and emotionally at various times during teenage years and early adulthood. It was tough, but you know what? I’m glad. I’m glad I went through it. Because those experiences made me who I am today.

It made me a better person. I can’t be mean. I’m not argumentative. I don’t raise my voice. I will never purposefully be hurtful or cruel to anyone. I don’t try to make others feel small, as I know how horrible it feels to be belittled. I try my hardest to be a nice person, to empower others and make them happy.

It made me more inclusive and less judgemental. I will go out of my way to ensure everyone feels included and involved, and I cant bear the idea of anyone feeling left out. I try my hardest to avoid judging others and I always try and put myself in their shoes.

It forced me to be independent. Being excluded and left on my own, especially at university where I was living away from my parents, forced me to become happy in my own company. I learnt how to look after myself and to put myself first.

I gained confidence. And I learnt how to love myself. I know this sounds counterintuitive but bear with me. Being excluded forces you to spend time alone. The more I did this, the more comfortable I became in my own skin. It also forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone to make new friends. This allowed me gain the ability to talk to anyone and my social confidence grew exponentially.

It made me study hard. I never really had a buzzing social life as I never had many close friends. As a result, I spent my time in the library studying and I became engrossed in my work. I ended up finishing both school and university with top grades and academic prizes. The hard work paid off.

It made me into a tough cookie. When you’ve taken a lot of shit in the past, you get to a point where you just wont stand for it anymore. I used to be so afraid of speaking up, but now if someone ever treats me badly I will go straight up and talk to them about it. Not in a confrontational way, but in a calm rational discussion which shows that I am not willing to be pushed around. As a result, I am treated with respect.

It made me find incredible friends. I only allow myself to be surrounded by positive people. I literally will not tolerate negativity in my life and I am not afraid to remove people who make me unhappy. I have created an incredible group of empowering and loving friends who bring out the best in me.

One of my favourite quotes ever is “the one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell”. Don’t see falling, failure and negative experiences as the end. I promise you, it gets so much better. You get so much stronger. I think it is important to remember that happy and confident people are not nasty. If someone is putting you down, it says so much more about them that it does about you. It is truly a reflection of their own underlying unhappiness and insecurity, so please don’t let it get to you. Get back up, stand tall and stay positive.

Zanna xx

Photo: Jon Payne