After attending an anti-bullying workshop which she felt lacked the necessary tools to effect change, Kalyani Pardeshi was determined to become an anti-bullying advocate. Based on her own personal experiences as a victim of bullying, through tears, Pardeshi began to write a tell-all book on the bullies she encountered and devising techniques to assist in facing the offender. The result was Unbullied! 14 Techniques to Silence the Critics: Externally and Internally.
The book is set out in fifteen chapters, each detailing one of Pardeshi’s painful stories, along with what she ultimately learned from the experience and an exercise to combat the situation.
Unbullied is an easy to read guide for parents and children to help cope with and combat the “bully” that so many of us have encountered throughout our lives.
Pardeshi fills us in our the inspiration for Unbullied!, her background, and advice to improve self-esteem.
What inspired you to write Unbullied!?
It was the year 2018; it had been approximately a year since I walked away from my successful online fitness business to figure out what my purpose on this planet was. While I enjoyed what I did, it left me feeling unfulfilled, like there was a piece of the puzzle missing.
In March of that year, I started meditating for the first time in my life; I had never done so before. In my desire to find where I was needed, I broke free of all comfort zones and really put my abilities, determination, and perseverance to the test. Barely a month later, I volunteered at an anti-bullying workshop in my daughter’s elementary school. Having faced bullying throughout my life, especially in school, I was curious to learn what I didn’t do to stop the torment.
While the workshop was well presented, focusing on preventing bullying by showing kids the effects thereof while also conducting some confidence-building exercises, I felt it left a lot to be desired. I kept this to myself because everyone else thought it was an amazing workshop. Barely a week later, my daughter came to me and said, “Mom, what is the point of all these workshops if it doesn’t stop the bullies?” The bullies in her school were at it again. This was my “Aha” moment; it all came together for me—I have had an entire lifetime of experience in this area and not sharing what I knew would be a disservice; hence I embarked on this journey to pen this book.
How was it putting your past experiences into words?
I would be lying to you if I said it was easy. For the most part, I had forgotten the details of what I had experienced. A huge part of me ran away from those experiences and tried to pretend that they didn’t happen. Unfortunately, experiences like those scar you for life, they affect the way you do things, and the very way you think.
Revisiting the pain opened the door to healing. I cried for the child whose wounds ran deep and were reopened, raw—all for the sole purpose of helping others. Not a day went by when I didn’t cry as I wrote this book. My heart ached, literally. I was emotionally drained as I wrote, but I also got to experience healing at a whole new level. I learnt to tell myself, “…and that’s okay.” For example, if I feel that I don’t fit in, even at this age, I tell myself, “I don’t fit in, and that’s okay, these are not my people. I don’t have to try to fit in with ‘my people.’”
Healing can be both ugly and beautiful at the same time. Writing this book taught me that healing is something which happens at different levels, kind of like a video game. I moved up a level in healing.
Explain to us one of your techniques that you feel would be the first step someone should take against a bully.
This isn’t quite a technique on its own but something I have reiterated throughout the book. Recognition. If you are targeted by bullies, the first step is recognizing and accepting what is happening to you is bullying. So many people avoid doing so because of the stigma associated with bullying. Victims feel there is something wrong with them, which is why they are targeted by bullies. What is so important to understand is that there is nothing wrong with the victim; the issue is with the bully, not the victim—because happy people don’t go around hurting others.
The reason recognition and acceptance are of extreme importance is because when the victim speaks to the person in authority, there should be no doubt, no hesitation, and no wavering in communicating their pain and needs. It is through recognition and acceptance that communication becomes crystal clear. In Unbullied!, I have detailed all the methods, words, and channels of communication a victim can use, including offering templates for them to use if they are unsure of what to say. I have left nothing to chance.
With today’s social media, cyberbullying has become another method for bullies to torment their victims. You touched on this in your book. What advice would you offer to parents and teens on this subject?
I think it would be best for me to share a personal example. My teenage daughter recently faced bullying, which was taken online as well. The main culprit was a good friend of hers. My daughter had befriended a boy on her school bus, her friend had taken photos of the two of them together without their knowledge. She then went on to post comments about my daughter’s friendship on a TikTok video created by her friend. She also showed the photos to other classmates in school with the sole purpose of convincing my daughter that this boy liked her and vice versa. This caused a lot of anxiety and stress for my daughter because her friend was spreading rumours about her in school and bus rides became a nightmare for her. My daughter wasn’t sleeping well and lost her appetite.
Though she spoke to me about it from day one, she didn’t want me to get involved; her teachers told her that she needs to advocate for herself. This was said to her after I got involved in another incident where my daughter was made fun of because of her nut allergies—someone attempted to throw nuts at her, nuts she is highly allergic to.
I kept checking in with my daughter daily, three times a day, texting her, calling her, whatever I could do to let her know she wasn’t battling this alone. But my hands were tied, I had to respect that my daughter wanted to advocate for herself.
She kept telling the girls to stop (by this time, the friend had enlisted the help of more classmates in spreading these rumours and badgering my daughter). You know how it is, they teach kids to say “stop it” when they are being bullied.
After four weeks of enduring this, telling the girls to stop and not seeing any changes, she finally approached her homeroom teacher about it. Action was taken right away; the girl who took the photos was spoken to and made to delete the photos while also getting a stern warning from the homeroom teacher as well as from the principal. In fact, all girls involved in this incident had a serious talking to by the principal. That is all it took to put an end to this—communication.
Therefore, I say the very first step in dealing with a bully is recognizing that you are being bullied. Once you do, you will know exactly what to do, and you won’t waver in the actions you take.
I would also like to reiterate how important it is for parents to keep the lines of communication with their children open. I know how hard it is raising teens; I have one. It is one thing letting them know that you are there for them, and it is a whole different thing being there for them. If you want your children to talk to you, then show them that you can handle what they have to say. The latter part isn’t easy.
I like how you broke down the chapters in this book to address each of your techniques, detailing your experience first, then lessons learned, followed by the technique to apply. How did this construct come to mind?
I had seen enough books/workshops where experts get on their soapboxes and preach. As an adult, even I don’t like being told what to do, so I can only imagine how easily teens would tune out. Sharing my experiences so openly is to show readers that I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of bullying because only those who have been through such harrowing experiences can truly identify with the emotions associated with it.
Sharing what I learnt from each incident was to show readers that every bad experience does have a valuable take away, if we choose to see it. This is a very important part of the healing process, which so many people skip and then wonder why they deal with different kinds of emotional trauma later in life. It is because the inner child within hasn’t healed yet.
Each technique is developed to address different scenarios victims of bullies’ face. I worked with Colette Mason of “Let’s tell your story” publishing to come up with this structure for my book, I loved it because it got the message across without sounding preachy.
With a background in finance, how did you become an advocate against bullying?
Around ten years ago, I quit my career in finance to raise my (then) two young children, it made more sense, financially, for me to stay at home. The first few years were a haze; I was dealing with a lot of health issues with my son while I battled severe postpartum depression, silently. Having a go-getter personality, I was really struggling to be at home full time, and my son’s health issues were weighing me down, I felt like I had failed him as a mother. To overcome negative feelings, I started working out at home seven years ago, which was what led to my creating my online fitness business.
As I mentioned earlier, though it was successful, I felt unfulfilled, I felt as if I had some higher purpose to fulfill. It started with meditating over it, an unexpected opportunity to volunteer at the anti-bullying workshop and my “aha” moment.
This was in April 2018. I went from pillar to post, trying to share my own experiences, even writing a short story on it and publishing it via press release—to the sound of crickets. But I didn’t give up. I kept trying to reach out to influencers to share my story but didn’t get any response. In September of that same year, I started a small work from home job, still pursuing my dream of sharing my story with the world. That same month, I connected with my writing coach, who was running a beta program on her upcoming writing course, and she was looking for beta testers. My first salary from my job covered the cost of the course with a few dollars to spare. This is how it all came together in the birth of Unbullied!. Goes to show, never give up on your dreams.
What message would you like to share with our readers?
Acceptance of who you are starts with you, seeking this acceptance anywhere else will only lead to disappointment. Show the world how to love you by loving yourself as fiercely as you deserve to. This is where your joy lies.
Connect with Kalyani Pardeshi:
The book is available for purchase on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Unbullied-techniques-silence-Externally-Internally/dp/1079160361