October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and we would like to feature Shane Koyczan’s TED Talk “To This Day…for the bullied and beautiful” in awareness of it. In 12 minutes filled with a little humor, a lot of snippets from his life, and many powerful moments addressing the struggles that victims of bullying go through everyday, Shane Koyczan reminds us that bullying is still a serious problem. Koyczan begins his message by recalling his childhood and the inevitable name-calling that came with it: “We were expected to define ourselves at such an early age, and if we didn’t do it, others did it for us. Geek. Fatty. Slut. Fag.” He had his own set of labels, from “Pork Chops” to “Yogi”. He began to hate himself, and would’ve lost all hope growing up had he not turned to poetry, putting his emotions down on paper and deciding at age 19 that “I will love myself despite the ease with which I lean toward the opposite.” He admits that it was not easy.
What follows in the second part of his TEDTalk went viral in the animation video titled “To This Day Project”, where collaborators around the world contributed 20-second animation clips to accompany Koyczan’s reverberating message: that even after all the name-calling, all the antidepressants, all the downhills and the cliffs of life — there is still a reason to keep living. His poem begins lightheartedly enough, how as a child he thought karate chops and pork chops were the same thing, until an incident at school earned him his first nickname: Pork Chops. With vivid poetry, Koyczan presses on, sharing his personal story of being bullied, being depressed, having a personality made of antidepressants, struggling to be accepted by the world and by his own self. “I’m not the only kid who grew up this way,” he repeatedly states, reminding us that there are people around us, within our school, who are going through the same battles with self-acceptance. But even after sharing the harsh reality that “kids can be cruel”, Koyczan wants his audience to know one thing: that they are beautiful. “If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself,” he stresses, “get a better mirror, look a little closer, stare a little longer, because there’s something inside you that made you keep trying despite everyone who told you to quit.” His message is a reminder to be mindful of our actions, specifically those that may be insensitive and hurtful to others, and to be aware of what our peers are going through and take it upon ourselves to remind others that there is hope.
Make National Bullying Prevention your cause this October. Take Shane Koyczan’s message from the screen into your life and stand up for what’s right.