Columnist, Nicola Farah: Life’s tough lessons start at a very young age

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Like an awful lot of people, I was bullied at school.

It was nothing major, I didn’t come home with black eyes or anything, but I had my share of tough days.

It was really just a small group of kids who gave me trouble. They would make comments under their breath in the classroom or shout nasty things on the playground.

Sometimes they would shoulder-barge me in the corridors or throw my school bag to the other side of the bus.

More often than not, they would ignore me completely, which was what I hoped for and I spent two years at secondary school learning to make myself as invisible as possible. Of course I’m not that same weedy kid anymore, the one who would just sit and take it, but it’s naive to say it didn’t affect me, because it did - and I think it still does.

I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to shed the protective shell it took me two years to build, trying to overcome the urge to make myself invisible again the moment I’m uncomfortable.

I know the hint of social awkwardness I still feel when I walk into a room full of people stems from those feelings of worthlessness that they did their best to heap on me every day at just the right impressionable age.

And that’s exactly why I take a deep breath, slap a smile on my face and march on in, because otherwise those 12-year-old bullies win, and I can’t have that.

When we visited our neighbours for dinner at the weekend, my 18-month-old was playing nicely with their five-year-old, right up to the point the older girl’s schoolfriend came to visit, then the two of them turned on my little girl.

They didn’t want her to sit with them, rolled their eyes when she tried to play with them and actually pushed her away when she tried to join in colouring with them.

The furrowed brow of confusion on my daughter’s tiny face as she got her first taste of ‘mean’ was enough to break my heart.

Of course she was fine, running around happily oblivious to their pettiness, but it stung me for days afterwards.

Of course I know kids will be kids and you can’t hold a five-year-old’s actions against her. I even accept that these kinds of things happen to all of us once we get to school, but Imogen still has a good couple of years of innocence left before she needs to feel the sting of another child’s spite and I plan to do my best to see that she gets that.