It’s no secret that I have supported former Miami Dolphin Jonathan Martin since the bullying allegations first came to light. He has my support because I have been there and have learned the following:
Bullying is not defined by physical size or the nature of a profession despite what the neanderthal sports journalists and members of the general public stuck in the nineteen fifty’s would have us believe. Bullying, including workplace bullying, is defined by repetition and perceived power differential. It is defined by the psychological makeup of the bully and the receiver of the taunts. It is defined by those who stand by and do nothing. It is defined by the overwhelming desire to be accepted and loved in the face of the taunting of those who perceive us as weak, different or indifferent. It is countered with compassion and voice. Compassion for those who are not like us and a having a voice to stand up for those around us who are being bullied. That starts at home. Something Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncy were clearly never taught as children. They however, while unique in profession are not unique as bullies who come in all professions, ages, shapes and sizes of both sexes. We all have it in us to succumb to tearing others down to prop ourselves up. Moreover, Jonathan Martin is not a football player being bullied. He is a person being bullied. A person who brings his own unique psychological makeup to the game borne of childhood experiences. This is not unique. It is all of us.
Jonathon Martin encapsulated the childhood of so many, including mine in one of his texts to his mother.
Martin: I figured out a major source of my anxiety. I’m a push over, a people pleaser. I avoid confrontation whenever I can, I always want everyone to like me. I let people talk about me, say anything to my face, and I just take it, laugh it off, even when I know they are intentionally trying to disrespect me. ……. I used to get verbally bullied every day in middle school and high school, by kids that are half my size. I would never fight back, just get sad & feel like no one wanted to be my friend, when in fact I was just being socially awkward. Most people in that situation are witty & quick with sarcastic replies, I never have been. I’m awkward around people a lot of the time because I simply don’t know how to act around them . . .
Reading that heartbreaking text, I think back to to Brian Cuban in junior high/middle school at eleven years old. I was a heavy child, going just under two hundred seventy lbs, the size of many NFL players. I wasn’t built like an NFL player. I was a fat kid. I was bullied over my weight by the kids in junior high by kids half my size. I was physically assaulted by bullies because they thought my cool, shiny gold pants given to me by my brother Mark, looked funny on my fat body. It scarred me mentally for much of my adult life. Like Jonathan, I would never fight back. Like Jonathan, I would get sad and feel like no one wanted to be my friend when in fact I was just brutally shy and socially awkward. I just wanted to be accepted. That was everything to me. I would never get over the bullying and the rejection, taking them with me well past Jonathan’s current age. Jonathan grew depressed. I grew depressed. Jonathan reached out to someone he loved. I felt totally alone reaching out to no one. Jonathan could finally take no more, leaving his team. For me it was a departure from having to face what I saw in the mirror every day. Eating Disorders, Drug Addiction, Alcoholism To the brink of suicide before I would finally step into the realm of recovery to feel better about who I am and who I saw in the mirror.
I was that bullied child. I was that depressed, hurting adult thinking the darkest of thoughts. I finally stepped into the light of recovery and realizing that what people think of me is none of my business, I began to love myself with my body flaws, shyness and quirks. I hope Jonathan will as well. We all deserve that.
I am Jonathan Martin; so are many others.
Brian Cuban is a an author whose best-selling book “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from childhood bullying, eating disorders and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD) and drug addiction. Brian speaks regularly about his recovery and breaking the male eating disorder stigma.