Monday, February 19, 2018

She Is the Change She Wishes to See In the World

Tensie J. Taylor is a red carpet host for the online Rich Girl Network TV. As a host, she has interviewed numerous celebrities at everything from galas to film festivals. Tensie has attended the Oscars, People’s Choice Awards, BET’s Celebration of Gospel, NAACP Image Awards, Grammys, and the BET Awards. Still, some would say that Tensie's success in the arena of internet media is the least of her accomplishments.

Tensie holds a Masters of Education from the University of Southern California. Currently, she serves as the Assistant Director of the USC Black Alumni Association. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the We Are Ohana Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to providing resources and help to children in foster care in Los Angeles. 

As someone whose achievements are admired, one would assume that this mirrors her experiences as a child. However that wasn't the case. In fact, Tensie suffered from severe bullying during her youth.

On a very personal level, I understand the courage required of someone in order for them to publicly discuss having been bullied. Being bullied can lead to humiliation and shame. It takes a brave person to confront these feelings and share them in order to help others.

It is because of Tensie Taylor's bravery that I was honored to speak to her, and I am equally honored to share her words with you now.

Tensie Taylor is from Louisburg, North Carolina. In addition to her professional work, volunteer efforts, and public speaking, she has many hobbies.  She enjoys reading and writing. She is also a musician and enjoys singing, playing the piano, and trumpet. Tensie's love for music crosses over to her professional life. She has sung and played piano at numerous concerts and performances both in the United States and internationally.

One of the most admirable things about Tensie however, is her proactive advocacy on behalf of others like herself who have experienced bullying. She has written a book that chronicles what happened to her as a child. She is a public speaker and she provides unflagging support to others whose lives have been impacted by bullying.

Tensie's autobiography, Bullied, From Terror to Triumph shares her inspirational story of transforming tremendous pain into the motivation to be successful. In the book she tells the story of the near daily bullying she experienced from kindergarten all the way through to her high school years. 

Tensie endured all forms of bullying including physical, verbal, and social. She recounts the difficulty of making friends, being called names, and having things thrown at her. She says she often felt alone and scared. There were times when she did not want go to school so she would pretend to not feel well. 

"There were many times throughout my life where I felt hopeless as a result of being bullied. High school was rough because there were cliques and I wanted to fit in. I was in Honors and AP classes and that helped deter some of the bullying, but when I had to go to lunch, students who were not in these types of classes continued to make fun of me. In one instance, a student threw food at me outside the cafeteria, and in another, a student threw chips at me and then told me to eat them." 

Because of these painful experiences, Tensie says that she understands the critical need to address the impact that bullying has on a person. When she was sixteen years old, she herself contemplated suicide.

"I felt so low and depressed that I said, 'Why continue with life? No one likes me, I am vilified every day, I don’t have any friends. What is the point of living?'”

However, she was able to focus on how much pain her family would go through if she ended her life. She knew that if she died by suicide, the lives of those who bullied her might go on as usual, while those who loved her would go through tremendous pain. Tensie reminded herself that she had a lot to live for and she began to work on building her own sense of self worth and confidence.

"The words from my bullies still hurt, but I never wanted to find myself in such a low place again."

Now, Tensie is thankful that she did not follow through on her thoughts of suicide. But, she is concerned about the impact bullying is having on the number of childhood and teen suicides today. She is not alone in her concerns.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged ten to twenty four years old. Research has shown that the relationship between bullying and suicide can not be denied.
The United States Centers for Disease Control states that:

We know that bullying behavior and suicide-related behavior are closely related. This means youth who report any involvement with bullying behavior are more likely to report high levels of suicide-related behavior.

The link is so closely related, schools often have zero tolerance policies around bullying. Kids engaging in the behavior may be suspended or even expelled because of their actions. Further emphasizing the horrible consequences of bullying, there are now laws in many states that criminalize the behavior. These laws now extend to adults as well as children. Bullying in the workplace is seen as unacceptable, and documented bullying that contributes to a suicide is starting to be seen as an intentional act leading to the death of an innocent person.

Tensie also recognizes that the advent of social media has significantly worsened the impact of bullying on an individual. She says that she is very thankful that during her youth, social media was not as prevalent as it is today. She knows that it would have made her reaction to the bullying even worse.

"To have been physically and verbally bullied at school by my peers and then to come home and have people bully me on Facebook or Instagram, I would have been devastated and might have gone through with taking my life."

Cyber bullying is largely considered responsible for the sharp rise in youth deaths by suicide. Tensie acknowledges that one of the complications is that bullies can create anonymous accounts and write mean comments and derogatory words on people’s pages. In regard to this action, Tensie does not mince words.

"People who do this are cowards because they hide behind their computer screen or phones." 

Cyber bullying occurs on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The bullying can also happen via text messages. Like all forms of bullying, these cruel actions must be called out. Those who know about it should respond by reassuring the person being bullied that others do not agree with what is being said. Just as important, the person doing the bullying should be confronted directly and told that their behavior is unacceptable, must stop, and that it will be reported if it continues.

Tensie believes that parents can have an important role in protecting their children from this version of bullying.

"I did not get a cell phone until I was 17 years old, so I know my parents would not have let me sign up for Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter in school. When I speak to parents, I tell them to not let their child be on social media at such a young age. This can help deter cyber bullying and protect their well-being. Parents do not always know what their child is putting out there on the web."

Personally, I agree with all of Tensie's sentiments. 

It is important to note that bullying can have a profound impact on adults as well. The bullying I experienced after my boyfriend's death (even though it was only from one person) directly contributed to exacerbating my own suicidality.

Survivors of suicide loss have an increased risk of dying by suicide themselves. It was for this reason that many professionals who were aware of my situation urged me to get a restraining order against the person who was lashing out at me. 

While I chose not to pursue that course, I did reach out to the many friends who supported me. They reassured me that others felt the bully's behavior was reprehensible. They encouraged me to block the incoming messages. Another friend helped me figure out how to save future messages without having to see them, so that I could use them if legal action were needed in the future. This type of practical support made a tremendous difference in my ability to process the bully's cruelty and move forward in my healing.

Tensie believes that bullies behave the way they do because they are insecure and do not feel their own self worth. She wants them to know that while their behavior may make them feel powerful, the act of belittling people actually serves to show how damaged the person doing the bullying is. She has a message for those people who are engaging in this behavior.

"STOP! You are better than this," she says. 

She wants bullies to understand that their words and cruelty can cause a suicide. 

"Know that your behavior is wrong and step back and ask yourself, 'Why am I bullying?'" 

Tensie suggests that bullies consider the fact that their behavior speaks to their own lack of character. She also hopes that bullies will realize that their actions can have legal consequences.

Research shows that it is not just the person being bullied who suffers, but suicide rates among youth who do the bullying are also higher than that of many others. Ultimately, Tensie recognizes that the bullies themselves need intervention.

"Any person who gets satisfaction from seeing another person in pain needs help." 

Tensie's most important message though, goes out to those who are experiencing the pain of being bullied. She wants them to find a person they can confide in so that they do not feel alone. She wants bullied children to know that they are important and that they matter. She wants them to have hope.

"You have so much to live for. You have memories to make, places to go, love to find."

She also believes that having a better understanding of why people bully others is helpful.

"The reason why you are being bullied is because the other person sees something special in you and wants to break you and bring you down in hopes that you don’t see your worth. You overcome these things by finding your self worth and realizing your purpose,” she says. "Know that there are better days ahead. In your moment of despair, it is hard to see that you can be happy, but it is possible."

Tensie encourages people who are being bullied to build upon their confidence and courage.

"Every day, find something positive and good to say about yourself, and this helps build your self-esteem. The more you realize your worth and how powerful you are, the easier it will be for the negative comments from others to roll off of you. Ask your parents to enroll you in martial arts classes. The times I was physically bullied, if I had been able to defend myself, the physical bullying would have stopped sooner."

Tensie also says that she is a strong proponent of getting counseling if necessary.

"A counselor or psychologist can not only help you realize your worth, but provide you strategies on how to build your self-esteem."

Finally, Tensie says that she found comfort and strength in her spirituality.

“It is really the grace of God that saved me because I wouldn’t be here to tell my story if I didn’t allow God to take control of my situation.”

I hope that Tensie knows that she herself is a blessing to all who are presently being impacted by bullying. Through her book and her honesty, she spreads an important message of hope. 

One of the things she told me when I asked her what she suggested to young people who were being bullied, was they they should read biographies.

"It always amazes me when I read about someone I find inspirational who went through the same things as me, sometimes much worse. If that person got through it, so can I."

The fact is, Tensie is one of those inspirational people. Perhaps the reason she is so committed to her efforts is explained by one of favorite quotes by Mahatma Ghandi. It more than speaks to her motivation.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Along those lines, undeniably, Tensie is succeeding, and for that, I thank her.

You can find Tensie Taylor's book on Amazon, here:

Tensie has a website, here:

You can find Tensie on Twitter here:

Tensie has a page on Facebook:

And Tensie's Instagram account can be found here:

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