Cyberbullying for Adults: 101, and the REAL Me

This is a big post for me. I’m revealing more about myself than I ever have, publicly and overtly, thus far:

I have severe, negative self-image issues that are hard-wired to key people in my past. I abhor talking about my looks; I shut down when that happens. If you say I’m pretty, I have enough good manners to say “thank you,” but it’s like I become dead inside. I know you’re just being nice. I know I’m not pretty, no matter what words come out of your mouth. I’m working on getting over this. But I’m telling you this about me up-front because it’s possible that my own views on good netiquette are skewed, due to my “preexisting conditions.”

Maybe, maybe not….



The original FB profile photo, in question.

Evening, a few weeks ago. I’d been home from work for about an hour, helped the little kids with their homework, cleaned up, and was just about to take my teenage daughter to the store (her, practice-driving!), when a friend, with whom I’d been texting all day, suddenly FB-messaged me that she liked my previous FB profile photo better than the one I currently had up.

What? WTF? Where did that come from? I was shocked, confused, and defensive. Who judges people’s Facebook profile photos?

Instead of letting the raw emotions win, I messaged her back:

"Feisty tonight, aren't we?"

She then proceeded to message me again, saying how she thought my current photo made me look too harsh, and the previous photo “made you look softer. And like you had hair.”

What!?! Then I really did get upset.

in memory of peter owens

The 9/11 tribute.

First of all, the only reason I’d had that photo up is because on 9/11 (a Thursday, this year) I’d put up a tribute-photo to a family member who’d died in the Towers, and then I’d hastily changed it out with a photo of me that was (a) recent and (b) that I hadn’t yet used for my profile. I knew it was obnoxiously close-up (one of my cousins commented that day: “Extreme close-up Friday?”), and I’d intended to take a new selfie and swap it out soon. But by now it was the following Monday evening, and I hadn’t yet had a chance to sit down and do it. So I had that level of defensiveness going on. (Okay, already, I’ll get to it!)


The hasty, post-9/11 replacement.

Secondly, I didn’t think it looked that bad — certainly not bad enough for someone to go out of their way to comment on it and let me know. Indeed, some of my friends seemed to like it. Regardless, I didn’t hate it. It reminded me of a lazy afternoon at the pool. Which it was.

And thirdly, it was my freaking Facebook profile photo, not a beauty pageant. Not something to be judged-on. And, again, it was my freaking Facebook profile photo. It was my own expression of myself, that I’d chosen to show the world at that moment. I hadn’t asked for anyone else’s opinion, let alone a negative one. Yes, unfortunately, Facebook announces to the world (or at least your entire newsfeed) when you’ve made a change to your profile picture. And, unfortunately, they allow comments. And they can’t stop your friends from messaging you, either. But didn’t we all learn in Kindergarten that if you don’t have something nice to say…?

Seriously, I have never, ever told someone I disliked their FB profile pic (or even insinuated it by saying that I preferred another one). I’ve either “liked” it or said nothing. My friends are my friends because of who they are inside. It’s none of my business to tell anyone else how to present herself among her own circle of friends. Each person has her own vision of who she is in a given moment. Amiright?

I was pissed, and I felt unduly, negatively judged. And ugly. After dealing with my kids, I grabbed another spare moment and inserted a pic of me and my kids from the day before, at the park. But the damage was done. My friend and I stopped talking. (She said she didn’t want to deal with someone around whom she felt like she had to walk on eggshells. Can’t say I blame her. I’m not fun to deal with all of the time.)

Sadly, my ordeal wasn’t over.



Yesterday’s pic.

Yesterday. I changed out my FB profile picture again. I got a few “likes,” a few nice comments. And then one of my cousins — a wonderful, supportive, gorgeous creature, whom I’ve worshiped since childhood — told me she preferred two previous pics to the one I’d currently chosen. She happily offered to show me which ones.

"No, please don't...!"

I messaged this to her and explained my recent episode with my friend. I also explained about my negative self-image issues (which I’m not sure she’d understood about me, previously), and how being judged for a profile pic on FB triggered all of this in me. I also explained how I considered it rude to comment on peoples’ FB profile pics, when they hadn’t asked for it (i.e. “stuff that is no one else’s business”).

My cousin apologized. I think she felt bad, and I felt bad for making her feel that way. I told her I didn’t think she’d meant to be harmful or rude, but that, seriously, who’d asked? She said she and her sister tell each other stuff like this all the time. (Maybe I should be flattered that she treated me like her sister?) But the whole thing made me really not want to be judged anymore. Especially by my “friends.”

So I deleted my FB profile pic and haven’t replaced it yet. I’m a blank silhouette now.


Fresh start: This morning, I decided that if the world was going to judge me, they were going to have to judge the real me. Usually people see me with all of my makeup on:







But before I look like that, this is the real me. This morning, fresh out of the shower:







Ugly? Not pretty? Yeah, I already know. And, yeah, maybe I’m taking a page out of Colbie Caillat’s playbook. But so what? There is no call to judge people who don’t ask to be judged. Not about things that don’t really matter.

Like how a person looks on the outside.


15 thoughts on “Cyberbullying for Adults: 101, and the REAL Me

  1. Hi Dawn, Stumbled upon your blog, and I was moved in my heart as I read your post. I can totally understand your feelings expressed here so candidly. I’m not sure if you are a believer, but somehow, after reading your post I felt comforted knowing that Jesus always looks at the person inside, always!

    I hope you feel great knowing you are special! “Hugs”

    • Awww, thanks, LastAcorn! I’m humbled that you connected with my words. And, you’re right, we should all try to look at each other as Jesus does: at the person on the inside. Hugs, back! 🙂

  2. I won’t offer platitudes because I know that when you feel a certain way having someone say something NEVER makes you feel better.

    Not knowing the source of your self-esteem issues, I can’t say I fully understand. I do know how you feel though (to a degree) because I have my own self-esteem issues. What you see in the mirror trumps what people say any day. It takes a lot of self-talk to convince yourself otherwise. But you have worth and that’s what matters.

    I practice the rule of not saying anything if I don’t like someone’s photo on Facebook. That goes for statuses, political comments, and general assholy-ness I see on that particular source of social media. Most people on there are only causal friends anyway so no need to start an argument. So I guess I’m not sure why these people felt they needed to comment at all?

    No big. Brush it off, my friend. 🙂

    • Thanks, Cara. I find it hard to believe that you have self-esteem issues, but then, platitudes…! Yeah, I get what you’re saying.

      Yes, you’re right: even though I have these issues about my looks, I still do have my sense of self-worth, and that means something. Part of the point of this post was to highlight rude social media behavior as a type of bullying. But part of it was about me being brave. Standing up and saying, “No matter what you think, I matter.”

      I wish I could brush off the negativity (especially from people who know me, who didn’t intend to be negative — and I don’t have that many FB friends!), but it’s just so hard to do. Time heals, I found. And conversation, understanding, when that’s available.

      Hugs, girl. Thanks for the confidence boost 🙂

  3. Well, as the guilty cousin I can only say I am sorry Dawn and I am glad my social blunder inspired you to write your article! I have learned a valuable lesson and will never put my two cents where it doesn’t belong! I am so sorry again! XO

    • This is too much of a mea culpa, Mo — you weren’t being malicious, and I knew it at the time. Further, I’d already been considering blogging about this since the episode with my (former) friend. The thing with you was just the catalyst that clarified it. In the end, it was good for me: I turned and faced some of my personal demons head-on. Please know that I have nothing but love for you! Hugs, Mo! 🙂

  4. Oh for Christ’s sake! Now I have to go look at your fb page to see what I said about your profile pic… the one you are calling yesterday’s pic… or maybe the one you are calling the original fb profile photo… I know I said something complimentary (and I meant it) and I don’t want you to think ‘I was just being nice’ and that you felt dead inside reading it. You know what? You look the same to me with or without makeup. I am going to have your teenager give you a good shaking, until I can come there to do it in person.

    Now I am going to fb.

    • Ted! I am still laughing so hard that I’m wiping tears from my eyes, from your comment! Darling, you’ve always been nothing but complimentary and supportive — of both my appearance and my writing. You are a treasure in my circle of FB friends! (But do let me know when you’re coming to Colorado next time. 🙂 )

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