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By: Guest Writer, Holly Bertone

[ In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, How to be a Redhead is featuring stories about bullying and how redheads can turn their lives into success stories. This is my story.]

I am a redhead and experienced bullying throughout my youth, including being called ‘Carrot Top’. Since I was a bit of a smartie, my response was always, “You are stupid. Carrot tops are green.”

It took me until I turned thirty years-old to grow into myself and be happy with who I was. I was always a bit quirky and unique, and the red hair certainly didn’t help. At the age of 39, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, exactly 48 hours before my boyfriend proposed marriage. During our engagement year, I lost part of my breast to surgery, and all of my beautiful long, curly red hair to chemo. I was bald on our wedding day. It took me awhile to re-learn what true beauty is.

This is what I’ve learned and what you can absord from my experiences. And, while I’m certainly not an expert on how to stop a bully, I can offer some advice to help cope with it.

1. It sounds cliche, but those who hurt most, hurt others. Typically when someone bullies you, it’s because they are hurting and have not found a better way to channel their pain. Instead of being mad at that person, feel empathy for them.

2. Understand that it will make you a stronger person. As you grow older, life will hand you setbacks. At some point down the road, you will need to build on this inner strength.

3. Be kind to others. I’ve found the best way to heal the pain is to redirect the pain into kindness to others. Are there other kids the bullies are picking on? Be extra nice to them. A little bit of kindness will go a long way.

4. Empower yourself. Start a program at your school. Be a leader and stand up for intolerance.

Rock it like a Redhead!