Half of all children in New Zealand say they’ve experienced bullying, an ominous number in light of our dire mental health statistics. For Newshub, Patrick Gower reveals his own struggles in an emotional appeal to stand strong.
It all started with “Paddy Carrots” and “Bugsy”.
As a schoolboy, I had seriously protruding buck teeth, and I would get called a lot of names because of it.
Other boys at my secondary school would put their own teeth over their bottom lip to show me what I looked like, adding in some bunny sound-effects to rub it in.
My heart still sinks today just thinking about it.
I don’t like to call it “teasing” or “nicknames”, because that implies a degree of friendliness – and it doesn’t feel that way, as anyone who has been called names they don’t like will tell you.
I know this because I have only bad memories to do with my teeth.
I remember wishing that people wouldn’t mention them and dreaming that they would be fixed.
It took ages to get braces, and they took ages to work – and came with names of their own.
I also had dermatologist-grade acne. And then my facial features started “developing” into what they are now.
It meant that I started to get called lots of names worse than ‘Paddy Carrots’, and to be honest I don’t really want to repeat them today.
It wasn’t the greatest time and I guess the only good thing was that social media wasn’t invented yet.
Now this isn’t the worst case of bullying by any stretch and I am not looking for any kind of sympathy. But it was painful for me, and I am allowed to admit that.
I am pretty old-school about this sort of thing, and have always taken the ‘don’t let them win’ approach.
I got on with my life, knowing that everyone is different and beautiful on the inside.
And it doesn’t take a psychologist to work out that I developed a good sense of humour as a defence.
Then I started working on television and it started all over again.
The advent of social media meant I got to see everybody’s thoughts – “face for radio” being the kindest version. People will still come up and say mean things about my face to my face as well.
Maybe I was naive – but I found it horrifying, and still do.
I have easily had thousands of negative comments about the way I look.
And let me tell you it hurts as much today as it did back at school. It doesn’t matter how many times you have heard it, or how much you have achieved – it still hurts.
Up until today I have never really addressed this, I have usually deflected it when I get asked about it or been self-deprecating along the lines of “I’m no oil painting” etcetera.
But recently I spoke to some journalism students at the University of Canterbury who were worried about what people would say about their looks if they went on camera.
It really made me think.
So I told the students some of the things that people say about me and posed the question: “Imagine if I had listened to all the people that say mean things about my looks? Imagine if that had stopped me or slowed me down? Imagine all the amazing things i would have missed out on. What a waste it would have been.”
So that’s my message to everyone: I refuse to let name-calling stop me chasing my dreams.
Never let negative talk about your looks hold you back. #StandStrongNZ
Patrick Gower is Newshub’s national correspondent
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