The Misfits: Our Personal Experience With Bullying

October is anti-bullying month. Our dear friend, Adra Young, has written a beautiful book about bullying called ‘The Misfits’ (you can buy it on Amazon). Adra’s book came at a perfect time for us, as if it were a message from the universe to remind us that we’ll be ok. We were bullied by boy and girls while growing up. They would make fun of our parents not being able to speak English perfectly, our bodies, our eyebrows, our religion, our names, how poor we were, and the list goes on and on. It’s something we always kept quiet about, while simultaneously internalizing it. Bullying has been a quiet struggle for almost all of our lives and it is something we have alway fought to move on from, even as adults. It has always been difficult to remain strong in the face of such hate. When an individual is the victim of another person’s hatefulness, it takes a great deal of personal courage and understanding to rise above it. Oftentimes, bullies are insecure cowards who are projecting their own shortcomings and fears onto another person. We realize now, so many years later, looking back on all those hurtful things that were said to us, that we were on the receiving end of other’s insecurities. Bullying is also an unfortunate part of being an entrepreneur. Whenever you set out on your own path to do your own thing and shake things up- you can almost be certain that you will encounter bullies, critics, and hateful people who try to stop you.

We never play the victim role. We don’t ever feel sorry for ourselves. We take everything in life and we find a way to overcome it, fight back against it, or make it better. These days, we are STILL being bullied. Our landlords, Anne Marie and Bill Rose, at our first location in Upper Montclair, bullied us and we fought back (you can read our previous blog post about that fight). Now, we are being bullied by the male owned businesses on our block in Hoboken, as well as some of the Middle Eastern delivery drivers on our block. It’s been going on for some time, but we have simply done what we always do- keep working hard, mind our own business, and go about our lives pretending it isn’t happening. But it is happening and Adra’s book has given us the courage to speak up about it because the only time bullies back down is when you stand up to them.

There are the passive aggressive bullies and there are the aggressive bullies. Both groups treat our success as if it has interfered greatly in their lives and / or caused them some sort of inconvenience. They lash out at us. They spread vicious rumors about us. They are rude and hostile. They make fun of us. They are highly critical of us. Some have never had their own business. Some do have their own business. Instead of focusing their energy and attention to their own lives and their own path, they have woefully chosen to focus on us. They follow our every move. They lurk our social media profile to see what we are up to and to see if they can somehow sabotage it. They tell anyone who will listen how awful we are, despite not even know how to properly pronounce our names or even having any real personal interaction with us. There are the men on our block who think we don’t deserve to be successful, despite how hard we have worked to sustain our business for over a decade. There are the women who are petty and superficial who judge us and criticize us. In the long term, we know, these people don’t matter and they have very little positivity, if any, to contribute to the greater good. They have gone as far as to try and sabotage our business in the hopes that they can ‘make us shut down’.

Despite the bullies, we always forge ahead. We are not afraid to stand up to these cowards. We live our lives and run our business with integrity. We wake up each morning and focus on our own journey and how we can become better because being better means we can contribute more positively to this world. There’s enough hate out there. We don’t believe in fostering it.

In order for anyone to truly be successful, you have to remain honest. Look at any truly successful person who has changed the world and contributed in a positive way. They were not waging war with their neighbors. They were not lying. They were not cheating. They were not stealing. They were not trying to hurt others. They were trying to help. They were trying to uplift. They were not trying to sabotage anyone. They were looking for an opportunity to make this world a better place somehow. They were looking to build bridges, not burn them. You cannot consider yourself a true success until you live a life filled with value, service, and integrity. Money is not the means by which success is defined unless you live a selfish, ego centric life filled with lack of fulfillment. True success is defined by how much you can contribute to this world and if you can leave it a little better than how you found it.

Bullies Are Cowards... don't let them get inside your head
Bullies are cowards who will try to take you down! RISE UP! Don’t let them get inside your head or your heart!

We are used to being the outcasts. From day one, we were judged. Three chubby Turkish girls with weird names no one could pronounce who came from nothing building a successful business with absolutely no outside help? How is that possible? Some people have been offended by our courage, our determination, and our persistence for years now. They are disgusted by how we followed our own path and didn’t follow convention. They are absolutely fuming that we dared not to become a stereotype. How dare we make our own way in this world? But you know what… WE ARE NOT STOPPING! We will not be deterred in our journey. We only grow more determined. Bullies only add more fuel to our fire. We are just as determined today as we were ten years ago when we first started.

We encourage you to be brave when faced with hate. We encourage you to stand up and speak out when you experience it, witness it, or hear about it. Don’t ever let anyone try to tear you down because of their own fears and insecurities. If people just focused more on trying to make other’s lives more positive instead of filling up their spirit with so much hate, perhaps this world would be more united instead of divided. It all begins inside each one of us. If we cannot love each other, accept each other, or tolerate each other, then we cannot complain about the state of the world because each and every one of us contributes positivity or adds negativity.

P.S. We have recently discovered another dear friend, producer Frank Gigante of Hoboken, NJ, has produced an anti-bullying docu-fiction called, ‘Broken Silence’. Gonca recently read one of her anti-bullying poems at a screening of Frank’s fantastic film! We look forward to doing more anti-bullying advocacy and hope you will join us in raising awareness for this cause.

Gonca Esendemir with producer Frank Gigante being presented with an award for her anti-bullying poem
Gonca Esendemir with producer Frank Gigante being presented with an award for her anti-bullying poem

3 responses to “The Misfits: Our Personal Experience With Bullying”

  1. Rhonda Avatar

    What an inspiring article ladies. Love you standing up to your bullies! I will have to get on amazon to buy a copy of your friends book. Thank your for sharing.

  2. Mallory Jackson Avatar
    Mallory Jackson

    Thank you for sharing your experience. The story of Thumb Bread is inspiring but I received a better appreciation for the struggles you had getting from one point to another. Sometimes we think once a person has reached a certain point, then it’s all roses. That isn’t always the case and usually people have more obstacles along the way. Keep fighting Esendemir Sisters!