Most people would walk straight past me in the street and never imagine that I am a three
times kickboxing world champion, just like they would never guess I have Asperger’s
Syndrome. In fact upon meeting with people I used to go school with – fellow pupils and old
teachers – it seems that I would be the last person any of them would have picked to have
achieved what I have. At school I was withdrawn, extremely quiet, very anxious with low self
esteem and no confidence to speak of whatsoever.
I grew up without a diagnosis and not really understanding why I felt so different, but in this
case this is beside the point. I grew up being made fun of, excluded, called names, taunted,
pushed around, taken advantage of and it didn’t stop once I became an adult. As an adult I
was ostracised in the workplace, I had my privacy invaded and was emotionally bullied. I
was bullied at school and in the workplace because of my appearance, my sexuality and
because I was different in how I acted and reacted to things. Some of the bullying I
experienced I did not realise was classed as bullying at the time and some of it was more
obvious. Being on the autism spectrum can sometimes make it difficult to recognise when
the way you are being treated is wrong.
Bullying does not have to be physical, you don’t need to be hurt physically or beaten up
regularly, spat at or the target of flying objects or a quick shove over. Bullying takes on
many different forms in both a direct and indirect way. It can be as obvious as somebody
calling you abusive names, taunting or insulting you persistently over things such as
appearance, intellect, disability, sexuality, ethnicity, beliefs; or as a subtle as someone
creating false rumours about you or purposefully excluding you from being part of an activity.
It can be carried out by one person or a group of people but the general aim is to establish a
power over you, to make you feel inferior, vulnerable and maybe manipulate you into doing
things you wouldn’t otherwise willingly choose to do.
Along with advancements in technology bullying has also evolved. Online or cyber bullying
has become commonplace and prominent and ranges from harassment via prank calls,
instant messaging, email, text message, online chat, facebook and twitter, to hot or not
videos or other videos on facebook and twitter and even to defamatory websites, forums and
the hacking of email, facebook and twitter accounts etc. The internet is a wonderful thing
but it has also enabled bullying to become more intrusive and even for people to be
Bullying in any form is not ok or acceptable. It is not ok for anybody to hurt you, it is not ok
for anybody to take things from you without you giving permission willingly and it is not ok
for anybody to make you feel inferior or less by excluding you on purpose or telling lies about
you. It is also wrong for people to make you think you have to do certain things that you do
not willingly choose to do in order to avoid any of the treatment described above.
I hated myself when I was younger, I felt lonely and I believed that I was no good to anybody
and that I would never achieve anything. There were even people who laughed at me when I
started kickboxing, who told me I would never be any good at kickboxing – how wrong were
they?! I tried to stay in the background and avoid attention but I was not made to be in the
background – just as any other person I was made to live a life that I chose. And I chose
kickboxing. At 13 years old, when I was at school and bullied, I decided I was going to be a
world champion, I was going to be the best. And it was my focus on this that helped me get
through the tough years I had as a teenager. Things turned out well for me in the end but it
was excruciatingly painful and you can’t take that chance. You shouldn’t have to suffer in
silence like I did.
If you are being bullied, if somebody is treating you in any way that causes you hurt and
distress or even if you think some of the things you might be being asked to do seem strange
and different it is so important that you tell somebody in authority like a teacher, your
manager, your parents. I know as a person on the autism spectrum that this can be difficult,
I know that it is hard sometimes to approach anybody, let alone somebody with authority.You don’t have to approach them directly face to face, you can ask somebody you trust like a
friend to help you or you could even write a note. But it is important you tell somebody
because they can help it stop and keep you safeguarded. Nobody deserves to be bullied or
treated badly, for whatever reason. We are all worthy of being treated with love, dignity and
respect just for being who we are. Different is not less.
Jo and Anna at The House of Commons raising awareness about autism, bullying and positive body Image.
Because of how I was affected by some of my experiences, growing up without a diagnosis
and having low self-esteem I made myself a list of some ‘rules’, this list helps me to feel
more positive about who I am, to not worry and also to empower myself so I am sharing this
in case it may help some of you:
• I am who I am and that is ok, it is ok to be different
• Those who love me will accept me as I am
• I am a good person and I care about others, I just show it differently
• I am valuable and worthwhile because I believe that I am and not because I am told that I
• I do have a voice and I have the right to be heard
• It is ok to ask for help when I need it
• It is ok not to understand everything first time, or second time, or third time…
• I can treat others well but this does not mean they will treat me well back. People will
treat me how I teach them to treat me by what I accept or don’t accept and I will treat
others in line with what I believe to be right rather than how they treat me
• I have achieved lots of good things through my hard work and determination.
Achievement is still achievement whether it is big or small
• I can afford to be patient with people who don’t understand me and those who I don’t
• I am responsible for my life choices and for changing things when they don’t work out or
when I am unhappy
• Relying on other people or things to make me happy is not a good idea, I will be much
happier if I aim to achieve MY goals
• I cannot change the past and the future has not happened, therefore I must concentrate
on and live in the present moment with no regret for the past or fear for the future
• It does not make sense to worry over things I cannot control and if I control the other
things then why worry?
• Good perspective and attitude will help me produce good outcomes
World Kickbox Champion