5 super successful people (that you know) who were bullied

For some, their school-aged years remain a golden age in their memory bank, as they recall old friends and treasured experiences. For others though, elementary, junior and high school were tumultuous periods, as they walking through hallways every day, fearful of the tormentors who lurked around each corner. Aside from the physical side effects of bullying, children who endure this all-too-common experience suffer from mental struggles, too.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Education define bullying as the unwanted aggressive behavior, observed or perceived imbalance and the repetition of behaviors or high likelihood of repetition.

Unfortunately, far too many kids are victim to this unwanted attention, with current statistics estimating 1 in 4 students have reported being bullied, while the numbers of cyberbullying are even higher. In honor of bullying awareness month, it’s important to recognize this epidemic, and also understand there is a silver lining. When dealt with the aftermath of bullying effectively, plenty of children can go on to not only succeed, but lead their industries. These accomplished million and billionaires are shining examples to remind your kids there is always better times to come:

Elon Musk

While Elon Musk has been in notorious in the news lately, his achievements are nothing to discount. Not only is he the CEO of SpaceX, the co-founder and CEO of Tesla and Neuralink, but he’s also the co-founder of PayPal. All of these titles and his continuing brilliance bring his estimated net worth to an astounding $20.6 billion. He might not have imagined his life turning out so profitable and impactful though, if you asked him on the playground many decades ago in South Africa.

His mom shared that due to being the youngest and smallest guy in school, children bullied Musk extensively. “It’s pretty rough in South Africa. If you’re getting bullied, you still have to go to school. You just have to get up in the morning and go. He hated it so much,” she shared with Esquire.

Luckily, Musk was able to overcome and press forward, ultimately becoming one of the most influential people not only in the world, but in history.

Michael Phelps

Even though he officially retired at the age of 33, this swimmer is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He had an astounding 28 medals and holds several all-time records for many of his awards. During his junior year days growing up in Baltimore, Maryland though, not everything went swimmingly for Michael Phelps.

He once shared that thanks to his oversized ears and his exuberant personality, his classmates teased him. Because of how difficult this was for Phelps, his mother said he would often wear hats to hide his insecurities.

As the story goes, he stood up to one his aggressors and found himself suspended from school. This is when he had an AHA-moment, and realized how to best deal with bullying and rise above it. He might not have laughed about it then, but he sure does now, saying, “They’ll try to talk to me and I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, why are talking to me now? You were picking on me then.’ ”

Bill Clinton

Sure, his time in office was smeared with scandal, but the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton made a tremendous impact on the country’s progress and national debt. Before he earned the most coveted position in America though, he had to run against bullies in middle school.

Since Clinton grew up modestly and was overweight, most of their jokes and rude comments including calling him “fat” and mocking him for his style. In his book, he discussed one school dance in particular, where he was ridiculed for carpenter jeans and then hit in the face. He maintained his dignity and continued his passion of saxophone, becoming successful as a musician.

When writing about how he did it, Clinton wrote, “I had learned that I could take a hit and that there’s more than one way to stand against aggression.”

Sergey Brin

Co-founder of one of the most authoritative companies of all time, Google, Sergey Brin has an incredible estimated net worth of $50 billion. Not only is he the 13th richest person on the planet, but he continues to make advancements in technology, space, and other sectors. Before he started a new search engine thanks to a research paper at Stanford with Larry Page, Brin experienced bullying, thanks to his Russian accent.

Though he was Jewish, like all of the others in his Hebrew school, his voice separated him from making friends, making him feel lonely and isolated. Eventually, he switched schools and gives much credit to the transition for inspiring him to tremendous success.

JK Rowling

British author JK Rowling was no stranger to rejection, considering her debut novel — Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone — was initially turned down 12 times. When she finally received a lead, Rowling was essentially homeless. Perhaps part of how she earned such thick skin and resilience was due to the cruelty she experienced at school.

In a response letter to a fan who shared her bullying experience, Rowling said writing Harry Potter was part of how she processed her difficult childhood. In fact, when describing being a teenager, she defined it as ‘completely horrible.’