The Kindness of These Women Will Inspire Your Heart
Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson met as film students while attending Pepperdine University. They soon discovered that they shared a bond over bullying incidents they each experienced in their youth. Motivated by similar wounds, the women embarked on a cross-country road trip to film Finding Kind, a documentary about the “mean girl” phenomenon. The film laid the groundwork for the Kind Campaign, an organization that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl bullying. The nonprofit has brought to the forefront a global awareness, community assemblies, and educational curriculums.
1) Can you share your story on the making of the documentary “Finding Kind” and how the Kind Campaign got started?
After having our own personal experiences with bullying in middle school and high school, the issue of girl-against-girl bullying had always been a topic near to our hearts as young women. When we reached college and met as film majors at Pepperdine University, we started discussing the idea of a documentary that focused on the theme of girl-against-girl bullying. Because we both felt a connection to this concept, we mapped out a cross-country road trip on which we interviewed hundreds of girls and women. The journey ultimately turned into our documentary film, “Finding Kind.” The vulnerability and raw emotion we captured propelled us forward into founding Kind Campaign, a multi-platform, nonprofit organization that brings awareness and healing to the negative effects of girl-against-girl bullying. Today, Kind Campaign offers resources to address these issues via in-school assemblies, educational curriculums, ambassador programs, screening “Finding Kind,” and a supportive online community via www.KindCampaign.com and @KindCampaign.
2) Why did you decide to focus on “girl-against-girl” bullying specifically? Is it different for boys?
Before we started filming “Finding Kind” and founding Kind Campaign, bullying was not the hot topic that it is today. While we were shooting our documentary, we discovered a universal theme of females turning against each other in a way that is much different from how men behave with one another. That’s not to say that boys don’t experience bullying, because they absolutely do. But for women, it’s almost an expected experience, an accepted rite of passage. Having both had our own personal experiences with girl-against-girl bullying, we decided we wanted to reverse this behavior among girls. By focusing specifically on females, we are able to delve in deep, have open and honest conversations, and create real change. We founded Kind Campaign with the mission of teaching girls the power of sisterhood and lifting up one another.
3) You both travel the country to speak to young girls. What’s that experience like for you and for the girls?
We love being on the road! Our time spent in schools, speaking to girls, and witnessing so much healing take place is really what fuels us in every aspect of Kind Campaign. Even after traveling to hundreds of different schools all over the world, our work never gets old. Each Kind Campaign Founders Assembly is unique–from new discoveries to rejuvenated relationships. But what always remains the same is the energy felt in the room after the girls hear our stories, watch the documentary and use their voices to share their Kind Pledges and Kind Cards. They take immediate action by filling out the Kind Apology. There is always a resolve to make thoughtful and kind decisions, and this radiates from every girl in the room. It’s that feeling of positivity and healing that’s infectious and the reason we love what we do.
4) Why is “bullying awareness” and the Kind Campaign so important now more than ever?
Bullying has always taken place in schools, but technology has allowed bullying to transcend the school hallways. It’s no secret that kids today are glued to their phones. It’s almost another appendage. Young people no longer have a safe space to which to escape once they leave school for the day, because their cell phones serve as yet another bullying device. Girls are signing up for social media accounts at younger and younger ages, and we’ve actually seen an increase in requests for Kind Campaign Assemblies at elementary schools in recent years. We’ve found that it is so important to start these conversations as early as possible. It’s important for all of us to remember that no matter our age, a comment you leave on someone’s Instagram page or in the comment section of an article or video will hurt that person just as much as something you might say to his or her face. At the end of the day, we’re all just people looking for love and acceptance, whether it’s in our real-life friendships or in our virtual worlds. It’s just as important to be kind online as it is in real life.
5) What advice do you give to girls who are being bullied?
There are several pieces of advice that we like to share with girls at each of our assemblies (or anyone experiencing bullying). The first is that this is not your entire story. It’s hard when you’re going through something difficult to gain the perspective that this is just one chapter of your life. It’s very important for people to understand that what they are going through is temporary. Focusing on that knowledge and perspective whenever you are in the depths of something difficult will help you realize that you have many beautiful, happy chapters of life ahead of you.
We also always share how important it is to speak to an adult about what you’re going through because they really do have the tools and resources to help guide you through this. And while an adult may seem like a difficult person to relate to, it helps to remember that they were once in your shoes and went through a lot of the same social pressures that you are facing today. So they might surprise you with how much you have in common. An adult can get you the help that you need, and at the very least, be a listening ear so that you are not carrying the weight of these experiences by yourself.
Additionally, we encourage people to have enough respect for themselves and others to simply go directly to the person causing them pain to have an honest conversation with him or her. We’re not suggesting that everything is going to end with a perfect friendship, and that’s okay. It’s about respecting others enough to avoid unnecessary hardship for them and, ultimately, you. We recognize that confronting someone face to face might be scary, so if that doesn’t feel comfortable, a great alternative to addressing the issue head-on is by writing a letter to that person, letting him or her know how his or her actions are affecting you. This is a great starting point.
Finally, we always like to remind anyone experiencing bullying that they are not alone in their experiences. There are countless people who have gone through what you are experiencing and have made it to the other side to live happy and healthy lives. And you will, too! Through Kind Campaign, every girl has a support system, especially if you feel like there is no one in your personal life to connect with about your bullying experience. Kind Campaign offers Kind Clubs, Kind Ambassadorships, and through www.KindCampaign.com and our @kindcampaign social channels, we have a community of supportive women, resources and experts who can help young girls navigate these difficult situations.