Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Kevin L Reichling Is Helping To Change Our World

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You can self-publish your book with Kindle Direct Publishing. After seeing how many fraudulent publishers are out there, I decided the only person I could trust with this project was myself.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin L. Reichling, author of Bullying and Society: A Personal Story.

He is a former victim of chronic bullying and is a valuable eyewitness to some of the worst aspects of human behavior. The bullying he experienced was often dangerous and he was permanently affected by it. It is his hope that parents, teachers, and activists will read his book, learn from it, and find ways of intervening on behalf of a chronic victim before they are permanently affected.

Link to the Book:

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Well, it started nearly a decade ago when I began writing wildlife articles for a local newspaper. My background was in wildlife management and wildlife science, so I never intended to write about bullying or social issues. I was, however, still struggling with emotional problems from the bullying I experienced in my youth, which prompted my father to suggest that I write a book about it as a form of therapy. I took his idea and ran with it, realizing that I might be able to use my life story to correct the many misconceptions the public has about this issue. It took me a long time to get the project off the ground because, at the time, I was working full-time for the National Park Service.

Even with the rise of the anti-bullying movement, I saw that many myths and misconceptions about bullying were running rampant. The first myth about bullying I wish to address is that bullies lack self-esteem. While this is indeed the case for some of them, the majority of them have the opposite problem — oversized egos. The other term for this is narcissism. Bullies are often physically stronger than most of their peers, and usually, this is what fuels their egos. They do not feel bad about themselves; they feel bad about their victims — often because their victims are physically weaker than average, unwilling to resort to violence, or are socially awkward. Many of them have what I like to call a “Klingon” mentality. The Klingons are a fictional alien race from Star Trek, and they are warriors who believe that it is better to be strong than smart and a person has no honor unless they can assert themselves by force. In our society, there is the idea that manliness and violence go together. Boys need to be taught something different. Bullies often justify their actions with the idea that their victims must be punished for not measuring up to the masculine ideal. Parents must also stop raising kids by trying to pump their self-esteem to sky-high levels, as this can create a bully. It is the victims that will have problems with low self-esteem.

Another misconception is that bullied kids need to swallow their fear and hit their bullies in the mouth. In general, bullies are heavier, stronger, or more coordinated than their peers and, by extension, their victims. They would not be successful otherwise, and this is especially true for boys. Their victims, in contrast, are usually weaker or clumsier than their peers. You are asking a lot if you expect someone with below-average strength to hurt someone who is above-average in strength. As a kid, I was below average in strength, and my attempts to fight back, while not entirely unproductive, had limited results.

However, the biggest issue that the public needs to understand is that the worst part of being bullied isn’t being teased, beaten, or harassed online — it is what it does to your social life and how that can affect you later in life. If you are not properly socialized when you are young, it can be hard to catch up when you get older. Many kids will avoid socializing with a chronic victim because they fear being victimized themselves. A chronic victim can be isolated for years, and as long as they remain in their current school, they can probably kiss dating goodbye. While growing up, the only interactions with the opposite sex I had were girls pretending to like me and then laughing at me upon the return of the false affection. As a result, dating was very difficult for me during my twenties.

With my background in wildlife science, I can view this topic through a lens that most people are unfamiliar with. While walking around a pond, I watched a pair of male geese get into a brawl. When this happened, the rest of the flock, congregating on the other shoreline, flew across the pond and landed in front of them for a front-row seat. What, I wondered, is the difference between that and a group of middle school kids gathering around a fight chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!”? Humans and animals are not different, and we have deluded ourselves into thinking otherwise. If we cannot understand this, we cannot hope to solve this problem.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I have just started my endeavor as an independent author; therefore, I do not have any exciting stories yet. What I can tell you about is the stories that I have that led me to this project. Once, a pair of bullies from the first middle school I attended tried to kill me by drowning me in the public pool. A lifeguard had to pry them off of me, and when his back was turned, they came after me again. I had to bite one of them to get him to let go. That was my first clue that what I was going through wasn’t a normal part of growing up. My next inkling occurred the following year when my teachers had to give me a whistle so I could call for help. Also, some of the kids at my first middle school tried to burn the place down — twice!

At my new school, the kids were less violence-prone. Instead, they were manipulative and backstabbing, which meant that the bullying was less physical and more emotional. Often, I found the emotional stuff to be worse than the physical stuff. I already mentioned my interactions with the opposite sex in my answer to the first question. My school records mentioned the difficulties that I was having. I believe this happened to me because I was too skinny. During my sophomore year of high school, I stood 5’ 7” and weighed only one-hundred-and-twenty-two pounds. Indeed, Dan Olweus, one of the first psychologists to do scientific research on bullying, determined that a lack of physical strength is the primary trait among boys that makes them victims. Personality quirks and social awkwardness were only secondary traits. I knew at least two athletic kids with quirks that were worse than mine but were somehow still labeled as “cool.”

I decided to go on a bodybuilding program and put an end to this. Eventually, I gained fifteen pounds of muscle and five pounds of fat, which resulted in my classmates showering me with compliments instead of insults. At this point, however, I decided that none of them were worth befriending and ignored them. About two years later, I lost the weight and almost ended up in a physical confrontation again, which motivated me to regain it.

When I moved on to college, I started seeing women dating bullies. I knew one girl whose new husband abused her in every way imaginable, short of physical abuse. The marriage lasted only seven months. Another girl I was supposed to be paired up with rejected me for her current, abusive boyfriend. Long story short, he ended up physically hurting her very badly. It seemed evident that there was a problem in our society. After college, one of my male coworkers was at a bar and could barely hit the punching bag. His wealthy, attractive girlfriend witnessed this and didn’t dump him. I was absolutely shocked by this and began to think that I had been given a complex.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This doesn’t qualify as funny, but it is worth sharing. One of the biggest things I learned was that I no longer needed physical prowess to get respect. This may sound obvious to some people, but it takes some getting used to when you grow up in an environment like the one I did. While I was in college, the kids in my program had a separate study hall with free printing. That study hall was a blessing because it allowed me to socialize with my peers with ease. The dean took it away, and I led the effort to get it back. I had everyone sign a petition, and when the new dean replaced the old one, he saw it and gave us a new room. The respect I received from my peers was heartwarming and something my new muscles could not have accomplished. I wish I could have found a way to do something like that in high school. My biggest mistake in school was not realizing how I could assert myself without the threat or use of force. Most of my classmates were making this mistake as well.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

I just got started, so this project has not had any social impacts. I want my book to be used as a teaching tool to give adults a solid idea of what runs through the mind of a chronic victim and how they can intervene. I also want my book to result in wiser school policies, better parenting, and more parental involvement in kids’ social lives. I would also like to use my experiences to promote physical fitness. If you are physically fit, bullies will leave you alone. You won’t need to throw a single punch! Kids today are often out of shape and unhealthy, and I would like to help correct that.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Strangely, my ex-girlfriend may have been helped by me. After seeing girls date bullies, I felt there was no point in being nice to them. I refused to give in to this, and she told me that out of all the guys she had dated, I was one of the few she wasn’t afraid of. The only exception she mentioned was a Sudanese immigrant who was a former child soldier. I was wondering how a man, forced into an ethnic conflict, could come out of it and be more level-headed than a lot of American men. She seemed just as confused and rattled by our society as I was. She actually thought it was normal for guys to be abusive. The relationship didn’t work out, but it was clear that I impacted her worldview. I often wonder if women can learn from my book. If they refuse to date violent men, that could change some things.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

A lot more than three! A good start would be for schools to stop punishing the victims when they are forced to fight back physically. In addition, schools can institute anti-bullying policies that involve class rules about requiring bystanders to help bullied kids, policing the largest and most aggressive boys, and confronting the parents of bullies. Parents must be taught not to pump their kids’ self-esteem up to sky-high levels. There is a dark side to high self-esteem; if someone’s self-esteem is too high, it may cause them to look down on everyone else. This is the recipe for a bully.

Another thing that can create a bully is an unusually large toddler. If a large preschooler learns that it is easy for him to knock over other children, the behavior will eventually become hardwired into his brain, resulting in a habit that will be very hard to break. This is another area where parents will need to be vigilant!

Parents will need to intervene if they have a child who is a chronic victim. It will be essential for them to get that child on an exercise program to improve his or her strength and coordination. Not only do bullies leave physically fit kids alone, the exercise will help the victims burn the unhealthy stress hormones out of their systems. Being chronically bullied is stressful, and a long-term buildup of stress hormones can result in health problems later in life. My physical weakness was mostly the result of a lack of vigorous exercise. Believe me, exercise can help a lot!

Lastly, parents may need to help their kids find social groups outside of their schools where they can escape the pecking orders of their schools. I would like to see some parental involvement in setting their kids up with dates. Being a chronic victim will ruin your chances to socialize and date, and the victims will need help here. If they do not learn when they are young, it will be tough for them to catch up as adults.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I’m still trying to learn about leadership. From what I have learned so far, I can confidently say that an authoritarian leader is the worst type of leader. A strongman who gives orders without taking his subordinates’ thoughts, desires, morale, and capabilities into consideration will become a drain on everyone but the most insecure conformists. Most people chafe under that type of leadership. A positive leader thinks about what they can give to their subordinates rather than what they can get from them. A good leader ensures those being led can be successful and, perhaps, become leaders themselves. A decent leader is willing to admit they don’t know everything and is more than happy to look to their subordinates for expertise. Lastly, a good leader gives subordinates the freedom to do tasks as they see fit and listens to their advice and concerns. I’m sure others will be able to provide me with tips and add to this. Empathy and emotional intelligence are important components, but my mild autism has made reading people difficult.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1 . You can self-publish your book with Kindle Direct Publishing. After seeing how many fraudulent publishers are out there, I decided the only person I could trust with this project was myself.

2 . Grammarly is an excellent editing tool. I still have a touch of dyslexia left over from my childhood, and while I know how to write, I cannot always see my typos. Sometimes computers have been bad to me and sometimes they have been good. This is an example of how they have helped me.

3 . It’s best to ask for help and look for public speaking opportunities at your local library. Libraries sometimes host author symposiums, and once you attend one, you can meet other authors and learn how to market your book from there.

4 . I wish I had been told not to make the book too long. The way it looks on Microsoft Word and the way it looks in print is different. It looks shorter with Microsoft Word. I ended up with a good deal of excess and, in fact, enough material for another book! It was my first attempt, and I had no clear idea of what I wanted my book to be about — I just started writing.

5 . The worst part isn’t the writing; it’s the editing. I spent massive amounts of time dealing with formatting issues that made my head spin. Computers are not my specialty, so I had to ask people at my local library for help, especially when I tried to get the Kindle version of my book online.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have fantasized about leading a Gandhi-style movement to reduce military spending and redirect those funds to saving the planet. It’s probably what we would need to make this happen — I doubt any of our leaders, Democrat or Republican, will do this voluntarily. Fredrick Douglass said that power concedes nothing without a demand, and nothing will happen if we make no demand. Power usually only does what is best for power and needs to be pressured to do anything different. I do not know what kind of strategies will be required.

I’ve worked for the parks my entire life and seen ecological damage that only a professional can fully process and understand. Without writing another book, I cannot possibly describe to anyone how many invasive species have been released into our ecosystems and the damage they are doing. Climate change, which scientists have warned us about for decades, is becoming more observable to the average person. I wonder when panic will start to set in. Such a movement would direct that panic into something positive and ensure that future generations, if there are any, will be able to survive.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” ― Mark Twain.

When I was a kid, I was rarely in a situation where the majority of the kids were right about anything. In my first middle school, most of the kids were hyper-masculine racists. In my next set of schools, they were unthinking conformists to American consumerism. Most people do not think too deeply and want to follow the crowd. I know that the majority isn’t always wrong, but it is crucial to double-check the majority because it tends to go along with the crowd. Sometimes, for the majority to be right, it must be convinced by a wiser minority. For example, the majority of people thought the world was flat. Wiser people had to convince them it was round — which was no easy task! Today, the majority of people think the world is round, and they are right, but look what went into that!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

This is subject to change, but right now, it would be Taylor Swift. She has been trying to get young people to vote, and her advice on how to talk to the young would be greatly appreciated. If not her, then Temple Grandin. She is an autistic person who has been a source of inspiration for me. Being mildly autistic myself, I would like to meet her and shake her hand.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can check out my book, Bullying and Society: A Personal Story, on You must go to, click on books, and type in the title of the book.

My Facebook account is here. I have a version of this book under the penname, Zach Wallace, but I will likely do away with this version:

Works Cited and Further Reading

  1. Olweus, Dan. Bullying at School. Malden, MA., Oxford, U.K., Carlton, Victoria, Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 1993: 30–31, 36, and 63–107.
  2. Henslin, James M. Sociology: A Down to Earth Approach. Allyn & Bacon, 2010: 274–279.
  3. Kunstler, James Howard. The Geography of Nowhere. New York: Touchstone, 1993: 117–118 and 129
  4. Twenge, Jean M., Ph.D., and Campbell, Keith W., Ph.D. The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. New York, New York: Free Press, 2009: 28, 197–198, 210, and 289.
  5. Raine, Adrian, DPhil., Reynolds, Chandra, PhD., Venables, Peter H., DSc., Mednick, Sarnoff A., DMed., and Farrington, David P., DPhil. “Fearlessness, Stimulation-Seeking, and Large Body Size at Age 3 Years as Early Predispositions to Childhood Aggression at Age 11 Years.” Arch Gen Psychiatry 55 (1998): 745–751.
  6. Ouellet-Morin, Isabelle, Ph.D., Danese, Andrea, M. D., Ph.D.,Bowes, Lucy, Ph. D., Shakoor,

Sania, M. Sc., Ambler, Antony M. Sc., Pariante, Carmine M., M. D., M. R. C. Psych., Ph. D., Papadopoulos, Andrew S., Ph. D., Caspi, Avshalom, Ph. D., Moffitt, Terrie E., Ph. D., and Arseneault, Louise, Ph. D. “A Discordant Monozygotic Twin Design Shows Blunted Cortisol Reactivity Among Bullied Children.” Journal of the Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 50 (2011): 574–582.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Kevin L Reichling Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.