How many of us can point back to a time in our lives when we were made fun of or bullied? Whether in first grade, high school, or even adulthood, it sticks- and it stings. The girls behind Kind Campaign, Lauren Paul & Molly Thompson, understand- and have made it their mission to make the world a kinder place.
They met the summer before their senior year at Pepperdine, both with shared experiences of bullying in school hallways. With a passion for filmmaking and a heart for sharing their stories, Lauren & Molly set off on a road trip and filmed their documentary, Finding Kind. They traveled around the US, interviewing girls around the country about the mean-girl epidemic, with every intention to find a solution. Almost eight years later, Kind Campaign has blossomed into a booming nonprofit with assemblies or Finding Kind showings almost every day during the school year, helping girls confront the issue of girl-and-girl bullying head on and find healing.
What experiences did you have with bullying that led you to start Kind Campaign?
Lauren: I think everyone we have spoken with is currently going through a bullying experience or can accurately recall one. Mine was in middle school- name-calling and rumors, and what they were doing weren’t so out of the ordinary or that different from what we hear on a daily basis. It definitely was horrible and aggressive and shouldn’t have been happening… But we hear these things all the time. For me, what was kind of different was the effect of that. For me, it turned into depression and an eating disorder that I battled for a few years. It all culminated to a point where I tried to commit suicide, which was obviously a turning point in my life. As much as that was a really dark chapter in my life, I do in a way feel thankful for that, because being able to share that with girls and be honest can remind other people that their school experiences are not their entire stories.
Molly: When I was a junior in high school, there was this girl who just decided that she didn’t want to be my friend anymore and that she didn’t want anyone in my friend group to be friends with me either. She did everything she could to isolate me, to the point where I dreaded going to school every day. During passing periods I would hide in the bathroom stall because I was so terrified of running into these girls when I didn’t have anyone to walk with. I was on dance team with this group of girls, and every time we went to a water break I would grab my cell phone and call my mom – hoping and praying that she was available for me to talk to at the time – and if she wasn’t, I would just stand there and basically talk to myself and have pretend conversations because I wanted these girls to think I had at least one friend to talk to. It went on my entire junior year, but on the very last day of the school year I was walking through hallways and the girl who had kind of instigated everything called my name. I turned around, so scared of what she would do or say, and she said, “Molly, I am so sorry for everything I’ve done to you. I don’t know why I did any of it, and I’m so sorry.” That was life-changing for me because that entire year I had been questioning myself: What did I do wrong? What could I do differently? Her having the courage to apologize showed me that I wasn’t going to feel that way for the rest of my life and that I was going to make it through. It was a huge turning point for me and showed me the power of an apology.
What would you tell your college self?
Lauren: I look back on my college days and I see every step; every high and low, every good and bad point, every struggle and every step, and I wouldn’t necessarily change anything because your experiences lead you to the next place you’re supposed to be. But, during my freshman year, I got wrapped into a friendship that didn’t make me feel good. It was the first friendship I had that made me feel like I was back in my middle school hallways, so insecure and weird. I think it’s so important to recognize that when you have someone in your life that doesn’t make you feel good, it’s okay to walk away from them. Sometimes you need to break up with your friends. Sometimes you grow in different ways or you end up in friendships where you aren’t on the same page- especially in college, where you have this chance to find people who are like-minded. It took me a little longer than I wish to have figured that out.
Molly: Trust yourself. Trust your gut. You still have some of the same insecurities you’re bringing with you, especially freshman year, meeting all of these new people. You want them to like you, and you question yourself as you’re entering this new chapter. Just trust yourself, and be confident in who you are. College is such an amazing place to find your people and your tribe, and if you’re confident in who you are, you will. Also, trust yourself and your gut when it comes to what you’re doing post-college. Before Lauren & I had the conversation that instigated Kind Campaign, I had a totally different idea of what I was going to be doing. We both had trust in ourselves and we never looked back. I’m so thankful and grateful that we did. Just trust in yourself and in your gut.
What are your biggest inspirations?
Lauren: My parents have been the most inspiring people through the way they model their relationships with themselves and us as their children. They raised us to be open minded and inclusive, to love people no matter who they are or what they’ve been doing, and they raised us with open arms and to have open arms. I’ve also been really inspired by Mary Oliver, the poet. I’ve been reading her stuff nonstop for the last couple of months, and her words are really hitting me right now for some reason.
Molly: For sure my parents. Both of them, together and individually, have taught me so many things growing up and shaped me into the person I am- I’m so thankful for them. I feel like there’s an interesting dynamic when you get older, and you realize they’re just humans. I’m inspired by both of them.
If you could only listen to three songs for the rest of your life:
Lauren: Music is such an important thing to me. In terms of the arts, music is the thing I feel most connected to, so that’s really hard!
- Bitter Sweet Symphony by the Verve: I’ve heard it a million times, and I never get tired of it.
- The Scientist by Coldplay
- Any Other Name by Thomas Newman (the version from the American Beauty score)
- We Own the Sky by M83: Lauren introduced me to this song, and we listened to it nonstop on the road. It feels so much a part of Kind Campaign and a chapter of my life.
- All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow: Sheryl Crow is the first concert I ever went to with my mom, and I’ve always loved her! So many memories.
- Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy: It brings me peace.