An extract from Bully For Them: Outstanding Australians on Hard Lessons Learned at School is now available in The Sydney Morning Herald. Tiff, along with two other successful Australians detail how they learned to overcome the bullies and feelings of worthlessness that dogged their school days. This is a must read, it seems Tiff went through a lot when she was younger. The story has only made us respect her more.
TIFFINY HALL, TELEVISION PERSONALITY, 29
Up until 14, I was paralysed with shyness. I couldn't ask questions in class, and at restaurants I'd get my younger sister, Bridget, to order food for me. I hated conflict. I stressed over everything. The night before sports and swimming carnivals, I'd feel sick. The stress to achieve - to not be the "dumb blonde" - started in year 6 and just got worse and worse.
I went to a very cliquey private girls' school. There was a big fight in year 6, and another in year 9, all the girls just at each other, and I didn't know what to do. At a girls' school you have to choose sides. But I was such a people-pleaser, I would never choose a side. So I wasn't very popular and they decided I was a "dumb blonde". I was very strong in English, but I struggled with maths and science. I worked hard to get good marks to subvert that dumb-blonde stereotype. I still carry it somewhat.
When I was 15, I was in 42nd Street. The lead guy came from another school and was 18 and drove a car. After the show finished, he gave out awards to everyone. He gave me an award for being "The girl most likely to become a porn star". I couldn't breathe. It was the most embarrassing moment of my life. He kept calling me to go up on stage and all the girls were laughing.
School stressed me out so much that I got glandular fever, which led to chronic fatigue syndrome, and I had to take six or seven months off. That was year 9, the pivotal time when you make your friends. Socially, I never recovered. I never fitted in. A lot of the girls were really well off and stuck together. The dominant thing was wealth and having the right things. One girl was bullied because her family rented their BMW.
My mum would pick me up in the Tarago - a "ninja" van that was sign-written with "Get Your Kicks Here" and "Fitness for Fun" - wearing her white taekwondo uniform. It was a family business and they'd take me and my sister to shopping centres to do demonstrations to build membership. Kids from school would come by. Being 14 and doing these demos in front of your friends was mortifying. There were so many aerobics girls and ballerinas, and I was into full-contact sports.