As I've said before, I am not an athlete, and I think that there's a perception among those of us who are not athletes, especially when we're in school, that athletes are kind of a privileged class, and that they don't necessarily have to put up with the kind of crap that the rest of us have to put up with. As Michael Phelps was talking about being picked on, it reminded me of this girl who was in my high school class. She was very much an athlete (probably still is) and I was doing my fine arts thing, and even though we went to the same church, I never had more than a speaking acquaintance with her. When we graduated from high school we ended up going to the same college, and yet we had even less contact with each other because we each became more specialized in our respective fields. But one day I saw an interview with her in the paper; I think it was for the sports section, but it wasn't just about sports. I don't remember most of the questions, but one of them was something like, "What fictional character do you most relate to?" and she said "Hermione Granger, from Harry Potter". That really surprised me, because if someone asked me that question, Hermione would definitely be on my short list, and yet I wouldn't have expected to have that in common with this girl, and it made me really sad that I hadn't had the chance to get to know her better, because we might have really gotten along.
But back to Michael Phelps; he said of having been bullied that it made him stronger, and that's how I feel too. And it just goes to show why you should never bully people; not only because it's cruel and hurtful, but because you never know who those people are going to turn out to be. They might become the winningest Olympian ever, or your surgeon, or a police officer, or a mechanic, or your kids' teacher; in other words, someday you might need them (or you might just want to be around them), and so not only are you hurting others by bullying them, you're potentially hurting yourself.
I really like Michael Phelps' attitude toward people saying negative things about him, which they still do. He uses it as motivation to help him do better and prove them wrong. I wish I had that kind of self-discipline, because my tendency would be to dwell on it in a negative way so that it would distract me from what I was doing and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hmmm...I wonder if that is purely an attitudinal thing, i.e. something I could change about myself if I just put my mind to it.