Mike King’s big ears, buck teeth and huge head made him an easy target for bullies during his school days.
He was known by fellow pupils as “head” and he was bullied – but then he turned into a bully.
The former comedian brought his Key to Life Tour to Longford Intermediate School on Monday.
He told pupils he had always had low self-esteem, which manifested itself in the inner critic being his constant companion, feeding him self-deprecating thoughts.
He said that when he was a child he was often told he was no good at anything.
He was also told he was “pretty ugly”.
“Most of the time I’d have conversations with myself,” he said.
Those factors set the scene for low self-esteem and a 45-year battle which originated with those thoughts.
He turned to drugs and alcohol to give him much-needed confidence, but with time that brought its own set of problems.
His defence against bullying at school was to sit outside the staffroom at playtime and lunchtime.
He discovered he was funny when he stepped in to protect his only friend, Nigel, against bullying by telling a joke that had all the other pupils laughing.
While being funny catapulted him into the cool kids group, he was not free of his self-deprecating self – his happiness depended on people liking him.
Once the novelty of his jokes wore off, the “cool” group encouraged him to bully other vulnerable pupils.
“I went in one week from being bullied to being the bully,” he said.
Conflict and confusion set in when he was told to bully Nigel, who had always been loyal to him.
His introduction to alcohol came from his parents, who he said argued about money every night except Friday and Saturday, when they were drinking.
“I associated drinking with fun.
“I couldn’t wait to start drinking.”
He could only approach a girl if he had been drinking.
“If she rejected me I had an excuse – I was drunk.
“I wasn’t a clever comedian, I was a very aggressive stand-up comedian. I used to swear a lot and I talked about things I didn’t like and people I didn’t like – I used to smash them,” he said.
He told the Longford pupils it was not unusual to have conversations in their head and for the inner critic to be a negative influence.
Even now, when Mr King entered a room he was thinking there were people there who did not like him.
His turning point came when he finally went to a counsellor.
Longford Intermediate School principal Yvonne Catherwood said Mr King had been an advocate for mental health for several years. There were people out there who would listen and help young people facing problems, she said.
Mr King and his friends are riding Suzuki 50cc scooters from one end of the country to the other, bringing Mr King’s message of hope to 45 schools
Mike King’s message to youth
Mike King rode into Gore on a 50cc motorbike to deliver a powerful message to youth.
He delivered the “I am hope” message which urged Longford Intermediate School pupils to be kind and listen to friends in need.
He handed out I Am Hope wristbands which signalled to individuals’ friends they were there to listen to concerns.
The former comedian urges those wearing the bands to adopt the following:
I will not judge.
I will not shame.
I will not rant.
I will not blame.
I will not gossip.
I am hope
“I’ve got your back.”
For help, consult a school counsellor or phone Key to Life Trust 0800 256-7376.