By Ryan Dean
St. Louis (KSDK) -- A former bully has changed her life and says enough is enough.
"I was just protecting my rep and worried about respect, and things like that, but I never looked at it as being a bully, even though that's really what it was," says Kiana McKinney, a former bully.
The 20-year-old says her days of being a bully started in 4th grade and lasted for a few years.
"If people were mean to me, 'I was like yeah, I'm going to get them back,'" McKinney says.
McKinney's path is not unusual according to Clinical psychologist, Dr. Jeffrey Rothweiler.
"It's not a conscious thing," explains Rothweiler. "They don't say 'today I strike back, today I'm going to be the bully.' Bullies don't always know what they are doing is inappropriate."
Rothweiler says a lot of times bullies, while they exhibit a tough exterior, have self-esteem issues. In many instances, before they became the aggressor, they were victims. McKinney says that was the case for her.
"I would get made fun of. People would call me big nose and big head and bald head. I got tired of it," says McKinney.
McKinney says her bullying was not random. She only went after those who were mean to her.
"I'm going to come up with the most meanest thing I can say to scare that person or make that person think. I wanted that person to feel what I felt," she says.
Dr. Rothweiler says bullies continue to act in a certain behavior because, it's working for them.
"There's a certain amount of reinforcement or good things that happen from that: that guy backed off, or that girl who has always been bad-mouthing me finally shut-up," Rothweiler says.
The psychologist says bullies are often looking for a place to belong. McKinney's bullying days stopped when she found found Sistakeeper, an organization that empowers teens.
The group uses poetry to get girls to express themselves, and that was something McKinney could relate to.
"That was a light bulb for me. I was like 'wait a minute, I was kind of feeling this now, so that was when I was like 'well maybe I can do different," explains McKinney.
McKinney now gives back to the organization that helped her. She's a volunteer for SistaKeeper, mentoring girls who are struggling with those same self-esteem issues she once faced.
"When I see a bully, or even when I see someone being picked on, because I played both ends of the spectrum, so when I look at a bully, I know that hurt, I know the pain, and I know there is a better way. I stress that to the girls so much; you don't have to do this. This is not the way to be accepted this is not the way to start loving yourself," says McKinney.