Note: I wrote this piece in January, and I’ve wanted to share it so many times since then, but I’ve never found the courage. I’ve shared most of my story, but I haven’t shared all of it (except in hint form). And I believe that now is the time to share all of it, because over the last 6 months I have worked so hard to overcome this problem, and I’m pretty sure I have it beat.
Remember that this is a judgment free blog 🙂
Game of Comparisons
By, Kaleigh Distaffen
I have never been particularly fond of myself, and my self-esteem has always been relatively low. So, I believed too much, was too over trusting, and was too naïve to know any better. In other words, I believed what people told me I was, I trusted everybody was my friend, and was too naïve to know that I was worth more. It came as no surprise, therefore, when I was sexually assaulted that I believed everything those guys told me.
“You’re not pretty enough. You’re not good enough. You’re worth nothing.”
These words repeated over and over again in my head, never shutting up or slowing down. The Game of Comparisons started, and I lost every time.
She’s pretty; you’re not pretty enough. She’s skinny; you’re not skinny enough.
Soon I became so full of self-hatred I was virtually incapable of feeling anything else. Every laugh, every smile, every tear was forced out. I felt dead—a human void of emotion is no human at all. In order to feel something, anything at all, I began to cut myself. And every time I cut myself open with the razor of hate, you’re worth nothing echoed in my mind. This routine continued day in and day out for six months. Eventually, cutting wasn’t enough anymore. So I stopped eating.
Well, ok. Technically, that’s not entirely true.
I stopped filling myself up. I started eating less and less, only eating enough to stop my stomach from rumbling. Sometimes, if I completely hated myself, I would skip a meal here and there. The cutting, not eating, and the voices continued for another year and a half. Until one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to die.
And I almost did. But there was a quiet voice in the back of my head whispering, you are good enough. That tiny voice was enough to give me hope that things could get better.
Over time, I stopped cutting. But I didn’t start eating again. It got worse. The summer before Senior Year, I went two weeks without eating anything but a few crackers every day. Senior Year I didn’t eat lunch: Partly because I was taking too many classes to have a lunch period; mostly because I couldn’t stand the thought of people watching me putting food in my mouth.
If I didn’t like myself, how could I expect anybody else to like me enough to want me to eat?
Graduation came and went, and for the first time in a long time, I almost, kind of, maybe a little, liked myself. I started eating a little bit more than I had before, and was pretty much excited for college.
Until I went to college, that is. It’s funny. College is much like High School, at least my High School. There are the same groups of people—the popular kids, the athletes, the music nerds, the nerds. If I didn’t fit in before, how was I supposed to fit in now? At a College like Roberts, where the number of girls heavily outweighs the number of boys, I have found many more people to compare myself to.
When I walked into Garlock on the first day of classes, I was terrified by the number of people sitting there, talking amongst their groups. I saw many beautiful people. And I wasn’t one of them.
Sitting alone at a table the first day, I was overcome with feelings I hadn’t really felt in a few months. So, I retreated to the library; there among the books, I felt comfortable. Nobody cared how much food I ate, or didn’t eat. Nobody cared that I sat alone, procrastinating on important things, while scribbling away in my notebook.
But the Game of Comparisons continued, and I lost every round, even the ones I didn’t participate in. Only this time, it was different; the voice wasn’t saying “you’re not.” The voice was saying, “I’m not.”
I’m not good enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not skinny enough. I’m not ‘insert adjective here’ enough.
And trust me when I say that telling yourself you’re not good enough is a whole lot worse than having someone else tell you. It’s true, you know. You are your own worst critic.
Every day I would look in the mirror, hate what I saw, and would compensate by being someone I’m not. And it was physically and mentally exhausting. Between the not eating and the not being, I was having a really tough time.
But when you spend all your time in the library, among the books and the silence, you have a lot of time for soul searching. Towards the end of November, I was sitting quietly sitting at my table, trying to study when the quiet voice was back. Then, it hit me. I wanted to stand on my chair and tell the world, “I am having some major epiphanies going on up in here.” But, I didn’t. I was in a library, and shouting in the library is highly frowned upon.
So, I went in the bathroom and cried.
Three things hit me that day.
- I am capable of so much more. In the battle between Who I Think I Am and Who I Could Be, Who I think I am won every time, because that’s what I let get a hold of me. That’s what feed off my energy. It doesn’t have to be that way.
- We are all capable of doing something great. I am, you are, we are all. But, we all have something holding us back.
Every mirror tells me something different. I can tell myself that I’m beautiful over and over again, until I’m blue in the face, but there is an irrevocable flaw ingrained deep into the recesses of my brain that refuses to let me believe it. And even though deep in my soul I know I’m capable of greatness, there is something holding me back. And until I figure out what it is, until I figure out how to overcome it, I am destined to live in my own shadow.
I have figured out what mine is: fear and self-doubt.
3. I decided I shouldn’t spend so much time in the library, because it was making me all emotional (but that will never happen because I love books too much).
Sometimes, when I’m sad, hate myself, and don’t want to eat, I look at the lines on my hands. They remind me that I have been stitched together by the master sew-er, and I’ve learned that sometimes, that is enough.