Tag Archives: Bullying

Girl in the Mirror: Battling Self-Loathing

Girl in the Mirror: Self-Loathing I traced the long pink trail down my arms with my finger. The welted skin etched it’s way down my arm. It was about an inch long. I thought it was a curse for being fat. I thought it was penance for imperfection. Never mind that I saw my tall, lanky friends with them. Mine was a mark, a brand that something was wrong with me.  I always wore sweaters after that.


We take the messages that we hear and we carry them on our backs and shoulders, in our purses, on our minds, and in our dreams. We let them permeate every aspect of ourselves and never question why we welcomed them in the first place. Why? Why have we been conditioned to believe that any and all critiques should be accepted? Why have we been raised to believe that how we know ourselves is not the truth at all, that it has no permanence compared to the words of a passing stranger? If our bodies are temples why are the words of those who don’t know us treated as sacrosanct before our own?

I’ve always had this eerie sense of self.  A comfortable understanding of who I was. Some call it being an old soul. Maybe it is. But the fact remained that growing up I never quite felt like this old soul had a place to rest. I was the odd kid who had too much against her. I was chubby, I was curly haired, I was too light for some and simultaneously too dark for others, I read too much, I spoke too much, the list goes on. I began to understand that I was too much and yet, still not enough. I figured that if I couldn’t get people’s acceptance I for damn sure could get their attention. I learned how to make people laugh and how to get them to notice me. Their attention replaced the affection I was actually looking for. But because I fed off the validation of others, I left myself vulnerable to their disdain.

Have you ever played those games that ask you what doesn’t fit or what is out of place? My whole life I felt like that was me.  I so wanted to fit. I wanted to blend. I hated sticking out. I so desperately wanted to be the blonde white girl who fit. Who just made sense in her environment. In fourth grade my skin started to change. My lips were covered in black, crusted over blisters for an entire summer. I could barely open my mouth. Doctors looked at me with wonder and people looked at me like a sideshow. Stares and reactions ran the spectrum from sympathetic to disgusted. I didn’t like going out. The cocktail of medications made me stick out more as I ballooned in weight and the pigment in my skin blanched. I stuck out. No matter where I went, I stuck out. As I got older and the condition all but vanished I still carried that anxiety of standing out. I always saw that little girl in the mirror and knew others saw her too. I criticized everything about myself and continued what my bullies had started. I became my own bully. In high school, there were plenty of kids entering into a period of sexual development but I felt stunted in my own growth. I still feel that way to this day. I always feel like I’m alone and behind. Alone and behind. Purposefully separated and abandoned. It’s a hard cycle to break when you’ve become accustomed to only making yourself accessible to yourself. I give people slivers and glimpses into who I am but I never let them see the core. I never let them see me. I find it difficult to connect to people. I have friends, dear friends, but even from them I hide. My family jokes about my inconsistent communication and I laugh around them.  They don’t know that I am that way because that little girl finds it difficult for anyone to find her life worth communicating about. She’s still battling her sense of inferiority. She’s still trying to unlearn hating herself.


Self- loathing isn’t something that we’re born with but something we’ll likely deal with for the majority of our lives. Hate exists in the spaces that we do because we allow it to. It breeds in those dark places that we are unwilling to confront and slowly starts to take over our minds. It captivates us in the worse way. We submit to something we’ve created. The irony is almost too much. How does it begin? Usually with a question. Most of our agony and torment happens to us within our childhoods. It’s the proverbial toolbox of pain. Unformed, unshaped, undeveloped, we aren’t usually confronted with the idea of self. We’re not worried about who we are but what’s around us. So when people insult us, we absorb it.

“You’re fat!”

Well I never considered it before.

“You’re fat!”

Hmmm…that person seems to think the same thing.

“You’re fat!”

Well they can’t all be wrong. Maybe I am…Am I fat?

The question begs for an answer and the answer is usually supplied with the insults that were already provided. The scenario works the same for any situation, being weird, being gay, being a nerd, being anything that’s deemed different. It doesn’t have to be true because it’s not the words themselves that hurt — it’s what they carry. We go on to carry them for the rest of our lives.

I wore fat and weird as reminders that I was less than. I crowded my mind with the opinions of others and it completely covered what I knew to be true. I was different, yes, but I was not inferior. It can take a long time to untangle those wires. I’m still trying to untangle mine.

When I get dressed it takes me about an hour to find an outfit I feel comfortable in. It’s not my criteria I’m using to judge said comfort. I hear my mother’s innocently-intended comment about my dark skinned knees and pull down my dress. I’m reminded of my chubby  thighs and reconsider lengths and hems of skirts. I worry that a cut may reveal too much of my chest. I search for a coordinated cardigan to cover the stretchmarks on by arms. I do all this for who exactly? I do it to put people at ease. I do it because that same little girl is trying to protect herself from being another target of another round of insults and taunts. I do it because deep down I still believe that others know what’s best for me better than myself.

This mentality obviously extends beyond the superficial. It can’t take root in anywhere but your mind so of course it affects other parts of your self-image. I’ve questioned my abilities more than a few times even when all I’ve received are compliments. I’ve been called brilliant, funny, a great writer, a good singer, and so on and so forth. For whatever reason my brain is only ever able to absorb the bad and completely disregard the good.

But there are also things you can’t blur the line on either. You very well may be fat, but that doesn’t make you worthless. You may be a nerd, but that doesn’t make you less than. You may be weird, but that doesn’t make you inferior. I’ve adopted the voices of my bullies for myself. I let that voice stop me from writing, from singing, from moving, from living really. I tell myself that this box is safe for me, to step outside of it would be suicide. To be unafraid would be suicide. I convince myself that I need this box and the voices that tell me stay within it. I convince myself that somehow not breathing is a better alternative to letting in the air. I convince myself that being miserable is the best option for me. It’s safe but it sure ain’t the best.

So how do you change it? If this way has become as insufferable as it’s become for me, how do you change your mind? It’s not easy and to be perfectly honest it’s not something I’m sure of yet. I just know that with every, “You’re going to wear that?!” I hear in my head, I counter with a “I sure the fuck am.” For every, “You’re worthless and your work is worthless,” I counter with a ”I am not and neither is my work.” For every, “you can’t” I tell myself that I can and I will.

So what about you loves? I know this is a heavy topic but a necessary one for all of us to talk about. How do you deal with self-loathing?

Remember, feel better, do better, and be better!

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Special thanks to Doyin for inspiring me with her Bustle article, “17 Women Discuss The Physical Traits They’ve Grown to Embrace.”  Follow her on twitter and check out her and Evelyn’s  amazing project Austin While Black

I’mperfect

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My finger kept running across the label.

Valium. For Panic Attacks and Anxiety. 

On my left was a bottle of wine. The bridge between the two sat with me for a little too long. Sure it wasn’t new. I’d entertained the idea for years. But this time I was considering dancing with it. I could hear my family laughing downstairs, gathered around a Christmas movie, enjoying each other’s company. The haphazard note I’d written wouldn’t help. Somewhere inside me I knew I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to live either.


I don’t know the exact moment it happened but I learned to hate myself at a very young age. At seven, I took a brillopad to my leg to get off the “dirt” because I wanted to look like all of my white friends. As a teenager I underwent radical diets to look like the thin girls who got asked out. In college, I struggled with suicide ideation. All different expressions but they all came from the same place of a deeply rooted and internalized hate. I was never one of the pretty, popular girls with straight hair and boyfriends. I wasn’t tall and gorgeous like my sisters. I was sick for a good portion of my childhood and it showed in scabs, scars, rashes, and other unsightly skin reactions. I was a walking freakshow as I was told numerous times. That made me an easy target for bullies. I can still remember in vivid detail the laughs of my tormentors. The happiness in their faces when they could call me fat or ugly, pull my hair, kick me, or find some new form of torture. Each time I absorbed the shock of the blow and let it sink below the surface. Each day the pain grew. Each day the message got louder and clearer, “You’re not wanted.”

I began to hate myself intensely. I told myself I didn’t deserve to take up the space that I did. I didn’t deserve to breathe the air everyone else did. The hate morphed into impossible standards. If I didn’t get an A, I was even more worthless. If I didn’t lose the weight, no one would ever want me. If I stopped reading and thinking so much, I’d get a boyfriend. If everything that made me unique was destroyed, I’d be accepted…acceptable. 

I would sit on the floor of my closet in the dark and hug my knees. I felt safe there. Unlike most children, I wasn’t afraid of the monsters that lurked just beyond my clothes and underneath my shoes. I was afraid of the ones on the outside getting in.

But it was too late, they were already running rampant in my head.


When I started dating I was indoctrinated by the belief that I was so unloveable that any consideration from a man was met with my undying love and affection. I hated myself so much that I really believed anyone who could look past my reprehensible “faults” and at least like me was as close to love as I could get. I enthusiastically took emotional and mental abuse because I thought that was the best I could do.

When people complimented me, it never registered. Call me smart and I’d counter with, “Not enough.” Call me pretty and I’d counter with, “Not enough.” I kept praying and hoping that I would find “the enough” on the other side of some condition being met. It never was in reach and so long as I judged myself in the mirror of perfection I would always find something more to fix and less to love.

I hated myself for so long that I wanted to die. That’s all hate grants you. It exhausts you nearly to the point of no return. It infects everything good and beautiful in your life and kills it slowly. I sat in my room while my family celebrated and I wondered if it would be better without me. Then I saw their faces once they found me. Maybe they’d think I was sleeping. Maybe they’d try and shake me awake. But it wouldn’t last long and then they’d know. How could I let them feel that kind of horror? They would feel guilty for something that wasn’t their fault for years.  I didn’t want to trade in my pain for theirs and I truly didn’t want to end my life. I put the orange bottle out of sight and folded up the note. I told myself that I was either going to let my hate kill me or I was going to find a way to live and find happiness.


I used to be terrified of being this vulnerable, of opening myself up to this degree. But the more I look around, the more I see it’s necessary. I hear the little cues in conversation, “If I could just,” “When I…” “I need to do this so I can be…” and I know the little seeds of self-hate live in others. When I read the comments about Tess Holliday getting signed to a major modeling agency, I saw those little seeds come out in words. When I watched the division and negativity after the Dark Girls and Light Girls documentaries last week, I saw those little seeds come out in tweets. When I watch friends deflate because some anonymous man swiped left instead of right, I see those seeds burst and take root. We need to stop treating happiness as some carrot we dangle in front of people. No one person deserves it over another. It’s not a race. You can try and chase it the world over without realizing it starts with you.

Dark-skinned, curly-haired, wide-hipped, flat-chested, whatever you are, you’re golden. Love your rolls, love your curves, love your lines, love your shape, no matter what state it’s in because it’s yours. There’s no use in measuring ourselves against perfection because it’s just as unbelievable as it is unattainable. Why should you wait to be happy when your life isn’t a rehearsal? This is it. If you can’t be comfortable in the skin you’re in now, what makes you think the second you reach a goal, it’ll suddenly find you? You can’t fight insecurity with another insecurity. You’ll never win so chuck it in the trash. Perfection doesn’t allow you to see yourself as the beautiful person you are. It tells you you’re too much or not enough. You’re enough. I promise you, you’re more than enough.

When I stopped hating myself, I started breaking “rules” I was told to live by. I stopped relaxing my hair and let me curls show and I felt beautiful. I wore dresses that showed my dark knees and chubby thighs. The world didn’t collapse, no one was blinded by the sight of it, and I felt beautiful. I started finding joy in what I’d considered imperfections. I started finding joy in myself. Some people don’t like to see that. Let’s be honest, most people don’t like to see that. When we think of happiness as something bestowed instead of something obtained, we get envious of those around us who have it. Hurting people hurt people, doesn’t mean you have to receive it or pass it on. Let that be someone else’s fight. They have to learn, just like you will, just like I did, that the love you’re chasing isn’t somewhere over the rainbow, it’s right in the palm of your hand. Grab that happiness. Embrace that love. Reject the hate.

I wake up every morning and I write this in my journal:

ImPerfect

It’s a reminder to myself that what the world may call faults, I call beauty. What the world may say doesn’t deserve love, will garner all the love it needs right from me.

You deserve to feel that way too. Remember that as we all aspire to feel better, do better, and be better.

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