Never Feeling Like Enough
When Confidence Cripples
In South Platte Counseling’s ongoing blog series, “Mental Health and Me,” we invite one of our clients to write openly and anonymously about their mental health journey on a topic they’ve personally experienced. We are showcasing this series to help de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health. We want to let people know mental health is an individual journey and a ubiquitous life experience. With that being said, let’s read about one person’s experience with this week’s topic: learning how to be confident and free.
Editor’s note & warning: This blog includes depressive thoughts and eating difficulties. Please take care while reading.
It all started when I was 12 years old. I remember the day, specifically: the cheer coach asked my best friend to be the lead flier in the newest routine. This came as a major shock as I had perfected all the skills in the routine. The question, “why not me,” repeated in my head again and again like a broken record for several days to follow. I eventually had the courage to ask a group of my friends, “why not me” and I will never forget their answer. “It’s probably because you’re not small enough.” Although I appreciated their honesty, I was shocked by their response. While it looked like I downplayed the comment and moved on, it ate away at me for the next several years.
Believing I was “too big” to fly in stunts was the furthest thing from the truth. However, I took this lie and tied it to my identity and every one of my actions. I started working out more and skipped a few snacks. A few weeks later, I would skip entire meals. I thought this was getting me more in control of my future, but I was really just at the beginning of losing all of it. I stopped going to social events involving food and spent significantly less time with friends.
While food, or the lack thereof, became a daily theme of my life, inadequacy was a close second. Although I was on the thin side to begin with, I still never felt like enough. There were never more comments about my size or abilities from outsiders, yet my destructive thoughts only grew to be louder.
Being a hard-headed person, these thoughts made me want to be “better.” Little did I know they were doing just the opposite. Running away from food, working out for hours a day, and lying to my loved ones only led to more self-loathing thoughts and extreme burn-out. A year after the comment that I was “too big” was made, I found myself in the local children’s hospital diagnosed with anorexia, anxiety, depression, and extreme bradycardia (low heart rate). The lack of food harmfully affected my body by slowing my heart rate and basic organ functions but also clouded my judgment and thoughts. What was once an 80-pound happy-go-lucky girl shriveled down to 60 pounds of skin, bones, and sadness.
After realizing the point I’d reached, I had to make an active decision to change deep-rooted beliefs that brought me to the point where I was currently. While I thought I could do it on my own, parents and doctors recommended I attend therapy. The idea was not highly comforting, but I knew it was what would help heal both my mind and body. I had many thoughts and feelings to work through. I know today that I would not be healed like I am without my therapist. However, that does not mean that it wasn’t difficult. Some days I resented talking, and other days I found myself experiencing massive breakthroughs. I saw my therapist for years because these entrenched and unyielding beliefs don’t disappear overnight. I had a lot of unlearning to do. After I finally found freedom from my eating struggles, I continued to go to therapy as it was a time to sort out my thoughts and get help with other life struggles. It wasn’t until I went away to college that I stopped seeing my therapist, as she genuinely helped me in many areas of my life, and I knew I was going to be ok.
Looking back, I can confidently say I learned a few things. First off, feeling “good enough” is based on your own perspective. No one can make you feel “you’re less than” when you believe you are plenty. Next, working harder is not always better. There is a distinct difference between working hard and running yourself into the ground. Whether you are in middle school cheerleading or 20 years into your career, it’s essential to find a balance to truly find happiness. Lastly, no matter how difficult it seems, having hard conversations can save you a lot of hurt in the long run. In hindsight, I wish I had gone to therapy the moment those girls made that comment about my size. Talking out loud about how that made me feel would have saved me from immense self-doubt and lack of confidence.
While I can’t go back in time, knowing that my story is being shared to help someone else makes my experience worth it. If you are to take away one thing from my journey, know that no matter who you are or what you do, you are enough.