In high school, I spent four years becoming someone who could walk amongst my classmates without thinking too much about what other people thought. I had made friends who loved me for who I was, I had dreams of impacting the world (I was something of a student leader at my school), and my family was just around the corner. By the time I was a senior, I’d settled into myself.
So going from high school to college was a literal cultural shift.
Thinking back to my freshman year, it was a new and wild season. I was on my own for the very first time. While it was scary, it was also exhilarating—words you’d use to describe a roller coaster. And that is exactly what it all felt like.
I remember walking through the dining hall and my stomach was in my throat. In my head all eyes were on me (looking back now, nobody was checking for me). I roamed the cafeteria for a place to sit; really I was looking for my new friend, Diana. Before arriving to the campus, she and I had become friends through our school’s social media platform.
Soon as I spotted her, a wash of gratitude and excitement swallowed up my fear. It wasn’t just my joy at seeing my new college friend, but her joy at seeing me. We were inseparable. When we had classes in the same building, we’d walk together. We visited churches together. We explored the campus and our college town together. We introduced each other to the new friends we made. One of our new friends had an older brother whose eyes landed on Diana. We will name him Leon.
Suddenly, Diana and Leon were the inseparable ones. That was really hard for me because I had pictured my next four years beside my new best friend. We would leave college, attend each other’s weddings and baby showers—it was all going according to plan. Until my roommate started to become friends with this crew, and I realized I was slowly getting pushed out of the picture.
When you have lived with levels of insecurity, it gets harder and harder to see other people’s actions as anything less than a declaration that there is something wrong with you. So, as they began to create this new crew that I was no longer a part of, I began to think there was something wrong with me. And in order to fix it, I had to fix our friendship.
One day Diana came over to my dorm to see my roommate. My roommate was up. I faded in and out of sleep, but I could hear them as they spoke about me in hushed tones. It was sealed, Diana had officially moved on from me as her friend. I was going to get up, but then I heard her tell about a decision she was about to make that would alter her whole life. To preserve the sensitivity of the decision, I won’t share details, but I remember being so afraid that I went and told my RA.
I shared what I’d heard, and the RA immediately went to Diana’s room and confronted her. Then, Diana rushed into the room I was in and verbally tore me to shreds. She laid out everything I had ever told her about myself. She called me fat, ugly, and other choice words. Then she stormed out. I experienced the most painful ending of a friendship that night. Not only that but ringing in my ears was the laundry list of things Diana had said, things I already believed were wrong with me.
Through my tears, I recounted how many times I’d felt unsure of myself around my friend—how I thought she was skinnier than me, lighter than me, had looser curls than me, could dance better than me, and was more charismatic than me. Was it jealousy that made me go to the RA? I think more accurately it was the desire to matter. The desire for my voice and my presence to matter in the scope of our friendship. I thought if I could somehow be a hero, I could get my friend back, but it backfired.
That was almost 16 years ago. It was the peak of self-hatred for me and created a wound in my heart that has finally scarred over and healed just within the last few years. If I could go back, I would wake up and interrupt their conversation and they’d have to take it somewhere else. Or I would seek out true connection, not some version of it I could control. Friendships among women can be complex, because you have to fight through personal comparison, jealousy, and decide that as much as you desire from the friendship you must also be willing to give.
Self-hatred weaponizes the best parts of us and makes us landmines to the people we were meant to be home to. I have chosen to become an enemy of self-hatred and to be a place where my sisters can find a home.
Have you ever sabotaged a friendship? How has self-hatred affected your life?
Myrna Smith says
This story reminded me of how I was treated in my youth. I don’t remember ever sabotaging anyone but self hatred and feeling unseen made me isolate myself even more. When thinking back on my life I can still see where my embarrassment of certain areas of my life still keeps me from living my best life. Fortunately I have great friendships and I have recognized the great aspects of me that I bring to those beautiful relationships. Thank you for sharing your story.
Lathie McKinney says
I have sabotaged a friendship with a friend from 7th grade. Thinking it was my job to fix things that in reality were none of my business. Thank God it didn’t backfire. It wasn’t QUITE the same. But we remained friends. Before her passing we were friends for 42 years. I thank God for the experience.