Setting: Haters Anonymous meeting in a yoga studio on the east side of Milwaukee. Everyone is seated in a circle, legs crossed Indian style. We have just finished an hour-long meditation. I am 3 days off of a 7 day juice cleanse
” Hi guys. My name is Ashley, and I am a recovering hater”.
“I have been sober for 6 weeks. Don’t even have the urge. I have hated on friends, family members and strangers who look amazing on Instagram while they flex. I used to get envious, jealous, and overcome with feelings of inferiority when other people were advancing and doing amazing things. I felt like everyone was moving, and I was being left behind. I cut off all of my friends and stopped answering their calls and supporting their endeavors. Whenever I did attend something, I was there physically, but not in spirit. I hated my friends because they were doing things that I was not. I felt like I was sinking in quick sand and everyone was standing around watching me.
I hated going to parties because I knew someone would ask the dreaded, “What do you do?” As if I was at a job interview, after ranting about the their job and cool business ventures. I didn’t want to talk about what I was or wasn’t doing because I had told, and convinced myself that I had nothing of value to offer. What was I to say, “I work a job I don’t really like, feel pretty shitty and walk around wishing I was someone else more amazing?” I actually found it quite useful that I could tell people I was a teacher. Everyone likes teachers. Especially when you say you’re a special education teacher. Then you get the “oh, that sucks for you but it’s nice you’re doing that job, someone’s gotta do it” face. I used my boyfriend as my blankey. With him to be my security blanket I could be invisible, antisocial. Antisocial is better than being anxious and feeling like I was standing in the middle of a crowded room, naked. He’s cool, everyone could just talk to him. I always felt like people were looking at me and deciding whether or not I was important and worth networking with. To safe myself, I flocked towards children because I never felt like I had to compete with them and could just be myself. Children play at parties, not size each other up with worthless banter.
We left each soiree only after my hun-bunz had had enough of watching me be pitiful. Leon’s frozen custard always renewed my pea sized spirit. In the parking lot I would go on and on about everything I hated and pick each person apart like a true mean girl. That made me feel powerful, strong. But only temporarily because when I got home and laid in the quiet of the darkness, I wept. Wept because I did everything right. I graduated from college, I found a job, I had an amazing man who loved the parts of me that I hadn’t yet learned to love, but I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t advancing. I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t worth talking about to others. I was… nothing. I silently let the tears moistened my pillow case, asking God to just make me better.
I hated my friends. Deep in my soul I saw each of them as my enemy. Like I was on a game show and they all were on the winning team and I, alone. I wouldn’t congratulate them on accomplishments. If they got a promotion, I would say congratulations but despise them. If they bought a house, I would smile but be angry. If they started a business, I would support but be hyper-critical of their choices. Every time I saw them making moves, I felt smaller and smaller until I disappeared. I didn’t even recognize the person I had become. So negative, so judgmental, so scorned. If I wasn’t talking negatively about people, I had nothing to say. No conservation. My friends had become people who I casually spoke to because it was easier that way. It was easier to pretend if I only had to do it on a limited basis.
My boyfriend became my existence and he watched me be miserable.
I had not dealt with issues that I allowed to ruin me.
Issues like past toxic relationships, abuse, insecurity, low self-worth and the list goes on. I dug myself a grave over time and was burying myself in my own unchecked behaviors. I walked around pretending to be okay but internally I was crumbling. My friends were stars that I wanted to shoot out of the sky; reflections of what I desperately wanted but couldn’t attain.
Until I started doing the work and nurturing that dying plant that was me.
I started calling myself out on my shenanigans, checking my behavior.
I started seeing my therapist who initially I was just giving my money to because I wasn’t using any of the nuggets she was throwing my way. I grew from seeing me therapist, to trusting her. I received her suggestions and slowly starting making small changes. I starting communicating with the man I love instead of just consuming the air that he also needed to breath. I shared my pain and insecurities with him and for a little while, his confidence was mines until I could find my own. I tapped into the support group that is my family. I talked with trusted family members about my issues and we worked through them together. I started to believe in myself and my own abilities. I disconnected from Social Media because I wasn’t ready to be a responsible consumer of the things others want you to see online.
I started to do the work
I tapped into YouTube and watched loads of ShamelessMya. She was inspirational. She was bold. She was courageous. She was vulnerable. She was what I was not, but aspired to be.
I started to sing again because singing is my free therapy. Singing brings me peace, tranquility. Singing reminds me that I have a beautiful gift that I can either share, or keep just for me.
I haven’t started reconnecting with my friends yet (well not fully) because I am scared I’m not ready. Not ready to truly be happy for them in a non-envious way. Scared that I will fall back into darkness. But I am working towards binding the rope that I cut loose. I am working towards being authentically me, and being truly happy for the success of others around me. I think I am making strides!
I watched a video of one of my old friends online and actually did feel happy for her. Glad that she was engaged. I smiled when I saw the look of sheer surprise and glee on her face as her nervous fiance got down on one knee to ask for her hand in marriage. I was excited that I didn’t feel, jealous. I was ecstatic that such a deserving women was being proposed to, and that I wasn’t watching with a heart full of “but why not me”.
I am not perfect, but I am enough for me. I look at my accomplishments and my current journey and think “I am doing dope stuff”. When I write posts and share what I am doing on social media it is because I am excited and want to share! I try to share the good and not so good because I am NOT PERFECT and I want people to know that.
I am Ashley Valentine. I used to be a hater. But now I’m doing the work of pinpointing my own insecurities and learning what it means to be joyous for others, while understanding that I too have things to be happy about.
Taking a seat