You know, people always say something like “Just do your best, you can’t do more than that.”
Did anyone ever say that to you?
Did they tell you that and then no matter how much you struggled to do whatever was asked of you, it was never enough? If you never experienced that I would say you are a lucky one. If you did, then you might be like me.
It was like that for me, at least. It wasn’t just that nothing I did was ever good enough, I was never enough. Not clever enough, nice enough, pretty enough, fast enough, strong enough, never…. Enough.
If I said I was struggling, then they would say “Oh, just do your best.”
I came to hate those words, because I felt like the words themselves were mocking me. I felt bitter when people I knew felt relief or some odd sense of accomplishment from having done their best because in my world they were special – they were better than me in every way because they were simply enough as they were. Unlike me.
I was bullied and abused, I struggled to survive my whole life – constantly pushed far beyond my limits and still, nothing was ever good enough.
I once met a girl who told me that if people, even little children, were bullied then it was their own fault. I got upset and argued that no victim is ever at fault for something that happened to them. Oddly enough, when it came to myself, I couldn’t help but wonder if she had a point? Maybe every bad thing that ever happened to me was my own fault?
Did I create situations that in time made it possible for others to bully me? I always just ignored the bullies, as long as they only bullied me verbally or pushed me a bit or something like that. I refused to let them see me cry, I refused to let them see how much pain I was in, but I never once fought back.
At first, if someone else was bullied, I would speak up for them, but as my own bullies got more aggressive and more physical, I am ashamed to say that I stopped fighting for others. I was too afraid, but oddly enough I was not afraid of the pain – I was afraid how to explain it to my mother if she saw I was hurt. A bruise now and again didn’t matter, I am a seriously clumsy person and even as a child I was more of a tomboy who enjoyed climbing trees and building secret hideouts.
I once made a flint axe, so that I could cut down trees for my hideout in the forest (I was clearly ambitious as a child), but I was afraid to look when I chopped things with the axe because I felt bad breaking the branches and trees, so instead of chopping the branch I ended up hitting my left index finger cutting all the way to the bone. My mother, unfazed by such things, simply wrapped my finger and told me to hold it up. She was probably used to me doing strange things by then and didn’t even seem surprised by my attempt to make an axe myself.
The problem is that I don’t lie, so even if I could have made up a reason for me getting hurt, if my mother had asked how something had happened, I would not be able to lie. She didn’t question the occasional bruise, because honestly, who would? Kids play, they get hurt.
As an adult, I couldn’t help wondering if I could have fought back. I was always alone, no one ever stood by my side when I was being bullied, so I didn’t have anyone else to rely on. If I had stood up to the bullies, would others have changed their minds and chosen to stand beside me? Even if I had fought back and lost, it would have been impossible to hide and once the adults knew, could they have helped change things? To this day I still don’t believe that they would have changed anything. I was never liked by teachers, they told me I was unruly, rude, stupid and a freak. Why would I go to such people for help?
If I had fought back myself, would I not just have contributed to escalating things?
I don’t know. I know, at first, I didn’t want to fight back because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Later, I became too afraid, so I spent a great deal of my breaks in school hiding in strange places so that I wouldn’t get caught by my tormentors.
I felt I couldn’t do anything right. Nothing I did was ever good enough. Of course, I would create trouble for myself – even if unknowingly – how could I fight my own nature?
If I do not break myself trying to do what is asked of me, will anyone believe that I even tried? They will certainly not believe I did my best, right?
Maybe it’s because I know they never believed me that I started to either make no effort whatsoever or push myself far beyond my limits. It makes little sense to me, because if I want them (whoever they are) to know that I am doing all that I can, why then do I always try to hide my suffering? If they need to see me break in order to believe that I am actually trying, why do I hide my breakdowns from as many people as possible? Why do I still hate for others to see me cry? It could not be that I am afraid they might be right? That I don’t want them to see me break, because they will only see it as weakness, but at the same time it gives me peace of mind. I know I have done my best when I break down, because then I have nothing left to give – not to anyone, definitely not to myself.
It’s not like they want to see it either. When I was little, in school or at someone else’s house, if I accidentally had pushed myself to far or broke down because of overstimulation (I had no idea why at the time, I only understood my childhood better after my diagnosis) people would scold me, tell me to stop making a fuss or something like that.
In school I was often punished by being sent to stand in the hallway outside of the classroom. I used to stand there and wish the coats hanging side by side in the long, lonely hallways would swallow me whole if I snuggled in between them. I never tried to see if it would happen, because I didn’t want to touch other people’s coats.
Who are they? Think about it for a moment with me. Who are they? Do you have a ‘they’ too?
To me, ‘they’ are probably all those who bullied me, all those who made me feel broken and freakish and misplaced, all those who abused me mentally and physically. They are all those who convinced me doing my best was not enough.
More than anything, however, ‘they’ are probably me. I am the one who chose to believe I am not enough instead of trusting that I am.
I feel like I created little worms of doubt and insecurity inside my heart and soul and allowed them to gnaw at my sanity all these years. I am writing this in the middle of the night, I had a nightmare just now and, in my dream, there were all these big worms wiggling around, gnawing at everything and slowly killing me. I wanted to fight them, kill them before they killed me, but in my dream I ran away. When I woke up it was raining lightly outside and in my post-dream confused state, I thought it was the sound of the worms still gnawing. How big they have grown after all these years feasting on me!
So, here I am, writing and crying in the middle of the night and it’s only now that the rain has started to actually sound like rain to me.
I have searched most of my life for someone – anyone – to tell me my efforts were enough. That the work I did was good enough…. And yet, whenever anyone tried to tell me, I didn’t believe them. It was never enough before, why would this time be any different? Right?
There are still people who ridicule me, people who make it very clear I will never be enough. My teachers are often those who treat me in the most humiliating ways, they always were, mocking my efforts in public or telling me to give up – that I will never succeed at anything.
Not all teachers are like that, both my mother and my best friend are teachers, and they are surely not like that. I can’t help but wonder how different my life could have been if I had had a teacher who didn’t ridicule me but inspired me instead. Would I have been less damaged? I don’t know. Probably, yes.
Sometimes I feel like the worst part of being autistic is that I always have complete faith in others and what they tell me and none in myself. Then I remember, it’s not being autistic that makes me like that. Sure, I can’t tell if people lie or read facial expressions and such, which does make me tend to take everything literal and believe everything people tell me, but not having faith in myself has nothing to do with that.
I am different, yes, I experience the world differently from the majority and I simply wanted to make sense of it. It was just easier to believe I was broken than to accept that everyone else around me experienced the world differently from how I do. It explained their mysterious and strange behaviour and I was just a child, remember?
Already as children we know we are different, but we might not know how to express it or explain it even to ourselves. I believed what everyone told me. It wasn’t until I became an adult I started to realise that maybe other people are wrong about me.
I believed everyone who told me I was not enough. I believed all those who bullied and abused me had a right to do so – I was obviously being punished for not being good enough. I blamed myself. Of course, I fought it, but it was almost never enough.
When someone followed me home one night and broke into my apartment and abused me, I fought against it, but he had drugged me, and I was too weak. He broke through the door even as I struggled to close it. I was not strong enough.
Now, I realise it was not my fault. I did my best, yes, and I still suffer because of what happened. Just like I still suffer from all other bad experiences from my past.
But you know what? I do my best every day. Sure, I check my front door like a million times every day to make sure it’s locked. When I leave my home, I always double check to make sure I locked the door, sometimes I have to walk back even after getting to the bus stop, because I need to make sure the door is locked. There are many different little things I still do, every day, because I fight to be okay with everything that happened. That is doing my best. I am actually doing my best and more importantly, my best is enough. The fact that I am not okay doesn’t mean that I am not doing my best, the fact that I am still fighting to survive what has happened to me makes it so.
I have never really done well in school, for a variety of reasons, but occasionally I did extremely well on an exam or something and because of that, many people tend to think everything is easy for me. I’m autistic, right? That means I am smart and studying is all I like to do anyway, right? I should just stop complaining because clearly I always get good grades.
People tend to treat me like that, but they are wrong. I’m autistic, yes, but I’m not smart. I rarely do well on exams and just because I don’t party a lot it or don’t like going to the movies or hanging out in coffee shops, it doesn’t mean all I want to do is study. Actually, I do enjoy studying, but I always hated studying for school and I probably always will. Because I hate school. I always hated school.
Even today if I have school of any kind, even an online course or something, it is still a struggle for me. I have to force myself through every minute of every day all the time.
Why is it so difficult for me to accept that I was wrong?
I was wrong in believing I am not enough. It’s always okay to fail exams, because failing an exam doesn’t mean that you are a failure. I have failed many exams in my life and I will probably still fail exams in the future. It’s not proof that I am not enough, only that I wasn’t able to do whatever was required to pass the exam at that time in my life. It doesn’t mean I can’t learn it, only that I haven’t learned it YET.
You see, I know this. I can say it easily to others and believe it when I say it to them, but will I ever really believe it about myself? I honestly don’t know. I hope so, one day.
Knowing vs. Believing.
I don’t know. I don’t know how to handle situations where people ridicule me nor do I have any idea how to learn to believe in myself. I want to try though.
I am tired of breaking myself just to have others accept me. If doing my best doesn’t help me make friends or make others accept me as a person, then that’s fair enough. Not everyone has to like me, I just want friends who do. I have value. I am enough as I am. I am far from perfect, but no creature is perfect. We are all perfectly imperfect, just like we ought to be.
I am enough.
Say it with me.
I am enough.
Because you are enough, you are beautiful and perfect as the imperfect human you are.
If doing my best is not enough to pass an exam, that’s okay. Remember, it doesn’t mean we are not enough, it means we still have more to learn.
Lately, I have been so stressed that I have become even more sick. I am already struggling with long covid, as some call it, which is making life more than a little painful, but me being stressed about school and work is just making everything worse.
I can’t sleep properly, I am tired all the time, I can’t eat or drink properly because I am nauseous all day and night, my heart is beating like crazy and my headaches are worse than ever. I am scared all the time. I am afraid no matter what I do, my effort will not be enough to get through this course. My teachers and fellow classmates make fun of me all the time and I can go to no one for help.
There’s a couple of people in my class who seem to be almost as stressed out as I am, but they are not sick at the same time, so they can somehow push through these few weeks. I can’t. I have nothing left inside. I am 34 years old, back in school and never have I felt as useless or as hopeless as I do right at this moment. Never have I believed so fervently in the fact that I am not enough. But I am wrong, because I know I am enough even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. I refuse to break myself simply to pass some strangers standards. Enough is enough.
Oh, and you know what? It just stopped raining.