The older you get, the more you understand how your conscience works. The biggest and only critic lives in your perception of people’s perception of you rather than people’s perception of you.
― Criss Jami,
My name is Katie Cross, and I’m a girl haunted by monsters.
At first I thought my monsters were friendly. What a crappy day at school! they would reassure me as I trudged home from Junior High, shoulders sagging. Remember how chocolate fixes everything? It’s time to eat, to forget what those jerks said.
That’s just how monsters sucker you in, reeling slow and easy, until suddenly you’re in a net, out of water, and gasping for breath.
Then they get real.
Your face looks like a bowling ball with your hair pulled back like that.
That shirt is something your grandma would wear.
You like that guy? You wouldn’t have a prayer with him!
They’re mean little buggers, all right. And they never fight fair. But here’s the thing about monsters: like a black hole, they have their own gravity. They’re never satisfied. They pull other monsters in and bellow even louder until you can’t hear a thing that isn’t them.
Oh, they’ll say. So you lost some weight? Big deal. You certainly needed it. But it’s still not enough.
Your face structure is hopeless. You’ll never look beautiful because you can’t fight genetics.
Good grief. You can’t even get an A on your test. Maybe you aren’t that smart.
They never stop, they just change.
My monsters are like chameleons. They adapt. They evolve. They morph into whatever environment I put them in. Whatever insecurity the monsters found worming around my brain, they devoured and grew fatter and fatter.
Until I stopped feeding them.
I didn’t realize I was feeding the monsters until I was in my early twenties. To be honest, I didn’t even realize they were monsters until I opened the closet door and shed light on their wrinkly, wretched hides. Once I saw them, shriveled and shrieking and small, I realized that these little voices in my head had been just that all along: little voices.
In reality, the monsters weren’t really anything at all.
When I first found them, I slammed the door in disgust—monsters reek of shame and disappointment—and ignored them, they bellowed all the louder. Banging fists. Rampant tantrums. You name it.
Slowly they tired. Their voices faded. When I didn’t have to listen to their constant grumblings, I realized that they’d actually been covering up the sound of someone else all this time.
While the monsters kept me feeling insecure with loud taunts, my own inner voice couldn’t be heard. I fed the monsters because I didn’t know anything else. The inner voice that emerged was beautiful, confident, self assured. It took her awhile to really surface, to find her way after being cast off so long. But she found her way out of the sticky blackness of shame and self loathing.
And now? She always does make it out.
That’s not to say that the monsters don’t visit from time to time, letting me know that though I ignore them, though they be small, they are mighty. They rear their ugly heads, remind me of how much power they used to have, and may have again one day.
But I just shut the door again and say, “Not this time.”
They’re fickle, fickle creatures, those monsters that haunt me.
What does it mean to you to be real?
Oh, that is a tough question. But oh-so-great.
“Being real” in my terminology means embracing the imperfections. It took me a long time to learn (and in many ways I still am) that imperfections are just a part of me, and they don’t lower my worth.
I used to be afraid to be who I was because people were either intimidated by my motivation or personality, or because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I also thought that no one would love someone imperfect, so dating was a particularly tough nightmare.
But now? It just so happens I quite like who I am, no matter what “they” say, thank you very much. It was very much due to me “finding myself” so to speak, and giving myself the space to grow up and figure out my life and my heart.
What do you think most people think about you just by seeing your picture?
“Good grief, look at that mane of hair.”
Just kidding. Kind of. I do have a lot of hair though, and it’s the number one feature about me that people actually comment on.
What I think that most people think? I think most would assume that I have it all together, I’m on top of my game, and I live a relatively happy life. They’re right. I do have a happy life, but it’s because I choose happiness, not because it came that way.
As far as having it all together? Ha! Well, let’s just say I only wash my hair once a week, I’m perfectly willing to have a messy house in order to hike or write, and I wear black yoga pants almost exclusively.
And what would people be most surprised to learn about you?
That I have monsters. Lots of monsters. Chubby girl monsters. Low self esteem monsters. Hair insecurity monsters. Perpetual fear of loss monsters.
I’m adult enough to appreciate that everyone has monsters, but even I am genuinely surprised at the monsters that some people hide so expertly.