by Shantelle Slaughter
I am not the youngest in the Slaughter family, but I am the youngest daughter, which comes with pressure to achieve what my two older sisters already have. There are expectations set before me that are “required” of me to reach or else I am not up to par. Things like attaining straight A’s, receiving a full scholarship for college, and being a star athlete are on the list of things to do for me. There are also smaller, yet just as important things such as having a big personality with no shyness whatsoever, being outgoing amongst the many family friends my parents brought around, etc… All of which are more characteristics of my sisters who wear them all so well. All of which are the opposite of my introverted and reserved ways and why I feel so attached to the title “black sheep.”
The black sheep is typically the oddball out, and since I am different and have different interests and hobbies, I am looked at as weird or different. Growing up, it was hard not to feel isolated when I felt like my sisters couldn’t relate. Even if I did want to contribute to a conversation, I constantly felt like they never understood my viewpoints and didn’t agree. They viewed my ideas as silly and young, which would then result in me saying nothing at all. Often times I also felt that I, myself, had little interest in the things that intrigued them as well. Our differences weren’t a fault of anyone. We were just different people at the end of the day. Feeling like this contributed a lot to my anxiety and uncontrollable over-thinking, but both came from never being accepted or respected the few times I did speak up. This led to my anxiety becoming a legitimately frightening thing.
This wasn’t very Slaughter-ly of me. Everyone fit the family’s brand to a T, the only way I was matching with them was my appearance. I constantly questioned myself and my actions. Would me “slacking” on my character affect the family name and make everyone see me as the weak link of the bunch? Should I even begin to think of myself as so useless, though I agree in a way and it fills me with overwhelming uneasiness and apprehension? It’s hard to be something you’re not, but it’s harder not to view everyone else as perfect when you feel so different and far from the ways they are. It’s so much easier to blame yourself. Growing up, I struggled when I tried to throw myself into uncomfortable situations as practice to get more accustomed doing them, like joining in group discussions or even initiating a joke. My permanent social anxiety, however, never allowed me to get used to what I was practicing and never allowed me to feel as though I was succeeding in fitting in. Trying to reach my family’s effortless definition of perfect took quite a toll on me emotionally and mentally for sure. I achieved the “be a star athlete” status and even earned “a full scholarship for college,” yet somehow, I was so far from feeling a part of my own blood. I struggled academically to reach the bar set for me in having straight A’s. To me, I loved to learn; I loved to be challenged. I did try my hardest in school and I did pay attention, but I still came out with A’s, B’s, and C’s. To my parents, I wasn’t trying if I was receiving anything less than an A, and no excuses were acceptable. Knowing that I did try hard but still receiving punishment or bitterness for my grades for “lack of trying” was defeating. If everybody could get straight A’s, then everybody would, wouldn’t they? Every child is not the same type of student. This made me feel even further from perfection if I could even feel any more unsuitable. Each child goes through their own experiences and develops their own opinions and outlooks on things. I believe every child is different, same family or not, raised the same or not.
Failing any standards, even minor ones, is what instills the biggest fears and insecurities within a child. These will roam within them as they become of age. As a 23-year-old now, I know there is no one to blame at this point in my life; it is only up to me to make the change now. Knowing better, I choose every day to overcome anxiety and uneasiness, and it truly is a decision I have to wake up and make every day. It is never completely easy, but it gets more bearable each day to throw myself into transformation. Being the woman I want to be includes being assertive, getting my points across fluently, and being an all around force to be reckoned with that people want and need around to get things done. I had an epiphany: that laying low and standing back in my quiet shell will not get me anywhere but stuck. That thought was enough to push me to start this revolution within myself, not only for my family but for myself. I realized I never really wanted to be perfect, just better each day.