Insight: Being a part of Greek life negatively impacted my self esteem

'I thought I would find my forever home like everyone said, but this was far from true'

Moving halfway across the country at 18 years old was hard. 

I came to ASU in 2017 not knowing a single person and not exactly having many girlfriends to begin with. For me, the logical way to remedy this was to join a sorority. 

I thought I'd get the "typical" sorority experience – being best friends with my big, being a part of a loving and supportive sisterhood. I would find future roommates, eventual bridesmaids and lifelong friends. I wanted to graduate with a sorority on my resumé and be able to bond with women from all over the country in this very specific and — for lack of a better word — elite way.

However, my experience was not at all what I hoped for. 

Prior to recruitment, I was told by the Rho Gammas  — women who disassociate from the chapter temporarily to help incoming members — to do anything but check Greek Rank before the process began.

Greek Rank is a website that ranks, rates and reviews sororities and fraternities. Sororities are ranked on the following: Friendliness, popularity, classiness, involvement, social life and sisterhood.

Since the website's concept is completely shallow, I probably shouldn’t have looked. But at the time, all the girls who were planning on going through recruitment were all over the site, forming preemptive opinions. 

Most of them were marveling over the tight-bonded friendships people claimed to have made or about the social status that comes with being part of certain chapters. Others were talking about how they would "immediately drop out" if they were placed in one of the "bottom tier" sororities.

So naturally, I gave in and joined the crowd.

I too made assumptions about certain chapters and had a good idea of where I wanted to end up based on them. I bought into the claims of friendliness and sisterhood for all. Right before recruitment, my decision was made: I knew where I wanted to be and what my ideal chapters were. 

So off to recruitment I went, expecting nothing but excitement and positivity.

I cannot express how wrong I was.

I’m not saying the recruitment experience is negative for everyone — if you go through it and find your “sisters,” good for you. 

Of course, I thought it was going to be like this for me, but it didn't happen. 

The recruitment process

My initial impression of many of the chapters and girls in them made me feel right at home. But when I stood outside the doors of the house that would one day briefly become my own, I didn’t get the warm and fuzzy feeling everyone said you would. 

As soon as I walked out of the session, the girls in my rush group bombarded me with their thoughts on the chapter. Not a single girl had a good thing to say, but I wasn’t sure why they were being so unnecessarily mean after only being there once. 

So I checked Greek Rank for some context, and there it was. 

The comments underneath this house’s page were atrocious. They were about how these girls didn’t have the classic sorority "look," how people wish the chapter disbanded, how they weren’t social or couldn't party with the "top" fraternities," among other insults. 

So obviously, this made me want to be part of the chapter less than I would have otherwise. 

By day two, every other chapter had dropped me from recruitment, so I was left with just one. I didn’t want to drop out of recruitment because I so desperately wanted a place to call my own. 

But I was discouraged none of the places I had felt the most comfortable with believed I belonged with them.

And the worst part was, I couldn't put my finger on why. I had so many magnificent conversations with women who seemed to be really similar to me. I would walk into the houses and feel this air of welcomeness and acceptance, which isn't the case with every house, so I thought they were special.

But clearly they didn't feel the same. 

Out of 12 chapters at the time, 11 had dropped me from the roster by the second day. I was told by my Rho Gamma most girls had eight or nine left on the second day, and they didn't get down to two until the final day. 

So when I saw my list by the second day with only one sorority, I was devastated.

Why did everyone drop me? And why did this particular sorority want to keep me? 

I didn't feel like I fit into the negative mold people so heavily made this organization out to be – everyone else seemed to think that, and so I started to believe it too. 

But I tried to ignore it so I could find a home. As the recruitment process progressed, I did feel more at home – maybe because I forced myself to. And by the end of the week, I was "home."

Once in, I wanted out

I thought since these other girls in my sorority appeared to be different from the norm, they would accept and help me find the friendships and connections I craved. 

But I quickly found out they were no better than the others. 

Many of the older girls seemed cold and uninviting to new members, unless we wanted to go out on Saturday night. Even when hanging out in a casual setting, I was criticized for my appearance or my daily decisions.

This made me spiral worse. 

Should I bleach my hair? Would it be better if I changed my makeup look? Should I go from an introvert to a total party animal personality? 

I couldn't quite figure out what everyone saw was wrong with me.

The whole thing felt a little manipulative. I didn't feel comfortable around girls who were meant to be my "family," but if I decided to skip out on an event, I would either be ignored or ridiculed.

I felt alienated when all I wanted was to be accepted.

It got to a point where staying in a sorority was truly more painful than going through freshman year alone. I dreaded weekly chapter meetings or having to walk on campus in my letters. Wearing them made me feel like a complete fraud because I couldn't find it in me to be proud of them or myself. 

I felt like I was still an outsider looking in, constantly waiting to be picked and welcomed. I met a few nice girls, sure, but they were quick to cut me off the moment I decided my supposed "forever home" was no longer worth my time.

The phrase "it's not four years, it's for life," clearly didn't carry a lot of weight once someone decides it's healthier for them to walk away from something rather than to stay and be miserable. I was lucky to realize the system was doing me more harm than good before I chose to be initiated into the chapter.

Had I stayed, I never would have met the friends I have now– the friends that are genuine and like me for me.


Reach the reporter at skenoun@asu.edu and follow @sabrinakenoun on Twitter. 

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