This whole article is incredibly vulnerable to share. To open my soul and allow you to peer at my mind as I bare it nakedly is frightening. Perhaps you could judge me, shame me or leave me. And while those concerns flash as feelings of discomfort through my body I notice I am more called to align with something else. I stand for a world where compassionate acknowledgment of the struggles of being human is foundational to our being. We all struggle and perhaps sharing mine my ease yours a little. Or perhaps not. Either way the following insight is absolutely pivotal to my journey through this life. Thank you for taking the time to read.
A short while ago during a rather unpleasant interaction I realised that I hated myself. While I have been aware of some kind of underlying self-loathing, self-sabotaging aspects I didn’t really “get” how fully and for how long I have felt hatred for myself. As I cast my mind back over my life, I actually do not have a memory of experiencing any other prevalent attitude towards myself than this. I was bullied throughout school yet now as I think about all of that, and even the years after school, there has been no greater bully to myself than me. There has been no greater judger, condemner, criticiser and tormenter than myself.
Through the eyes of this self-hater nothing I can do is enough, I am set to fail, I am a loser not worthy of love, happiness, joy and all other good things in life. Anytime I have failed to create for myself a change it is judged harshly and taken as part of the overwhelming evidence that really… I suck. Successes, deemed to be few and far between, are bound to disintegrate and eventually reveal the underlying truth that I am incapable of truly doing anything of real value.
What is this voice? Where does it come from? Why would I, or anyone, live a life hating themselves?
I notice that I am not that interested in indulging the story. Sure perhaps something happened with my parents when I was really young or the betrayal by my best childhood friend has something to do with it. But does digging into and indulging this story serve me in any way?
Much more important to me is to change the perspective. Somehow I have taken it upon myself to view myself and the world around me in this way. There is some inherent choice that was made at some point that this was the perspective I was going to hold and over time it became increasingly more and more solidified as truth. But is it truth?
Some of the evidence speaks to the contrary. It’s strange to see that even in the midst of so many behaviours and activities that are actually oriented towards my own health, growth and happiness that somehow self-hatred is the dominant frame of reference.
Why would I go to such extents to care for myself, to pursue love and growth and health and happiness if I actually hated myself?
Perhaps all of these things are a response to this condition of self-hatred. Perhaps there is something else inside of me deeply aching to be felt and expressed. Something that gets denied and repressed by this despotic guardian of a distorted perspective.
So what to do when I have lived a life of self-hatred? How to change this?
The New Age of Spirituality is rampant with messages of self-love and thousands of platitudes to go along with it… “just love yourself” they cry “everything will get be fine then”.
And yet the tyrannical inner self grasps these well-meaning messages as more fuel for the fire. Subtly the illuminating possibility of self-love is twisted into yet another thin enclosing layer of self-shame. Because, surely, if I am not loving myself right now then that is just more evidence to stack up for the case of how deeply I suck.
Positive affirmations… those things, if I just tell myself how good I am repeatedly and perhaps look in the mirror while I do then yes oh yes it will all come true. But it doesn’t. My mind is a sneaky thing and affirmations again only provide evidence for all the places they are not true.
And so we could continue down the long list of solutions all promising salvation and a life to be well lived. But perhaps it is just me because I find all of these things lacking as one by one I see that operate at the same level of the self-loathing mind and as such are easily co-opted. Oh I am far too intelligent to be fooled and far too critical to be convinced.
And then… it settles into me. It’s so strikingly simple. What if… I… just… decided… to stop hating myself? What if that was enough? I don’t need to do anything fancy, I don’t need to leap both feet forwards into some radical overhaul of torrential self-love. Rather than doing more, I can do less.
Ah yes, now that is clever! To use a tendency that our world calls laziness as an effective and efficient invitation to transformation. Rather than forcing and efforting to grasp with all my might, fighting and fighting against the well-established overlord of my mind to install a new supreme ruler… I can instead relax, let go, stop listening and simply be.
The self-hatred is only true for as long as I listen to it and believe it, and so I stop. I don’t attempt to fill the space with anything else, I don’t attempt to do anything about it and I watch with blossoming compassionate curiosity for what naturally arises in its place.
We have said it so many times in this life: “you can’t fight fire with fire”.
And yet somehow as a world we keep trying.
And I wonder if, as a culture, we did this very same thing. We stopped listening, stopped fighting, stopped forcing, stopped trying to change the world and let ourselves effortlessly turn towards the inherent beauty already here. What would happen when all that energy that rails against worldwide oppression instead released itself into joyful, exuberant curiosity for what could possibly bubble up next?