I don’t remember a time of my life when I didn’t hate myself with a passion and that is incredibly sad. I’ve spent so much time and energy on hating every aspect of myself that doing anything different actually feels uncomfortable for me. Therapy sessions about self loathing often involve the question: what do you like about yourself? The therapist always looks sad when you respond with ‘nothing,’ they know you truly mean it. But nobody teaches you the importance of loving yourself when you’re growing up.
I could list a hundred things I hate about myself and I would struggle to come up with even one thing that I like. I could make something up but it would just be a lie to myself and everyone else. Until very recently, I thought this was part of my life that I would never be able to change. It felt so fixed and nothing ever seemed to improve. I tried positive affirmations and keeping a list of things that others said they liked about me – it was all supposed to help me to start believing that I had good attributes. It didn’t, I just got angry because I felt like people were lying to me.
While I still hate myself, I have started a journey towards self acceptance and self love. I no longer counteract compliments, I thank people instead. I can appreciate the fact that others liking me does not mean they are wrong about me, it just means they have a different perception of me. These sound like small things but they are important to hold onto and are steps in the right direction.
A lot of harming myself and self destructive behaviour has stemmed from self loathing. I would punish myself because I truly believed that I deserved to suffer. I would do bad things to try and prove to other people that I was a bad person and they should stay away from me. Thinking and behaving like this gets you trapped in a downward spiral. The most important thing I have learnt over the past year is this: Doing bad things does not make you a bad person. It might sound simple to you but I’m still working on internalising this and forgiving myself for my past mistakes.
I know now that I do not have to hate myself forever, that it is something which I can change even if it feels impossible. In the long run, life will be a lot easier and less draining if I stop spending every waking minute criticising who I am. You wouldn’t keep spending time with someone else if they were always mean to you and although you can’t stop being with yourself, you can act a little bit kinder. Your relationship with yourself is the longest and most important one you’ll have so work on improving it!
Little things to help you love you:
- When you have a negative thought about yourself, question it. If you’re telling yourself that you are useless/worthless/a failure, think about whether you would say that to a friend. If the answer is no (which it usually is) then treat yourself like a friend! If you can’t say something nice (even in your head) then do not say it at all.
- Listen to compliments and accept them. It’s easy to say ‘you’re wrong’ to people but try not to. Even if you do not agree with the compliment at this point, accepting it now will make it easier to start to believe it later.
- Your body is the only one you’ll have – treat it with kindness.
- Make a record of times when you feel comfortable with yourself. Note down what you’re wearing, where you are, who you are with. Recreate these situations at a later date.
- Fake it ’til you make it. Tell yourself that you’re beautiful/smart/wonderful every single day until you start to believe it.
- Accept the fact that not everyone will like you, that’s just part of life. It does not take away from how great you are.
- Do not rely on others to make you feel good, you do not need others to say good things about you to make them true.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”