Tag Archives: identity

Self-hatred: the boogeyman beneath the bed

Self-hatred is rarely spoken about. You dare not breathe its existence because you don’t wish to acknowledge its dark presence. You wouldn’t dream of admitting that it plagues you because you presume that everybody else is free of this scary demon. Yet it is evident in many people’s lives. You may not have witnessed the tornado but you can watch the footage of the carnage it has caused.

Self-hatred is very real. Why else do you eat until you throw up? Or drink until you’ve lost your loved ones? Why do you gamble away all of your possessions? Or do so many drugs that you repeatedly fling yourself into life-threatening situations?

As you read this, you may be thinking that you’re one of the lucky ones. You must not hate yourself because you don’t suffer from such a horrid addiction. However, some of us keep the self-hatred at bay by pretending that we’re perfect, and engaging in other less visibly destructive behaviours. We strive to win self-imposed challenges. We educate ourselves. We go to work every day and earn lots of money. We exercise. We score a wonderful partner and raise a family.

Sounds idyllic, right? But how many of you are terrified that you’ll be found out? That others will discover that you are not as perfect as you’ve portrayed yourself to be? If you were sure of yourself, you wouldn’t be so insecure about your partner’s possible infidelities, or the prospect of your peers hating you. You wouldn’t dread the impending disaster of old age, when you’ll no longer be fit and beautiful, when there will be no more reason for anyone to love you. Because you don’t love yourself. If you loved yourself unconditionally, you wouldn’t be so afraid to stop (doing, giving, achieving) in case the self-image you have so carefully constructed implodes and you are left with nothing.

The moment any of these suppressants are removed from your life, the monster of self-hatred rears its ugly head. You lose your job. Your partner leaves you or your children move out. You’re too old to play sport and you’re not as attractive as you used to be. You spiral into a deep depression. You hate yourself.

For those of you lucky enough to have escaped the clutches of this awful affliction, I will describe to you what it is to hate yourself. It is the worst kind of agitation. You cry a never-ending river of tears. You want to smash the mirror and claw at your arms. You tell yourself that you’re no good, that your life isn’t worth living, that you’re a burden on your loved ones, that you’ll never get better, that you want to die.

If you’re feeling so lost and confused that you don’t know which way to turn, if you don’t know what to do to make this pain go away, and you have no idea how to silence this ogre of self-hatred, this is very good news indeed. It means that you are no longer willing or able to suppress these frightening feelings. You have nowhere left to run and hide. Know that you are just about to reach the summit of a long and arduous climb. Possibility stretches out to the horizon and beyond. Yes, it’s scary to be so high up but the view from here is a promise of beauty and peace.

If you have reached this point, it is time to confront your self-hatred. Really look at it. Gaze into the jaws you had so feared. What is it trying to tell you? Stare into the swirling fire of its eyes. What do you see reflected there? Ask for its name. You might be surprised to learn that it is not called self-hatred after all. Really listen to what it tells you. Then thank this strange creature for roaring loud enough for you to finally hear it.

Why do you think you hate yourself? Why do you feel you deserve such violence? Figure out if these thoughts have really, one hundred per cent, come from you. Maybe you took on a misguided belief system at a young age. This might have come from society or loved ones. For many years, you held their beliefs as your own. Perhaps, now, because they don’t ring true for you and you’re straining against them, you’re beginning to doubt yourself. You fear the unknown. And this fear turns into hate, which you are directing at the only person who will take it- yourself.

It is extremely painful to question all that you have known. You (and those around you) may not want to hear the answers you come up with. Perhaps you don’t belong in third level education or behind a desk or in front of a computer. You might not fancy the type of people you think you should. Perhaps you have been living a lie for your entire life.

It is possible that you took on a distorted image of yourself as a child. I’m only deserving of love if I behave in a certain way. But this was your perception seen through the eyes of a child. You are no longer three years old! You are an adult. You can change the rules. Isn’t that liberating?

The world doesn’t have to be a difficult, hostile, scary place. You don’t have to work so hard to be allowed to feel okay. You can enjoy life, find out what you’re passionate about, laugh, and have fun. You can learn to love yourself, not for how much you work, how many compliments you receive, or how many miles you run a day. Love yourself for the radiance of your spirit. That bright ball of light and colour that goes beyond form and structure and makes you who you are. And every time you silently scream the sick song of self-hatred, remember that vibrant energy within. And smile. Because you are going to do things differently.

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Unconditional love: unwrapping the greatest gift of all

Let me ask you a question. Do you think it is okay to be angry and impatient with a baby for just lying around all day? For not learning to walk or talk quick enough? She doesn’t offer the world anything of value. She isn’t the director of a successful company or the top student in her class. She isn’t a world-class athlete, a wonderful cook, a loving parent, or a talented professional. She chews on things, gurgles and cries. She observes life with awe. She just is. Why shouldn’t I be angry and impatient with her? She hasn’t done anything to deserve my love!

You probably think that’s crazy talk. Of course you should love a baby! Just because! Now, how about turning some of that unconditional love towards yourself? You are okay. You are magic and magnificence. You are okay even when you do nothing. When you just are. Like an infant, who is perfect in the simplicity of their presence. However, from the moment you learned to do, you’ve been expected to continue doing, and you will keep on doing until you leave your body through death. What a relief!

We are led to believe that our bodies, our actions, and our achievements are more important than our souls. It is more acceptable to constantly work and push ourselves, to endlessly strive for perfection, for more and for better, than to accept ourselves exactly as we are. We have fallen into the trap of believing that we are our work, our relationships, our abilities. However, if any of these self-constructed identities are whipped from us, if we become sick or unmotivated or depressed, if we suffer a loss or a bereavement, and we are no longer strong enough to live up to our self-imposed potential, we feel worthless. We are nothing.

But let me tell you something. It takes a much, much stronger person to be able to do nothing and to still love and accept themselves. To think enough of themselves to value their own health, happiness, and sanity, and to allow themselves to rest, to heal, and to nurture their injured spirits.

I am writing this blog because it’s helping me to make sense of all of this. It’s enabling my own growth and development. And, ideally, some of what I’m writing will register with you too. But though I grasp these insights and spill them onto this page, it’s very easy to lose sight of them. It’s like trying to bottle a cloud or a warm summer breeze. I know it’s there and what it looks and feels like, but I have to experience it again and again before it can become part of me.

I am not what others think of me. This is something I still struggle with. I catch myself when I glow with pride at a compliment or shrink with shame when I’ve been criticised. I am also beginning to understand that the writing that I so love and enjoy is not my worth. Otherwise, it will no longer come from the heart. It will become just another distraction, another addiction to that drug of approval. A number of hits on my page or a handful of praise from friends and colleagues does not make me who I am. My ability to write is not why anybody should love me, and it’s certainly not why I should love myself. It is not why I deserve my space on this planet. The fact that I am here is reason enough.

I have had these realisations before but, like the morning dew on the petal of a flower, they evaporate all too quickly. So, this morning, when I really sat still with them and didn’t run from them, I thought my world was crashing around my ears. I am okay, exactly as I am. I felt totally lost in the forest of my confusion. Where does that leave me? What do I do? How can I just be? I don’t think I can love myself just because… I made eye contact with this panicked stranger in the mirror and cried like the child I had never allowed myself to be.

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.” Marianne Williamson

You are okay just as you are. You are not your appearance or your talents or your work. You are not your role as mother or teacher or husband or healer. You are simply you. Unique and beautiful and miraculous. But none of this will mean anything until you’re strong enough to love yourself unconditionally. And when you reach that point, the power and light within you will be glorious.

Attachment: Loved ones, identity crises, and negative thinking

This is a big one. Attachment affects every area of our lives. Some of us believe that if we weren’t attached to people and to things, we’d have no reason to be here on this earth. But letting go of attachment is the biggest lesson we have to learn. The biggest hurdle to overcome. And once we do this, we will be free.

It is our attachment to people, to things, to ideas, and to our thoughts that keeps us stuck and causes us endless amounts of pain. Initially, the severance of these attachments may also cause pain. After all, these shackles have had us chained for many, many years. They’ve prevented us from moving forward but it’s all we know. Then, one day something happens that breaks these chains and sets us free. There is a new world out there, bright and exciting and pain-free. Do you want to join me on this magnificent journey? Here’s how.

1) Awareness

First of all, it’d help if you could figure out what it is you’re attached to. Once you recognise your self-destructive patterns, you can do something about it. In the following sub-section, I’ll discuss the different things we become attached to.

a) image

If you’re attached to your external image, prepare to be saddened, disappointed, angry and depressed. An attachment to how you look will lead to pain and suffering every time you break out in pimples or gain a bit of weight. Hair loss, sagging skin and wrinkles will cause you to sink into a spiral of self-disgust. However, if you can let go of this attachment to your image, you’ll soon realise that there are more important things in life than how you look on the outside. Your spirit is beautiful. Allow it to shine.

b) other people

We become attached to our parents, friends, other halves, and to our children. We believe we couldn’t live without them, and we understand that they make us whole. If you feel this way, I have two words for you: Uh oh! People leave. People die, move away, or move on with their lives without us. Relationships break up. Children move out. Friends drift away. This is a normal part of life. But if you’re too attached, you’ll find it very hard to survive a loss like this. First, work on becoming whole yourself, then any relationship you have with another person will be an added bonus to your already full and healthy life. Their presence may enhance your experiences but their absence will not diminish you as a person.

c) identity

Many of us fall into the trap of defining ourselves by our job title, our gender, religion, social class, and even by our taste in music. This is dangerous. And this is why many people commit suicide after a job loss. Lately, many Irish people have become extremely disillusioned by the child abuse scandals in the Church. We were once a very Catholic country. Now, we are losing our attachment to our religion and this isn’t a bad thing. For the breaking of attachment creates an opening for more understanding, acceptance and inclusion.

Who are we without our identifying labels? For a short while after letting go of attachment, you may feel lonely, lost and confused. Confusion is a good thing. It means you are questioning life and your place in the world. Sit with it. You may think you’re lonely, lost and confused when in fact you’re now free and open and alive.

d) thoughts

The attachment to our thoughts is what causes us most pain. We think: I am fat, I am useless, no one loves me, life is difficult. When we attach to such thoughts, we believe them to be true and we live them. We manifest our own reality of hardship and self-hatred. But we don’t have to attach to such thoughts. We can choose to view things in a different light. When it’s raining, for example, you have a choice. You can attach to the thought This weather is awful OR I love the sound of the rain.

The death of a loved one is probably the most painful thing any of us will ever go through. And even at that, we have a choice as to which thought we attach to:  They are gone forever. I’ll never love again. I miss them so much. Life will never sparkle without them OR I am so lucky to have met such a wonderful person. They taught me so much about life and about myself. I will always remember the love we shared. And I will bring what I’ve learned from them with me on this fascinating journey of discovery.

2) Do nothing

You’ll be glad to hear that you don’t have to do anything at all. The more you fight against something, the more it fights back. You are now aware of how you’ve been behaving. So, allow this awareness to wash over you. And the rest will take care of itself. Eckhart Tolle wrote the following in his marvellous book, A New Earth:

“How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It’s impossible. Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.”