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.