You cannot hate yourself into happiness.

by

Now that I’ve finished the application to study in France, there’s suddenly a lot of empty space in my head. And since nature abhors a vacuum, it’s being filled with the clamoring of things that wish to be healed.

You’ll recall that I took September off on retreat and that was good. It helped me build up the energy I needed to begin to heal some traumatic stuff in my life. But then I kind of had that application to finish and I just didn’t had the brain space available to give it the attention it deserves. It very kindly waited for me to finish.

But now I’ve finished, and it cannot wait any longer. It’s become impossible to ignore.

And as I delve into these tender, painful parts of myself, one thing keeps coming back to me.

I am starved for self love.

I am certainly not starved for love from others. I am blessed to have so many caring, lovely people in my life who I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, love me for who I am. I am bowled over on a daily basis by the love that comes from others.

But within myself? I starve myself of kindness, of tenderness. I am disciplined with myself, harsh, and judgmental. I often brush off the love of others, thinking that they’re crazy to think those things about me.

I’m not wonderful, I think. I’m not enough yet. I have so much work to do, so many things left to fix, so many fears to destroy and demons to fight off. How could anyone love this imperfect, neurotic, bundle of craziness? I’m so broken, how could anyone love me?

Don’t so many of us do this to ourselves?

We look in the mirror and only see our flaws, our missteps, our mistakes, our differences.

We don’t see that we’re so much more than that.

Take my relationship with my body for example.

If this was a Facebook relationship, I’d file it under “it’s complicated.”

To some, my body is perfect, and I can acknowledge that – slim, tall-ish. I suppose you could describe me as “willowy”, although that’s not how I see myself. I’d probably use bony, skinny, boyish.

But then all I can see in my body is its flaws – how it betrayed me when I got sick, how fragile it is, how weak it is. And thanks to certain experiences that I’m not ready to talk about yet, how disgusting it is. For so long, I’ve felt ashamed of my body, starting with being asked at 9 “if I was anorexic because I was so scrawny.”

We were never really friends after that. Getting sick at 12 pretty much destroyed any hope I had of maybe making friends with my body during adolescence.

I never see my own beauty, my wholeness when I look in the mirror. For some reason lately, I’ve been fantasizing about what it would be like to be the most beautiful woman in the room. The kind of woman who has a reputation for being drop dead gorgeous.

But that’s not what I really want – it’s a nice little fantasy, sure, but it’s not what would fill the holes.

What my body is craving – what all of me is craving – is love. Kindness. Tenderness. My body would love nothing more than for me to say, “Yes, you got sick. Yes, you are vulnerable and fragile. But you are still mine and still beautiful and still me. And I still love you.”

There would be nothing more blissful in the entire world, than being able to forgive myself for my flaws, for my humanity, and just love myself the way I am. The same way I love my best friend, the way I love Jesse – with wholehearted affection for who they are, without wanting to change anything.

And the only way I’m going to heal any of my wounds is with love.

I cannot hate myself into happiness.

I can tell you that from years of hard won experience. Beating myself up for my flaws has not yielded any results, outside of making me more neurotic.

I want to heal these parts of myself so badly – I want to heal the shame, heal the guilt, heal the horror and the pain. I want to be whole again. But I will never do it at the end of a self-wielded whip.

That’s what bothers me about so many of these inspirational, self-help gurus – “Oh-em-gee, you don’t love yourself?! Well that’s just terrible. You need to fix that.”

You cannot shame someone into loving themselves. You cannot shame someone into feeling better about themselves.

You cannot shame a human into confidence.

We are human. Of course we don’t love ourselves. That’s kind of the path, isn’t it? Finding wholeness within ourselves, becoming more of ourselves as time goes by. People very rarely pop out of the womb fully realized. We don’t live in a perfect society. We pick up cultural messages of shame, we get bullied, people put their pain onto us, tragic things happen, we screw up, we fall down.

We’re all very imperfect. We’re all very scared. And we’re all very aware that we have flaws and that we don’t love ourselves as we should and that we’re making all of these mistakes all the time.

Pointing out to us that we are clearly failing at life because we don’t love ourselves? Or that we should be ashamed of all of the shame that we have?

Yeah, that’s super not helpful.

Practicing, a little bit at a time.

I’ll be upfront – I have absolutely no answers for you. I don’t have a list of 10 steps to take to love yourself more, even though I’m “supposed” to.

I only know one step, and that’s the first one – realizing that it’s hard to love ourselves and that it’s okay if you can’t do that perfectly yet. But maybe tomorrow you’ll be able to show yourself a little bit of gentleness when you screw up, and maybe next month you’ll let yourself have that nap when you’re tired.

Steps – even tiny, nearly invisible ones – are important.

Now, over to you

Do you struggle with being kind to yourself? Do you struggle to accept yourself the way you are? Are you tired of people telling you that you suck at life unless you are madly in love with yourself? Thoughts, as always, are welcome.

However, we totally don’t do “advice” or “shoulds”. We’re all wherever we are, we do our best to meet ourselves there, and we be kind to each other. Kindness is the most important part.