It has taken years for me to unpack my own self-hate. When it became clear that I had a lot of work to do on my self-love journey I looked inward. This brought me to the realization that it is nearly impossible to truly love yourself when you have hateful thoughts churning at all times. One second I can be proud of myself for accomplishing something and the next I’m wincing as I remember mistakes I’ve made. It’s a constant onslaught of rehashing embarrassing moments or times I have done things I’m not proud of. As I try to move forward some part of my brain never wants me to, and that has led me down a rabbit hole of self-loathing.
Dealing with self-hate is nothing new for women. Unfortunately due to what we see in the media or things family members have said, it is common for women to think they aren’t good enough. These insecurities tend to manifest themselves in negative thoughts or feelings. There have even been books written on the topic, “The Self Loathing Project” by Katherine Cobb describes self-judgment as a silent epidemic.
Confronting this silent epidemic within my own life has allowed me to start unpacking the feelings of self-loathing I’ve harnessed over time.
The issue with self-hate is that your biggest critic is yourself. Instead of being in a situation where you can tell a negative person to leave your life, you are stuck with you. Unlearning self-hate means taking the time to self reflect and remind yourself of all that you offer. The good thing is that no one is born with feelings of self-hate. Those feelings take time to form, which means that they can be worked on. For those struggling with self-hate figuring out the root of these feelings is the first step.
In my own life, it took me until college to truly start showing love to myself. It might have been the independence or the newness of having a city to start fresh in but I did find myself feeling more beautiful and overall more confident as the years went by. Even though I found myself thinking more positively about my outward appearance I still had work to do on how I thought about myself internally. I am only now able to narrow down the things that have stopped me from fully loving myself.
The first being approval from others. No one in my life has ever made me feel as though they love me based on what I accomplish or certain things I do. Yet, I still find myself seeking family members, friends, and others’ approval. I’m filled with warmth when someone says they’re proud of me. After hearing someone say something positive about me, the feeling that comes after is practically euphoric. In my head, I feel like Sally Fields accepting her Oscar, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.” The issue with seeking and gaining others’ approval is that the joy received from compliments or kind words is fleeting. Basing my self-worth on the approval of others could only fill me up for a short time. It is much more important for me to approve of myself and not have to seek approval from other people.
Secondly, I often allow negative thoughts to cloud my judgment. When I mess up I immediately start berating myself instead of taking the time to remember that I’m human and mistakes are part of life. When I don’t hear from friends for a while or start to feel left out in a group my mind jumps to the conclusion that my friends must not like me. A part of me is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And so, managing and shutting down these negative thoughts plays a key role in building up my self-esteem.
The third issue is that I often find myself playing the comparison game. Due to apps like Instagram, I can be confronted with “perfect” images of people I don’t know and haven’t met. Yet, while scrolling on my phone it is natural to think I am behind in life compared to a stranger. Even outside of the social media bubble comparison reigns supreme. During school, I would feel ashamed of not having as high a GPA as my friends or incompetent for not interning every semester. There seemed to be an unspoken fact that every person in my life was always doing better than me and I would not be able to catch up. Although things like grades and internships don’t define someone’s self-worth. I allowed them to determine mine. This constant comparison has only brought me down.
It was not until I started pouring into myself more that I was able to unlearn these mindsets that have stemmed from self-hate. In a non-vain way, I can call myself beautiful. When I accomplish something or take on a new project I give myself room to be proud. After working out and getting healthy I have found it easier to love my body.
Yes, some days are more difficult than others.
Self-love is not something that happens overnight. Luckily, I can be comforted with the fact that there is always room to unlearn self-hate.
There is always room to grow.