Monday, April 28, 2014

Self-Love and Self-Hatred

I can't remember when I started hating myself. Self-hatred is one of those things that happen in little stages, subtle shifts in thinking that you don't even notice until it adds up to something significant.

I never really quite loved myself, I know that. I never looked at myself and felt the same stirrings I felt for those that I cared about. At best, my thoughts towards myself have been neutral. From time to time, I have tried a "fake it 'til I make it" mentality, but, contrary to what so many seem to suggest, it never worked. I only got better at faking it, but never any better at loving myself. At the very least, being neutral about yourself allows you to last a day without having to be reminded about the state of your being and how truly awful it is.

There are some people who seem to exude this natural confidence from Day 1. No matter what life throws at them, they get right back up. In the face of crisis, they're like grass blowing in the wind: they get tossed around a little bit, but they always spring right back up and stay put. I've always seemed to turn everything into hurricanes (no, I think I'm just one big hurricane myself). Maybe they're just naturals at the Art of Bluffing It, but maybe some of them are actually naturals at loving themselves too. Either way, I envy them.

I don't even know what loving yourself even means, and how it's supposed to manifest. I know that narcissism isn't actually self-love, but arrogance masking deep insecurity. I thought I had, but I didn't.

Maybe self-love is one of those things that happens to you when you stop looking for it. Sometimes, for me, it seems that I get things after I've stopped actively seeking them. I'm not sure; I've been actively seeking this for a while, and I don't want to just stop. I'm not entirely sure of what to do. Maybe I should be happy with the way things are.

It did take a lot of hard work to stop utterly loathing myself and develop more neutral feelings for myself. I had to break a lot of bad habits towards myself. I had developed a habit of bullying myself in a way of a sort of emotional self-harm (along with the occasional physical self-harm). That made me feel better, because it gave me a place to lash out, a way to release my frustration. But I realized that if I was going to feel better, this would only make me worse. I had to stop. It was incredibly difficult to do, because I had made this a way of life and bullying myself became an automatic reflex. I had to replace those bullying thoughts with kinder thoughts. I realized that I couldn't be my own best friend overnight, but I thought that if I wouldn't say/do these sorts of things to someone else when I made mistakes, then I shouldn't be doing them to me either.

A friend told me last week that she was impressed by how confident I seemed, how comfortable with myself I was. Have I mastered the Art of Bluffing It? Perhaps I have, perhaps not according to the untrained eye. But the truth is I still care about what other people think of me, that if I don't have any friends, I start feeling like there's a reason I don't have any friends. I've only been friends with her for a short while, but still.

At the very least, I can say that I don't hate myself anymore. Logically, I know that there are good qualities about myself and I'm generally a pretty cool person, even if I don't actually feel that I am emotionally. I might yearn to be like others, but I at least acknowledge that I don't really need to.  I see myself in the way that I would see an acquaintance.

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