On a recent morning, I woke up and noticed I felt happy, which is not such a familiar feeling to me. I usually experience moments of joy directly related to bliss-inducing events but I live somewhere in a melancholic and nostalgic state riddled with anxiety about the future and reflection of the past. Although I’m certain the seed was planted earlier, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I began to experience a sort of self-loathing.
Self-loathing is a disdain for oneself, an aversion to one’s own being.
The broth of self-loathing contains equal parts shame, anxiety, fear, guilt, hopelessness, and perhaps a dash of an ingredient unique to your specific brand of self-loathing. The irony of self-loathing is that it’s entirely counter-productive. It serves no purpose. When your mind thinks it’s punishing you for being a certain way it actually further prohibits growth, keeping you trapped in a cycle of negativity. Nothing fruitful comes from this self-inflicted punishment.
Going back to that particular morning when I felt happy, I took a moment to pause and reflect on what might be causing these happy feelings. I welled up with tears of joy as I realized that for the first time in my adult life I truly loved the woman I am becoming. I love her and all of her flaws, I respect her intentions, I embrace her personhood. I value her. I can hold her in all of her complexities. I never thought I could feel this level of self-acceptance and I always wondered how and if I could ever get rid of the constant background noise of self-loathing.
A friend once said to me that when she turned 30 she simply let go of self-loathing.
When she told me this I pondered for days, how the hell do you just let it go? I’m not even sure how I acquired it in the first place. It sounds like a great idea, in theory, to just let it go, but I couldn’t discern a clear path. I won’t tell you that it magically disappeared one day because it didn’t. My newly acquired self-love is the result of years of dedicated practice.
I’ve always been one for a quick fix or something tactile that I can do to change my circumstances. The idea of doing nothing to see results took a while for me to digest but I am living proof that it works. Some practices that have helped me get to know and love myself are regular journaling, meditation, movement, and positive affirmations. Rather than turning away from what scares you, lean into it and look it square in the eye, even if it’s really frightening. Cultivate a space for all of these myriad feelings to live and exist, free of labels like good or bad.