Moving Beyond Self-Loathing
Many of us live with self-loathing, whether it’s a small hidden pebble under the stream of our consciousness, or right up there floating on the surface. It shows up in our self-deprecation, bad feelings about our bodies, disappointment in the things we do – or don’t do – and in many other small ways. In our culture, it is common practice to acknowledge self-loathing by trying to sell people something that will supposedly help with it. But things like buying the next trendy pair of shoes or trying a new diet plan or scheduling a tropical vacation are only stopgap measures.
What would life be like if we could move beyond these feelings of self-loathing? The first step is to notice them. Sometimes they can be very subtle. For myself, I discover them most often when I “fail” to do something I’d planned to accomplish on a particular day. I highlight the word “fail” because this is the language of self-hatred. Why is it a failure if I didn’t get to this particular task? Why am I not focused, instead, on what I did get done – or, perhaps on the present moment? Perhaps because self-judgment and criticism stems from that core feeling of unworthiness.
We feel unworthy when we don’t live up to our own expectations. The expectations themselves may come from a desire to build ourselves up, to say to ourselves or to the world “I am a good person. See what I did!” What if, instead, we chose to start from a place of believing in ourselves? That’s the next step: understanding (and learning to believe) that we are worthy just by being. There’s nothing we need to do to prove our worth. My sister-in-law shared this useful affirmation with me: “My core worth is never in question.”
The process of moving beyond our self-loathing can be a long one. These are habits of thought that are deeply ingrained. I find that I need a lot of patience and the willingness to return, again and again, to the moment. When you are truly present with what is going on right now, there’s no room for recrimination or regret. You can grow into a lovely habit of self-acceptance and self-love. And then you won’t need to prove anything. There is no failure here.