The planet we live on, for all human history, has had hatred running through it.
So much persecution and violence has been perpetrated from one human being to another and this continues today all through the world.
While conceptually I get how it could be possible to hate someone, I never really have. Even my tormentors through high school, I did not hate. I was certainly afraid and often sad, yet I never felt hate for them and I never genuinely wished anything bad would happen to them.
I could not summon hatred for individuals who literally made my life a misery yet somehow the only person I could ever hate was myself. I was the problem; I was to blame and there was something wrong with me and that explained why they would treat me so badly.
I have hated myself for a long, long time. For the majority of my time alive I have felt this seething undercurrent of self-loathing quietly undermining any but the briefest moments of joy.
I don’t think I am alone in this. Actually I am sure I am not alone as I have spoken to many close friends about this topic and heard first hand about others’ hatred for themselves. The surprising thing is that it is often such beautiful and sweet people who carry the greatest degree of self hatred. It is often people with big and loving hearts who want the best for the world, who deeply yearn to contribute and love, and be loved, who quietly despise themselves above all.
Where does this self-hatred come from?
For me, and others I have spoken to, it is often an internally derived pressure. A pressure to be more, always more. A knowing that our potential is so great, that we are intelligent and warm and creative and could really do something that has meaning and impact. Yet somehow we aren’t living to that potential—it’s so huge, how could we? That’s no excuse, we might tell ourselves, we could, so we should.
Then for many of us we stumble, or more precisely are drawn, into a sense of spirituality. One of the first messages we meet along the way is the concept of self-love. The paradigm many of us swim in is full of this concept. That we cannot love another before we fully love ourselves. That the only obstacle to us living a life of joy and abundance is to just love ourselves. It’s well meaning. It’s beautiful. It’s true… and it can also be so devastatingly painful. It’s another pressure added to the already immense load we carry in our heavy hearts. Now I am a failure because I cannot even love myself! What is love anyway? How much should I love myself? Fully? Completely? What does that look like? Feel like?
Despite trying, really trying, somehow in times of stress and difficulty I would always sink back into the depths of self-loathing. Some months ago, I had enough. I deeply had enough of hating myself. There was no point, none at all, to continue to live life in this way. So I decided to stop. As simple as that, I decided to stop hating myself.
I decided to forget the idea of self-love, it was too vague and confusing and open-ended, and focus instead on not buying into the whole self-hate thing anymore. I’m pretty good at not doing things. I have a rebellious streak; I like to challenge convention and break conformity. I have discovered that these tendencies I have can be used against my own mind. That I can utilise my own non-conforming nature to not conform to my own thoughts. There is a great sticker that my parents have on their front door. It says, “You don’t have to believe everything you think.”
As easy as that. Without any spiritual awakenings or heart-opening orgasmic experiences (although I have had a couple of these) I stopped hating myself and everything and nothing changed.
Self-love is a great concept, yet if you find yourself struggling with it, I invite you to consider not doing the whole hating thing. I’m a big fan of not-doing and I think our world needs a whole lot more of it. Our world has enough hatred and violence in it already and you not hating yourself is already an immense contribution. In fact, I truly think it’s enough.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Damien Bohler
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Deviant Art