I used to believe in the saying “you can’t really love someone until you love yourself”. I used to also believe in the idea “coping skills are productive if they help you deal with a life situation”. Well, at age 27, I can definitely say I don’t believe in either exact saying or the idea anymore.
Recently I have become ultimately aware of the fact that for me, my brain takes everything and turns it into fault on my part. My sister calls it having a personal cheerleader that is always talking (or chanting) negatives in my head to create guilt and shame. That’s just it, everything is turned upon me. It becomes a fault on my part, even if it is another person. The lengths, to which it will go, travel as far as the simple daily structure of hitting traffic on my way to work. For some people, traffic is just an annoyance due to too many cars on the road and bad drivers. For me, traffic turns into “I should have known to left earlier or take a different road. Now, you are going to be late because you made the wrong choice and are stuck in traffic.” Then, it doesn’t stop there. Having the awareness that I am feeling it is my fault and the thoughts are not really rational (I mean, really, who can control traffic on the road), I then feel guilt and shame for even having the thoughts in the first place. In turn, continuing the cycle of self-hatred.
Now, many things that I turn into a fault on my part are not as trivial as the traffic, but I thought sharing the example of how running into traffic while driving to work or any location when on a time schedule shows the depths to which I find fault within myself.
It is both scary and dangerous to have this level of self-hatred; much more so, than having anger towards an ex or a friend who has wronged you in the past. It is scary and dangerous for me as it influences my everyday actions, including my coping skills which I have used since being a teenager.
Self-injury (for me it was cutting, scratching, hitting, hair pulling, and burning) has been used for different needs at different points over a 10 year period. If I didn’t want to feel numb, I self-injured. If I wanted to let everything bottled up inside so I could then feel numb, I self-injured. If I needed to calm myself down internally so I could function again, I self-injured. If I felt I deserved to feel pain, I self-injured. It was my main coping skill, and my only coping skill I ever truly felt pride in. Even knowing the pride I had in it, made me feel shame and guilt. This shame and guilt fuel my self- hatred.
It is a cycle within my head, for which the cheerleader keeps cheering on so the cycle never stops. The cycle can be a lethal one. The cycle can also be stopped (with time). Has my cycle stopped? No. In all honesty, I thought it had until I realized it doesn’t stop even if you try to ignore it or pretend it has. Instead, it can take on a whole new destructive identity.
On September 2, 2012, I made the personal decision to commit to breaking down that cheerleader in my head to help begin building a positive sense of self-worth and identity. The journey isn’t going to be easy, but I think back to the saying “You can’t really love someone until you love yourself” and I don’t believe in it for two reasons: I know I love many people in my life; and the saying fuels my guilt. Instead, I think the saying should be “You can’t really feel and enjoy the depths of someone’s else’s love and kindness until you are open to believing you are worth it enough to love.”
Knowledge of our own self-worth isn’t something we are born with. We learn it through different experiences. Though it is not easy in any means, self-worth can be restructured into a positive sense of self even after decades of self-hate. I am up for the challenge as for it is with the second saying, the grace of my sister, and a desire to break the cycle within my mind while maybe helping someone else during the process, I know I can do it.