The Day I Stopped Hating Myself

I started realizing a little over two years ago just how much I hated myself. Prior to that I thought that I liked myself for the most part but just had some self esteem issues. After suggestions from some friends to make my new year’s goal to love and take care of myself, I realized just how hard this was for me. It was not long before I realized that I had a deep and persistent hatred of myself. I considered myself to be the worst, most worthless person on the earth.

I wasn’t sure what to do with this new knowledge. How do you learn how to love yourself? Where do you start? I decided to start with the people who loved me. If they saw something of worth in me, there had to be something I could love about myself. I wrote on my mirror every single kind thing I could find that someone had said about me. I started out with about 30 adjectives, but got to about 50 after showing friends what I was doing. It was hard to believe all these things about myself, but there was the proof in front of me, written proof that I knew someone thought about me at one point. That was the beginning of a turning point in my life, but there was still a lot of work to do.

A year later, I had grown so much. I was kinder to myself. I was more forgiving of myself. I was not so afraid of myself. But I still hated myself. I messaged a friend one night to ask her what she thought about me selling everything I owned and starting over. This friend is spontaneous and honest and I knew that she would be willing to entertain the thought of me getting rid of everything, but would also tell me if I was being ridiculous or overreacting. We got talking about why I wanted to do this and realized that at the heart of my struggles was an ingrained belief that I was a bad person. But the most interesting thing was that I believed I was a bad person because I could not stop myself from being a good person. I felt unworthy to do good things, but I could not destroy my innate desire to help others.

After realizing all that I believed about myself and working to discover what made me believe these thoughts, I made a breakthrough. I still remember the first time I did something kind for another person and didn’t hate myself for it. I came home happy. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t cry myself to sleep that night. I dropped off the little box full of stuff for a friend and felt proud of myself. It was the most amazing feeling ever to not feel like a failure for doing something good. That was the first night I didn’t feel like I still hated myself.

I still have days where I question my worth. I have days where I wonder why my friends stay friends with me. I still have times where I don’t like myself for something I have done. But I no longer have those nights where I just curl up on the floor and want to die because I tried to be myself. And every day of waking up not hating myself is a beautiful day.

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My Biggest Fear

My biggest fear has always been hurting people. I used to think that my biggest fear was that I would lose my battle with depression, that I would finally succeed in ending my life. I was afraid of anything that could hurt me because I thought about dying so much and so often that I feared I might not be able to stop myself if I had the means to end my life. But I realized that I ultimately feared killing myself because I knew it would hurt people.

My fear has decreased in the last few years, but I used to be terrified of hurting another human being. l was so scared that at one point, I tried to avoid people all together. Memories still haunt me occasionally of times that I unintentionally hurt someone.

On the other side of fear, though, is a burning desire to help others and make their lives a little better or easier or happier. My entire life has been dedicated to making others happy. It is my favorite thing to do. I cannot stop myself from wanting to do things for others.

Due to experiences growing up, I used to hate myself for my desires to do kind things for others. I believed that I was a flawed person that did not know how to help anyone and that the people I did things for might be offended or inconvenienced by my kind gesture. These thoughts sent me into a spiral of depression and self-destruction every time I did something for someone.

I remember the first time I did something for someone and wasn’t flooded with a wave of guilt afterward. I took a box of little gifts with a note on it to one of my friends and dropped it off on her porch after she had a rough couple of days. I treasure that memory because it was the first time I gave a gift to a friend without hating myself for it.

I absolutely adore Christmas because I get to give to others without feeling out of place or different from the rest of the world. I am grateful for the opportunities to serve and to give that Christmas offers. I am grateful for this time of year that makes my deepest desires seem normal. I wish we all treated each other as though every day was part of the Christmas season, maybe then I would not feel so out of place when I do something kind for another human being.

I’m Still Hurt

As a child, I was hurt a lot. Mostly emotionally, but sometimes physically. I remember being teased at school and church because I couldn’t say the letter R. I was also bullied by kids who would ask if I was a boy or a girl and then ignore what I said and label me whatever they wanted.

Home was better, but still not exactly a safe haven. I knew my parents and siblings loved me, but there was a lot of fighting growing up. There was a lot of conflict between my siblings, and my parents, and my siblings with my parents. I generally stayed out of a lot of the conflict, but that didn’t mean I was spared from it. I still witnessed it and participated in the aftermath of it.

Experiences with a certain person in my extended family probably was what affected me the most. The other things in my life just didn’t do much to combat the abuse I suffered.

It is still hard for me to use the word abuse. It feels like such a strong word- that you have to have suffered for so long and been treated so badly that you were hurt beyond repair. Unfortunately, that does describe my situation, but abuse can also be a one time event. It can be something small. It can be something seemingly insignificant to everyone else. Abuse is simply when you are not treated in a way that is consistent with respect for your wellbeing. In this sense of the word, I was abused by many people in a variety of ways over the years.

For a long time, I could not handle what I had been through. Now I am at a point in my life where I can process what I went through and the effects of it all. What I have learned is that I hate myself.

I have hated myself for a very long time because I didn’t feel like I could do anything right. I felt like a bad person. At this point in my life, I can honestly say and believe that these thoughts are incorrect. I can tell that they are lies my mind feeds me because of what I’ve been through. The problem is that I don’t yet know how to change these thoughts and their effects.

I’m still hurt. As much as I would like to say that I am fully healed because I realize the truth, it’s just not the case. You don’t just overcome years of hating yourself by realizing that the reasons you hate yourself are not true.

I am a good person. I realize this. But I have gotten angry at myself for doing good things over the years. I was upset that I could not stop the desires I had to help others. I was taught by my experiences that if you didn’t help the way someone wanted, you shouldn’t help at all. I was also taught that even if you helped perfectly and did everything asked of you, a mistake later erased every good thing you did previously. So I am constantly afraid of being hurt.

I am constantly afraid that when I do something good, I did it in the wrong way or I did too much or not enough. So it would be so much easier if I didn’t try to do good things. The problem is that it is in my nature to want to help others. I see needs or wants and I want to help, to do something to make things better. This dichotomy has caused such discord in my mind. I hate myself for wanting to do good things because I am a bad person that doesn’t do things right so wanting to do those things makes me even worse.

I realize that it doesn’t make sense. I realize that it is twisted logic. I realize that wanting to do good things is not a sin or a fault, and I should not hate myself for it. But I’m still hurt. I still have years of yelling at myself for trying. I still have deep, well worn pathways in my mind that tell me I’ll never be good enough and I am not worthy of love.

Last night, I had a mental breakdown. I wanted to erase everything that I ever did for anyone else because I was tired of living so long trying to make other people happy. The thing is… I love making people happy. It’s my favorite thing to do. I just have hated myself for it and I wanted to erase that hate. I wanted to erase reminders of that hate. I wanted to erase all the times I tried but didn’t feel like it was good enough.

I don’t really want to stop helping others. I don’t really want to forget the good things I did or try to do. I just want to forget the pain of hating myself for doing those things. I want to love myself. I want to live for myself. I want my reasons for living to be more than just not wanting to hurt people by dying. But most of all, I just want to be healed.

I want to be whole. I want to think, “hey, maybe that person could use some flowers” and not hate myself for the thought. I want to be able to say hi to someone or give someone a gift or do any of the other things I want to do and not be terrified of the consequences. And most of all, when I am healed, I don’t want to hurt myself again. I don’t want to hate myself again. I just want to be free.

Forgive Yourself

I think the hardest thing for me is to forgive myself for the things that are not my fault- to forgive myself for being different, to forgive myself for not being able to make friends easily, to forgive myself for everything I want in life that I just can’t do right now.

We have to learn to forgive ourselves for the bad things that happened to us, for the things we wish we had control over or we wish we were stronger to be able to stop from happening. I have to forgive myself for being so lonely, for not making the friends I wanted, or for not reaching out or knowing how to talk to the friends I did have. I have to forgive myself for the times people took advantage of me or made fun of me or hurt me. I have to forgive myself for being me.

I have hated myself for my disabilities, for my mental illness, for my speech impediment. I hate myself the most for the things I have no control over.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we tear ourselves down for the things we cannot do?

If you were raped, you couldn’t have stopped it. If you were abused or bullied, you couldn’t have ended it sooner. If you have been lonely and friendless, you couldn’t have made friends any faster. Because if you could have done any of these things, you would have. No one likes to be hurt. No one wants to be lonely. No one wants to be an outcast or to feel like others don’t understand.

Forgive yourself for the things that are not your fault. Forgive yourself for the things you hate about yourself. Forgive yourself for everything that hurt you. Maybe then we can find the healing we need to love ourselves.

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Deserving Love

I used to think that if you were loved, you must deserve it. I thought that in order for someone to love you, you had to have done something worthy of love. Love wasn’t just given freely, it came with a price. I wasn’t sure what that price was, but I thought that only truly good people could be loved.

I heard people say to “love the sinner and hate the sin.” I knew that people in church expressed their love. I heard the words, I love you. I just didn’t see it. I didn’t see where love lasted past someone doing something wrong.

Last night, I kind of understood what love really means. I was at my brother in law’s family’s house. I have always loved being in their house. It just feels good. It feels like love. Up until this point, I thought that everyone in his family just deserved to be loved because they were so good. Last night though, it struck me that it wasn’t what they did that made them loved. They are simply loved because of who they are.

They have this tradition on someone’s birthday where they go around the room and say things they love about that person. I have been there for a few of their family members’ birthdays. I am always amazed at how loved each of them is. As I sat there listening to the things they were saying, I finally understood that love isn’t a one way path.

There is no one thing you can do to deserve love. Each person is different and unique and has different things about them to love, but each person deserves love simply because they are. It is not the deeds that qualify a person for love, their simple being means that they are worthy of love. You just have to look for the part of them that you can love and then love them because of that.

I haven’t felt loved for a lot of my life. That wasn’t because I was not loved, it was because I didn’t understand love. I thought that anger meant hate. I thought that I could never be loved because I would mess it up. I felt love and affection at times, but other times, I felt unlovable. It seems strange, but I sometimes even thought that I was too unworthy to even deserve to be punished. When I did something wrong and didn’t get the treatment that one of my siblings received, I felt like I was so far gone that I wasn’t even worth correcting.

My friends don’t understand. They tell me they love me and wonder why I doubt it or why I seem to think that changes. I thought that was how love worked. I thought you loved someone until they did something to make you stop loving them. I was never sure what makes people stop loving you. So anytime I made a mistake or hurt someone in the smallest way, I worried that their love would be taken from me.

I don’t know how long this feeling will last. I don’t know if I have really internalized that love is simply given, not earned. I can’t say that I’m going to stop asking my friends if they still love me. I do know that I have been changed though. I know that I’m a little closer to understanding what love really means. Someday I hope to understand a little more. Someday I hope that I can know that I deserve to be loved, not hurt, and that I realize that love isn’t a reward; it’s a gift.

Friends and Talking

I love the movie, Mozart and the Whale. The movie itself isn’t necessarily that great, but it is the most accurate depiction I have ever seen about how I feel. There is this part towards the beginning of the movie where the main character says, “I just never know what to say.” I feel like that a lot. I am not very good at talking. I don’t know what to say or how to say it, which makes conversations very difficult.

Sometimes I have a lot I want to say, but I don’t know how to bring it up. So I try to think about how I can shift the conversation to talk about what I need to work out, but by the time I’m done thinking about how I can bring it up, the other person is done with the conversation. A lot of times I think that’s why I don’t have much luck making friends. By the time I know how to talk to someone, they have already made a decision about who I am, and most people don’t change their first perceptions without a lot of work.

I hate it. I hate that I don’t know how to talk to people. Even with my best friend, I can’t bring up what I need to say. I feel like people get frustrated with me because I get quiet so often. It’s just that my mind is trying to figure out how to say something, while trying to process what is still going on, and by the time I’m ready to share what I have been thinking about, it is usually no longer a good time to say it.

There’s something else in the movie that really strikes a chord with me. The main character says, “People with Asperger’s want contact with other people very much; we’re just pathetically clueless at it, that’s all.” I am so clueless at talking to others. I want to talk to people, especially my friends, but I don’t know how.

I’m not really used to having friends. It’s only been in the last few years that I really felt like I had friends I could talk to on a regular basis. Growing up, the only friends I had were my sister’s friends and friends I had at activities I attended. Outside of those activities, I didn’t know how to interact with people.

So I always get anxious about talking to friends or doing things for friends or trying to make friends. It feels like unknown territory, which is scary because I can get hurt. I remember the first time I tried to make friends. I was 8 years old and in third grade. I was teased relentlessly. I didn’t quite know what I did wrong, but I knew I wasn’t wanted. That feeling has always stayed with me. Every time I try to make a new friend or talk to one of my current friends, that feeling comes back. I try to ignore it. I try not to let it stop me. Sometimes though, I just fall back into those feelings of being unwanted, of being hurt and vulnerable. I wonder if I’m a bad person, if there’s something wrong with me that makes me unlovable.

I have pretty amazing friends that make me feel wanted and loved, but the feelings haven’t gone away. I still need lots of reassurance that I’m doing alright and I haven’t messed things up yet. I hate that I need that much reassurance. I hate that I fall into thoughts of loneliness and anxiety and depression so easily. I hate that I have recurring feelings of abuse and teasing and the feeling of not being enough. I wish I could just trust my friends like I know I should. I wish I could tell my mind to stop thinking these thoughts. I wish I could just keep the feelings of being loved and wanted and feeling like a good person. I know that the things I have faced in my life have brought me to this point, and I’m in a good place in my life right now. Sometimes though, I wish I didn’t face quite so much because maybe then I could get these thoughts out of my head that cause so much heartache and anxiety.

A Good Person

When someone drops something, I naturally want to help them pick it up. When someone is hurting or sad or depressed, I naturally want to comfort them. When someone appears lonely or out of place, I naturally want to be their friend. When someone needs help, I naturally rush to their aid.

I naturally want to help people feel good about themselves. I naturally love people. I am naturally thankful. I desire to do kind things and let people know how much they are loved. I desire to always do good, to make others happy, to make the world a better place.

With all of these things that come naturally, with all of these good thoughts I have, you probably think I would consider myself to be a good person.  The reality is that I hate myself. I consider myself unworthy, not good enough, a mistake, and ultimately a bad person.

I feel like when I’m reaching out to help others, I am messing up. I feel like when I sit with someone who appears lonely, I am being annoying. I feel like when I drop off flowers or candy or a note on someone’s doorstep, I did it wrong. I feel like nothing I do will ever be good enough. I will never be good enough. I will never be enough.

I tried to explain this to a friend of mine. I tried to explain that when I have the urge to do something good, I feel wrong about it. Over the last couple years, I have dropped off many anonymous gifts at people’s homes. Every time I did, I came home and cried. I stepped into my room and fell to my knees, sobbing and wanting to die.

People see the good and think, “she’s such a good person.” I see the good and think to myself, “what makes you qualified to think you know how to help someone? What makes you worthy to do kind things? What makes you think that they will appreciate this?” In looking at the good that I do, I am not proud of it; I am ashamed. I hate myself for the good that I do just as much as I hate myself for the mistakes that I make.

I used to stop myself from doing good. I would force myself to shut up and sit down. I would insult myself until I felt so small and insignificant that I would not think I was capable of doing the thing I desired. I still feel like that, but I do good anyway. I follow my kind thoughts, no matter how much it hurts, or how hard it is, or how much I hate myself for it, I do not postpone a generous thought.

Why do I hate myself this much? Why do I believe I am a horrible person, worthy of pain and punishment? Why is doing good things so hard when it comes naturally? I’m not sure. Maybe partly because of experiences I had.

I remember being yelled at for trying to help. I remember feeling like a bad person because I tried doing something good, but I did it wrong and was told it was better to not do it at all if I couldn’t do it right. I remember being yelled at for trying to coordinate efforts for good. I remember over and over being told that I did things wrong, that I communicated wrong, that I was wrong.

Eventually, I believed it. I believed I was wrong. I am a bad person. I do not do good things, I just do things that are good in bad ways. I will never be enough.

Am I good? Will I ever be good? Will I ever love myself? I don’t know, but I am trying. I am trying to be a good person and to believe I am a good person. It is difficult. I still worry, but I do my best. Maybe one day I’ll believe that I am good, that I am worthy of love, that the good I do is enough, that I am enough. Until then, I will just do my best to keep doing good despite how I feel about it.