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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Hating Myself

I never really realized or thought about how much I hate myself until this last week. In fact, up until I started this project of changing how I see myself, I thought I loved myself for the most part. I thought it was just depression or bad days that brought thoughts of dislike.

So I asked myself, “why do you hate yourself? What about you is so wrong that you would want to kill yourself to get rid of it?” And I discovered a couple answers.

One, I don’t think about myself as a person. I think about myself in terms of deeds. So, when I look at my deeds overall, I feel like I’m a pretty good person. When I look at my individual deeds though, I can either feel amazing or completely horrible, which explains why I think of suicide so much. You wouldn’t want to kill someone you love, but in those moments where I mess up or I am misunderstood or I am not proud of how I acted, I hate myself.

Two, I feel like I can never give myself what I really want. I will never be enough for me. Because I have autism, I cannot communicate in a way sufficient to adequately express myself. I simply cannot talk to people and make friends in the way I have convinced myself that I should be able to do. I have gotten better, but it is not enough and will never be enough for the ideal I have had in my head of how I should be.

Three, I do not forgive my mistakes. I forget about them sometimes, but I do not forgive them. When I say something that could be taken in the wrong way, I replay in my mind the times when someone misunderstood my innocent communication to mean something that I did not intend. I have convinced myself that these offenses were my fault even though it was a misunderstanding. And when I do something completely normal, like say hello to a friend or send a text asking how someone is doing, I convince myself that it is wrong and that I am wrong and that I should not burden someone with my presence.

That is why it is so hard to believe the good things people say about me. How could they be true with this depth of self hate that I feel? How could anyone think positive thoughts towards me when in the very act of doing something good, I am insulting myself for my incompetence? How could I be thoughtful or kind or considerate when I told myself not to do that act of kindness or service because I was not worthy to perform such a deed?

It is not going to be easy to change this dialogue with myself. It is not going to be easy to convince myself to see past the images of worthlessness that I have established in my mind. It is not going to be easy to allow myself to be human. But… I am going to try.

I am going to try because someone else sees the good in me. I am going to try because people love me and want to see me happy. I am going to try because life is too short to hate yourself. I am going to try for me because it’s about time that I feel loved.

Hate is such a strong word

People always say that hate is a strong word. But I think when you have autism, sometimes there is no other way to describe how you feel.

Merriam-webster dictionary defines hate as:

a :  intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

b :  extreme dislike or antipathy 

I often think to myself that I hate something because of the first definition. There are things, stupid things, things that normal people wouldn’t hate, that I feel like I hate. Some of these things are the look of sagging skin on someone, the way someone breathes, or even people sometimes.

This is kind of hard to explain, but I realize that it’s normal to say you hate these things. It’s normal to strongly dislike these things and so you say you hate them. But for me, it’s not a strong dislike that makes me hate these things. My definition of hate is closer to the first definition.

When I say I hate something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I dislike it. What it does mean is that it makes me feel a sense of anger, fear or injury. I say hate because I feel hate. Whether the hate is justified or not, doesn’t change how I feel.

When I say I hate something, I mean that it makes me want to explode inside. It makes me want to become violent or run away or try to comfort myself. I couldn’t tell you why certain things make me feel the way they do; sometimes they just do. It doesn’t make sense that I feel so strongly about something that really doesn’t matter, but it is the reality.

So, how do I deal with these feelings of hate? I focus on something else. If I focus on the object I hate, I will probably get upset and may even have some sort of meltdown. Instead, I have to change my focus to something I like instead. Then, I can usually “forget” what I hated and move on.

I know that when I say I hate something people tend to question if I really mean that I hate it. But like the dictionary says, it gives me a strong sense of “hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.” Whatever it is that I say I hate makes me feel some sort of pain or anger and therefore is by definition something I hate.

I don’t always feel this way about things, but it does happen every once in a while. It’s not really something that you can just stop either. It’s an automatic reaction. So if someone with autism says they hate you or they hate something, try not to take it too personally. It’s just that we feel uncomfortable, in pain even, and that’s why we say hate.