Published on October 17th, 2013 | by Kristen Kansiewicz
You Don’t Really Hate Yourself
Many women have told me, “I just hate myself.”
Most mental health professionals would label this “low self-esteem” and some may go as far as “self-loathing.”
I agree it’s a terrible place to be emotionally. But over the years, I have come to a new conclusion: you don’t hate yourself.
I have never heard someone who grew up in an emotionally stable, nurturing environment with a healthy family make that bold statement. I have not met anyone who said, “I’ve had a great life. People just poured encouragement out on me. I know myself well, and, frankly, I hate what I see.”
Now why is it that a woman in that happy circumstance does not come to the conclusion that she just isn’t worth it? My answer: she truly knows herself. She has been told about the beauty and wonder of just being herself.
The woman who says, “I hate myself” does not know herself at all. Most likely, she has experienced emotional abuse and possibly other forms of abuse as well. She’s been told she’ll never amount to anything. She’s been told she’s useless. She’s heard all her life about all the family “screw-ups” whom she is doomed to emulate. And so she hates “herself.”
Sadly, this picture of “herself” is not her actual self at all. It is a picture of a broken shell of a person, tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage. The words of others, lies that resonate within her head day after day, have now come to control her identity. Abuse internalized becomes “her.” And yes, she should hate that. But it is not “her.” And it is not you.
You entered this world with beauty. You entered this world with potential. You entered this world with something so unique that no other person on this 7-billion-person planet has. A personality, a fingerprint, a thought process, a heart, a soul. On that first day, you were not something to hate. Even you could probably admit that.
But you now sit and hate something. Perhaps you hate your life circumstances. You might hate the person you have become after others have snuffed out your flame. Maybe if you had been encouraged rather than told to conform, you could have discovered that truly unique and beautiful self.
So how do you get there? Now that you’ve spent years thinking you hate yourself, how do you start again?
I have good news: there is hope.
The first step is to redefine your enemy. You are not the enemy. The true, real you is under there somewhere. The enemies are the lies you’ve been told, the abuse you endured, the person you have pretended to be in order to find love.
Once you begin to fight the right enemies, you must set out on the journey of discovering yourself. Usually it helps to go back in your mind to the age you were when you began to lose your true self. For some, that’s age three. For others, it’s ten or twelve or fourteen.
Think back to a moment in your life when you were truly happy just expressing yourself. When did that light inside dim? When did that beautiful, hopeful girl get crushed? If you can find that age, you can discover yourself in ways that children of that age range do. Paint a picture, pick daisies in a field, watch a sunset, play with stickers, watch Mister Rogers. (Seriously, watching Mister Rogers and believing every word he says about you with child-like faith will boost your self-esteem like nothing else. Bring a box of tissues and just let him tell you how special you are through that TV screen.)
If you can’t identify a specific age that you lost yourself, just explore your interests. Take a class, try a new food, experiment with a new haircut. Find a safe friend. Find the true you that’s hiding underneath the self you’ve become. Let someone love you. Let God love you. Let you love you once and for all.
Photo by Ben Earwicker
Garrison Photography, Boise, ID