Question in Class: "How Did You Stop Hating Yourself?"
How have I stopped hating myself? I'm still working on it, but it has become a point of study for me, a focused inquiry. I haven't tried to write about it directly yet so this is definitely tumbling head over heels down the mountain in the middle of the avalanche. I think first I had to realize that the self-criticisms, insults and smack-talk actually were a form of self-hatred, not helpful reminders I needed to get through the day. To start to see "you goddamned stupid idiot, I can't believe you forgot trash day again, only assholes forget trash day" as actual abuse and not a handy way of helping myself remember trash day next week was a start.
Just like dogs thrive on positive reinforcement, so do children, so do we. If I behaved better, achieved more and was more efficient and productive as a result of berating myself, I would still do it. But it doesn't work. I cower under my own self abuse. I freeze, I stop, I forget again. And it's usually the smallest, dumbest things that trigger a tirade of damning criticisms. The big things too, of course- you're a fake, a whore, so ghetto, an underachiever, never lived up to potential, wannabe, etc. I'm not sure anyone else even ever said these things to me- they didn't have to. I said them enough myself. It's a practice to stop cursing myself out, to cut off the verbal abuse and transform my self-talk, the monologue in my head into gentle, soft, loving words, the same words I would give to anyone else. I don't want to be a hypocrite loving and accepting you but hating and beating up me. I don't want to waste any more precious time.
The other day I told a friend I really need to get my eating under control, currently the biggest element of chaos in an otherwise beautiful life. Like today I accidentally ate two hot dogs as a snack instead of a carrot and I feel such hot shame for not being a vegan juicer, for treating my body more like a carnival than a temple and she said, "Stop. We love you just the way you are," and that's when the tears came and a new wave of healing washed over me because how crazy is that? To be loved just the way I am? Can I love myself, hungry for everything, starving for all of life, more than my share? I think it's a good place to start.