I don’t like myself. The only time I do is when I’ve done well at something. And it only lasts a short while and then I am back on the treadmill. My life has become a constant chase for self-approval through success. No matter how many things I achieve it will never be enough to convince myself I am worthy.
Looking around I can see I’m not alone. I can’t think of many people I know who genuinely like themselves. Most of us think we are too fat, skinny, talkative, quiet, plain, shallow, unintelligent, short, bald, old, young etc. We think if we can get that dress, car, gym membership, drug, watch, degree, promotion, lover, new job, house, then FINALLY we will be good enough/worthy/loveable.
But it never works. And it never will. Because the person we need to convince isn’t paying attention — we decided long ago that we are unacceptable and unlovable and no amount of contrary evidence will change the verdict.
Self-loathing is as old as religion, probably older. For thousands of years religious institutions used the idea of 'original sin' to coerce us into behaving in the manner they saw fit. Now our modern religion of consumerism coerces us into buying things we don’t need with the promise of feeling better about ourselves as a result. But in both cases our self-acceptance becomes dependent on an external agent — the priest or the sales clerk. Our agency is surrendered.
To reclaim our agency by accepting ourselves unconditionally in a culture doing its best to keep us hating ourselves is a desperately needed act of rebellion. So how do we go about it?
I don’t know. I could suggest a few things but I did start this post by saying I don’t really like myself so my suggestions would be pretty hollow!
I wrote this because I think this problem is at the heart of a lot of our personal and societal issues so I’d love to hear what has worked for you.