Why is it so hard for some people to love themselves? Is it nature or nurture? Or both? In my case, it’s been something that I’ve had to deal with for most of my life; a feeling that has grown exponentially since I was a self-confident and boisterous child, and an element that has added much unnecessary pain and anxiety in my life.
As I work more and more with adolescents, self-love and self-worth is something that I think more about. I teach them that they are all worthy of love and respect- which I wholeheartedly believe- and that this starts from fostering these feelings in themselves about themselves. But, in the end I always feel a little hypocritical after we’ve discussed these topics. Why am I teaching them about this if I don’t practice what I preach half the time? Who am I to try and convince them what to do, if I can’t even convince myself?
My frustration is only magnified by the fact that everyone I meet who doesn't know me well almost scoffs and looks at me like I’m mental if I choose to reveal that I struggle with this. FYI, this type of reaction doesn't make things better, even if you’re trying to help. People like me already feel crazy. We know that despite our life not being perfect, things are good and that we’re lucky in almost every single way. These feelings are not logical. Feelings rarely are. Even if these sentiments have some kind of precedent, hopefully by our thirties we’ve figured what they are and we’ve at least worked some of that shit out. What we haven’t discovered is how to make those feelings go away for good.
Many psychologists talk about the need for self-soothing for people like me. My list of self-soothing includes anything from singing at the top of my lungs to imagining myself through the eyes of another person (my achievements, which seem minimal to me, may seem interesting and challenging to others). I have hobbies that I enjoy. The problem is not self-soothing or my hobbies, it’s knowing that these feelings are recurrent. That no matter how much I self-soothe or how many hobbies I take up, I will never feel satisfied with how good I am.
In the end, there is no long-term solution. It’s a battle that I will keep fighting until I’m dead, likely. And, in the end, it makes me feel like I’m alive. Anxious, but alive. And isn’t that beautiful in itself?