It is, by far, easier to hate than it is to love. Hatred becomes an addiction simply for the fact that it requires no effort to maintain. It is much more difficult to love, because it requires us to at least attempt to understand, to make the effort to find ground on which to be compassionate. You might think this is going to be a post on the general quickness of society to hate that which is not understood rather than make the effort to love. It is not.
There are all different kinds of hatred, and they are all addicting, nearly seductive in the lack of pro-action they require for the flame to be fed. Hatred is effortless. Hatred is easy. And by far, the easiest, most addicting of the manifestations of hatred is hatred of oneself. Once that first displeasure with oneself is planted, it grows almost immediately. Someone once told me, after listening to me devalue my literary capabilities, that artists tend to be their own worst critics, striving for a self-set standard of perfection that is almost impossible to attain. I think that statement applies to humans as a whole. Most of us are always striving to be the best we can be at whatever goal we aim for…and when we fall short, or outright fail, we come down on ourselves so hard it would make a drill instructor flinch.
It is easy for me to hate myself, because to love myself would require lowering my standards to a reasonable height. To love myself would require acknowledging that in addition to the flaws I am so quick to point out about myself, I have just as many virtues…to love myself would be to require myself to truly accept those virtues, as the people who love me acknowledge and accept them. This has always been…difficult for me. I can look in the mirror and think that I look ugly today. I can poke at my midsection and believe that I am fat. It is much harder for me to look in the mirror and think “Gosh, my eyes are a wonderful shade of blue today, my hair looks downright awesome, and my face, while I am no knockout beauty, has a subtle beauty all the same”. It is nearly impossible for me to poke my midsection and say “You know what, Merry? This isn’t so bad, considering where you were with your weight 18 months ago. You’ve lost 65 lbs, that’s pretty amazing, and sure, your belly isn’t flat or toned yet…but look at you…you can see your feet. You can wear clothes you never thought you would”.
The ease of self-hatred is what makes it the first place I mentally run to when I am depressed. Depression takes every single emotion and makes it more complex, more difficult. Self-hatred becomes very attractive in those times, because it’s just so damn easy. You’re already drowning in doubt, fear, sadness…you already feel like crap about anything and everything…at least self-hatred gives way to justification. Depression makes you feel bad for no reason at all, and that negativity permeates everything. Yet you remain aware that there’s just no tangible reason for feeling the way you do. Self-hatred gives a reason, if only a shoddy one. When I am depressed, I often find myself thinking, Okay. I feel sad, and maybe I feel sad because I’m just so fat/ugly/lame/etc and this is my brain’s way of telling me that I am bad and I should feel bad.
You see, even the ease of self-hatred becomes slightly less simplified when depression is at work…but it’s still easier than trying to summon the strength to say “You know what, Merry? You feel bad. There’s no damn reason you should feel bad, but you do, and it’s not your fault. It’s not because you’re a bad person who doesn’t deserve things, because you’re a good person who deserves good things”. It’s funny…I am good at being a cheerleader for anyone other than myself…because I am unfair to myself. I am exacting, demanding, and when I fail to meet my expectations, my displeasure has no equal, and I do not hesitate to rain down that displeasure on myself. There is a line in the song “Lithium” by Evanescence that goes “I want to stay in love with my sorrow”. Chew on that for a moment.
I want to stay in love with my sorrow. It’s a conflict. Of course no one wants to feel bad about themselves. Of course no one wants to feel so bad. Of course I don’t want to hate myself.
I have been doing a written therapy course. There is no counselor to guide me, no one ever sees my exercises unless I choose to show them. The process aims to get people to take an honest stock of themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, their joy and their pain, and the end goal is working towards acceptance of self as a whole, flaws and perfections. I hate my torso, but I’ve got some really gorgeous hair. Once my temper is invoked, it is swift, angry, and spiteful. Hurt me and I will want to hurt you back. But I have a respectable amount of restraint. It takes a lot (usually) to activate that temper. Hurt me, and I will want to hurt you back, but I am also very quick to forgive…too quick to do so, if you ask some of the people who know me best. I am stubborn…but I am also willing to see the grays in between, rather than defending black and white until I go blue in the face. Right now, I am working on an exercise with the theme of forgiveness…it’s involved going through myself and picking out long-buried resentments and anger, and forgiving people for the wrongs I feel were done against me. But it will, by the time I am finished with it, also be an exercise in taking stock of the wrongs I feel I have done to myself, and forgiving those as well. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to take me out of my comfort zone. When I wrong someone, I am quick to make a genuine, heartfelt apology and ask forgiveness. Often, it is granted, even if I haven’t yet forgiven myself for my transgression.
Learning to love yourself when you truly believe you are flawed in all the worst ways is not easy. It’s not going to be easy for me, and I expect it wouldn’t be easy for anyone else making that journey. To love myself means extending to myself the same compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and love that I strive to extend to everyone I come in contact with throughout my life. For me, it is easy to offer that to anyone other than myself, because I don’t know everything there is to know about others. I don’t know their pasts, their grievances, their infractions, their flaws. I don’t know every single corner of their sacred hearts…But I know mine. I know mine with a familiarity so strong it is almost painful. I hold no secrets from myself. Well, there is one secret that, while it has been exposed and acknowledged, it has not been completely revealed, and given the circumstances of such, I know I am absolved of any culpability in regards to that.
It will be very difficult to extend compassion and forgiveness to myself, simply because it means I have to endeavor to face myself head on and say “I know what you have done, I know what has been done to you. I know your flaws, and I love you simply because you are, like the other 6 billion people on this planet, a human being, and on that fact alone, your life has value and sanctity to me”.
As Third Eye Blind so succinctly put it: Everyone’s got to face down their demons, maybe today you could put the past away.
Inspired by another’s declaration of similar intent, I have decided that rather than adopting a “fake it ’til you make it” creed in regards to accepting myself, I will aspire to face down my demons. I will accept my past, rather than shun it, and rather than burying it where nothing can touch it, I will simply put it away.
Love yourselves, my friends…it is hard, but from what I hear, it’s worth reaching for.