As I’ve been reflecting upon the last 6 months of my life, I’ve looked back on who I used to be. The person who hated themselves. I look to now; the person who finally loves myself. I know, proper arrogant innit? We’re conditioned, especially as women, to believe that anyone who loves themselves is conceited or up their own arses. Words like ‘big headed’ or ‘stuck up’ are used where ‘confident’ and ‘content’ should be. But one of the most mentally freeing things you can do in life is learning to love yourself.
My strongest memories of childhood and teendom feature a whole amount of self loathing. Wearing leggings in 28 degree heat because I hated my legs. Being a knob to the teachers in school because I wanted everyone to think I was funny and a total reb. Liking things that the other girls liked, in the hope it would make them like me. I even used to pretend I loved Chris Kirkpatrick in NSYNC so as not to piss off the girl who loved Justin Timberlake. He looked like a pineapple FFS. Looking back, this was all down to hating myself.
Why do some people hate themselves? A lot of it stems from childhood, I imagine: blaming yourself for a parental break up, making mistakes that you felt a consequence for or not feeling loved. Maybe you didn’t get the grades your parents expected or a relative liked poking fun at your puppy fat. All of that can unwittingly create a culture of hate in your brain.
You can blame a lot of people’s self loathing problems on society. We’re forever being force fed of images and stories of what makes the perfect person. Abs, small nose, clear skin, slim waist, thick cake the whole world want a piece (thanks Iggy). If you break any of these expectations – you feel less worthy.
Often, being in a relationship can cause a vast amount of self loathing. At 21 I was told by a boyfriend that if I ever weighed more than 9 stone he’d break up with me. He wasn’t serious, but it stung. Sometimes you don’t even need to be with someone who throws direct abuse at you for it to affect your self worth. Cheating, lying and apathy in a relationship can also make you feel like utter dog shit. Ever been sat next to someone who you’re in love with and feel the thick air of not giving a shit between you? That affects how you view yourself. If you’ve ever been with someone who has treated you poorly, your brain somehow makes you believe it’s your fault. If only you were better, prettier, funnier etc that person would love you.
Furthermore, your own view of you can mean you spend far too much time on a neg about yourself. From the age of 15 I can remember thinking to myself, sometimes daily, ‘How old will I be when I like myself?’. I always used to set milestones. They used to be linked to age. At 16 I thought I’d be happy at 18 when I had more freedom. At 18, I thought I’d be happy at 21. Then when I was at uni I convinced myself I’d be happy – it was getting better but not wholly. When I finished uni I thought I’d like myself as I was proud of what I achieved. Then when I met someone, I thought they’d make me happy about myself. When I broke up with that person would I myself more? It never happened. Forever anticipating the moment of clarity. That far off moment the haze of hatred would lift.
And then one day it did.
One day, I realised I had gone a whole day without questioning how I looked. A whole day without worrying if I said something stupid. 24 whole fucking hours with a new light inside me. It didn’t come as a bolt out of the blue though, it was just a feeling.
Soon those days turned into weeks. Did I have the occasional, ‘I look too fat in this skirt,’ moments? Of course. But this time, I bought the skirt anyway. There’s an analogy there. More often, I became aware that I was saying things that were on my mind and not instantly having the pit of the stomach boils as to whether it was OK to say that. More often, I became aware that people were just not affecting my self esteem as they once could. So a date never called me back – plenty out there who will. So a friend cancelled another lunch meeting – they won’t get to hear my hilarious sex story. I also became aware of the fact I could be in my own company for a sustained period of time and not have to distract myself from my loathing. I could just be.
The catalyst for this change has definitely been my relationship break up and my Mum’s passing but boy has it been a welcome change. Truly realising that life is too short to feel shit has been a magical wake up call for me. I now enter life every morning, 100% aware of all of my good qualities. The qualities that actually mean stuff in life. I now rarely enter life in the morning weighed down by worry about who I am.
So how can you learn to love yourself? The first step is becoming aware of your own good qualities. Write a list if you have to. Ask your closest friends and the people that love and then REMEMBER THAT SHIT. Tell it to yourself hourly if you have to. Use it as your response to every bad thing that happens. Get dumped? You’re awesome in bed and the the next person you meet is going to dig your shit. Friends didn’t invite you out? Well you’re the one that gets the dance offs going so they’re going to have a shit time without you. Tyre blow out? You’re really good at watching a whole series of Gossip Girl in one sitting and who needs money anyway! You see my point.
The next step is ridding toxicity in your life. If you’re doing a job where you feel worthless, life’s too short. Find a new one. If that’s not possible, fill your free time with stuff that you’re passionate about and whilst you’re sat at your desk, checking the clock every 2 minutes, focus on the stuff you get to do when you’re outta there. If your friends make you feel bad, they’re not friends. Dump them and find new ones. If you’re in a relationship where you’re forever getting mugged off, please take it from me, get out get out get out. There are literally thousands of fish in the sea and even the worst date where he looks like Sloth from the Goonies is better than a lifetime with someone who’s not going to make you feel on top of the world.
The final step is to just stop caring. Don’t care what other people think about you. Just be. You are amazing and you are good enough.
If that makes me or you arrogant and conceited. I don’t give a fuck. I’m me. You’re you. And I hope that if you’re out there, hating you for whatever reason you have, your moment of clarity comes and you will finally feel confident and content. Because you bloody deserve it.
Loving yourself is a choice. It’s a choice you have to make every single day. You have to choose to remember the good in you. You have to choose to get rid of the toxicity. You have to choose to try and stop caring. Please choose you.