“Self hatred is the only socially acceptable way you’re allowed to think about yourself all of the time.” –Elizabeth Gilbert
Close your eyes for a moment. I want you to imagine what your life would look like if you stopped mentally beating yourself up all the time. What if all those mean, nasty thoughts that make you feel worthless and empty slowly disappeared?
Open your eyes and ask yourself, “How do I feel now?” Are you feeling a bit uneasy?
That uneasy feeling is your ego telling you, “Hold up…you already know how to speak to yourself…you don’t need to try and change it.” This is why it feels uncomfortable imagining actually liking yourself.
Weird – right? I mean, shouldn’t you feel relieved and liberated because you’re finally starting to feel good about yourself? Instead you feel like someone has pulled the rug right out from under you and you’re desperately trying to regain your balance.
While you can’t see, hear or smell your ego, it’s a powerful force that’s been with you since childhood. Your ego is made up of beliefs you have about yourself, which are based on your perception of your experiences. Your ego is based on your beliefs and while your beliefs may feel real to you, they’re just that, beliefs and not facts. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true.
Try and think about your ego as lump of clay. You’ve been forming that lump into an image (aka you) and when you have thoughts like, “I’m bad at math,” “I’m a loser,” or “I’m too fat to be loved” you’re unconsciously molding that lump of clay. Your thoughts can either create a beautiful sculpture or a mound of grey mush.
This is one of the great things about egos; they can be reshaped and molded into the exact image you desire. Like any great piece of art, recreating your ego is going to take time.
Here are three things you’re going to need to do if you want to stop beating yourself up all the time:
Like who you are right now
You may be thinking to yourself, “Like myself for who I am today? Ugh…never!” You’re willing to “like yourself” a little bit more if maybe you lost 20 pounds but right now…no way.
There’s a false belief that if you accept yourself as you are right now, then you’ll stop striving to be better, thinner, prettier, and wealthier. Not true. Research has shown that berating and degrading another person or yourself isn’t an effective way to motivate yourself or anyone else.
The next time you find yourself criticizing your appearance, stop for a moment and write down at least three things you like about the way you look right now. Not happy with work? Write down three things that you currently enjoy about your job.
The point of this exercise is to learn how to increase your awareness of the positive aspects of your life and to see that you are worthy of love, happiness and success today, not tomorrow or next week.
Accept there are aspects of life you have no control over
One of the hardest parts of life is the lack of control we have over other people. When someone lets us down, or a situation doesn’t work out the way we imagined, our egos have a hard time processing the hurt and disappointment. As odd as it sounds, it’s easier to look inward and blame ourselves when another person lets us down.
Let’s say you went out on a date that you thought went really well. He says he’s going to text you tomorrow, but when tomorrow comes, no text. You wait a day, no text. You finally decide to reach out and say, “Hey, what’s going on?” You hear…crickets.
You’re hurt and disappointed and you want to place your anger and frustration somewhere. The easiest thing you can do is blame yourself and go back to that old, tired belief, “I’m a loser.”
It’s much harder to take a step back and think to yourself, “I’m an intelligent, witty, beautiful person who has a lot to offer and while I thought we hit it off, I guess he felt differently.” Being able to say this kind of thought forces you to sit in a grey area, which can be uncomfortable.
Ruffle some feathers
Many people fear that if they say things like, “I like myself” or “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,” they’ll be seen as arrogant or self-involved. You may worry that others are judging you and thinking things like, “Who’s she to think that way about herself?”
Being humble and demur is seen as a positive trait for women. While our world continues to evolve (we may have a female President soon) women are still expected to be selfless, giving, not too needy; in other words “motherly.”
Thinking and saying out loud thoughts like, “I love my body” or “I’m worthy of love” may ruffle a few feathers and someone may think you’re “full of yourself.” Just smile and say “thank you.” How you feel about yourself is no one else’s business. Only you live inside your body and mind, therefore no one has a vote in how you think or feel.
If you want to learn how to identify and reframe your negative thoughts, I’ve created an easy-to-use worksheet called the “5 Steps to Unlocking Happiness in your 20s.” You can download it here.
While making the choice to stop beating yourself up is a tough one, and learning to reframe your negative thinking is even harder, your life will start to become easier. Oddly enough once we stop hating ourselves we become less anxious and neurotic and our thoughts don’t have the meaning and weight they once did. Learning this skill will bring you a sense of peace that even a month at a five-star spa can’t beat.