We listen to people talk about self-love, read articles and books on self-love, and see self-love memes post everywhere on the internet: “Love yourself first!” “Accept yourself unconditionally!” “It’s not selfish to love yourself,” “Make your happiness a priority,” “Self-love is the best way to find true love,” “I’m awesome – what’s your superpower?” … and so forth.
While all of these enthusiastic statements are completely true and very beneficial for our well-being they are limited in their ability to truly help us “love ourselves.”
In fact, sometimes, the jubilant catchcry’s of the self-love movement and the other lifestyle movement associated with respecting yourself are simply superficial masks that obscure the real truth: you still hate yourself deep down.
Choosing the Path Least Taken
It might not feel like it at the beginning, but choosing to nurture and care of yourself is actually the easy path. Naturally, it makes us feel good to look out for ourselves and to put our needs first for once. Far from being the truly “hard” path, this is the comforting path – and this took me a while to fully accept.
For a long time I had reveled in the knowledge that I was choosing “the hard path.” I had dedicated so much time, energy and effort into following a path which I felt would bring me true freedom. And so it was with deep disappointment, confusion and fear that I discovered I was wrong. The constant pain that was remerging in my life was a testimony to that.
Soon I pondered, “What truly is the hard path then?”
And soon I discovered the answer.
The truly hard path is the path of pain. The truly hard path is the path of acquainting yourself with the desolation, depravity and brokenness of who you are deep inside.
Only once you have met with and understood the profundity of your self-hatred can you come full circle and go into the core of what self-love actually is.
I wrote more about choosing the path least taken and meeting with pain here.
4 Common Forms of Self-Loving Self-Hatred
We all want to run away from our pain and suffering. This is normal. So it sounds completely counter-intuitive and nonsensical to stop, turn around and face our pain for what it is.
But think about it like this: Is it the band-aid that heals the wound underneath? Of course not! The same can be applied to self-love. We can slather on as many layers of self-loving, feel-good actions as possible, but it won’t heal our core wounds.
So with that said, let’s look at some classic, but surprisingly unknown forms of self-loving self-hatred. I use this strange phrase because avoidance of our pain by using self-love as a salve to band-aid our wounds is a form of self-deception and self-deception is a form of self-hatred.
Please note that these forms of “band-aid” self-love are not inherently “bad” and are actually quite healthy and useful when done mindfully.
1. Cultivating “Positive Thinking” Habits
Replacing the negative cycles of inner talk within us is very helpful. However, not only is optimism often a polarized reaction to pessimism, it can also be used as a form of avoidance from the reality of our own pain and others pain. It is common for the self-loving habit of cultivating positive thought to be used as a form of bypassing our own deeper issues.
2. Thinking That You Are Perfect the Way You Are
Yes, it is beneficial for us to fully embrace the people we are and to love our strengths and weaknesses. However the affirmation “I am perfect the way I am” can be destructive. The truth is that you are not perfect the way you are because there is no such thing as perfection. Thinking that you are already perfect the way you are can also be a toxic form of avoiding the hard path of true inner work and healing. In other words, it is the perfect fearful cop out under the guise of “self-love.”
3. Rewarding Yourself
Rewarding ourselves every now and then simply for the sake of it is a healthy, self-nurturing habit. It’s nice to relax with that mini-series, spend an hour in a bubble bath and lavish ourselves with nice food, clothing and other gifts whenever we feel the need. However, this habit can be taken to the extreme and used to justify unnecessary greed and indulgence that covers up and overcompensates for deeper issues such as the fear of aloneness, worthlessness and social insignificance. There is a time to reward ourselves and a time not to.
4. Over-the-Top Affirmations
“You are SENSATIONAL,” “You’re f***ing beautiful!!!” “You are the best!” “You’re a BOMBASTIC babe!”
Reminding ourselves of how innately wonderful we are is important. But the many over-the-top affirmations out there paraded in the name of self-love are not only nauseating (in my opinion), but are often reactions to the self-hatred we have inside. Anything of an extremist nature, such as the examples of affirmations above, are usually ways to overcompensate for the deep and unresolved misery of self-hatred we feel inside. Also, I’ve often heard over-the-top affirmations used to justify selfish and self-destructive behavior (and I’ve done so myself) sort of like “F**k you! I don’t care what you think because I’m beautiful and I love the person I am!” Sound convincing? Not really. When it comes to affirmations it is good to find balance; to realize that no, you aren’t the best thing in the world, but yes, you are an exquisite reflection of oneness; of life.
To genuinely and authentically heal we must be willing to descend into our personal hells; we must be willing to face and understand the disowned parts of ourselves that form our Shadows. We must truly be able to fathom the depths of our self-hatred in order to heal from the inside out.
Any thoughts, opinions or experiences are welcomed below in the comments.