I woke up the other morning hating myself. I mean, like, really despising the person staring back at me in the mirror. It’s been a long time that I felt this way and it freaked me out. Despite internalizing and beating myself up over the typical stuff, you know, Mommy guilt, the regret at having said horrible things to the people I love, I usually bounce back with my usual mantra: I made a mistake. I can always apologize. I am doing the best I can. This time though, no relief in sight, I spent all day miserable, depressed and hopeless, all under the bleak canopy of self-loathing. It surprised and frustrated me. And I wanted to get to the bottom of it.
I looked back on old lessons I’d learned and old conversations I’d had about love addiction. The regrets, shame, frustration, anger and pain we experience through our years of addiction are not always a direct result of a neglectful, avoidant partner. Those hostile emotions we feel sometimes come from someone far more avoidant and neglectful of love: ourselves. Simply put: we are sometimes to blame for not loving ourselves, which tends to get us in this love addicted situation in the first place. I don’t like me, so, when I go out to find a partner, I’ll pick one who doesn’t like me and then…this will feel awful and then, I’ll feel unloved and hate myself more.
It’s a vicious cycle, and one which I thought I broke. And yet, progress not perfection. So, how do we break out of that cycle? How do we love ourselves?
It’s tricky. That’s for sure. But I have one weird place to start, and it’s not in the mirror. That image you are staring at? That’s the false you. The shallow you. The superficial you. Forget that person for now. We’ll come back to her. And, I’m the last person to suggest finding a hobby. While healthy people need interests and hobbies, that’s not where you begin to figure out how to love yourself, although, eventually, it will be part of the equation.
Start instead where you most dread: start with what you are running away from. If you can find it, that is.
One of the hardest parts of loving ourselves is knowing what we are most afraid of, what we are avoiding, what we don’t want to deal with or look at. Anyone who reads my blog will have heard me say we are not so much love addicts as we are avoidants of the self. Well, to love yourself, stop avoiding yourself. That’s the beginning. Finding what you are most afraid of is an exercise in patience. It took me years to see what was right in front of me. What I was most afraid of. Responsibility. Working. Being financially independent. Those things petrified me. The idea of working 9 to 5 made me feel trapped. The thought of having to financially provide for my kids all by myself terrified me. But, once I figured this out, I was able to face my fears and set goals, small goals, to learn how to approach and manage this fear. Little by little I learned that I was safe. That I could be responsible. That I could provide for my family. This accomplishment changed the way I perceived myself. And I truly believe it is at the heart of self love.
Yelling and screaming at my son this past week caused me to act in fear. His behavior scared me and so, I said anything I could to try to control his behavior. To try to get him to change his behavior. And when I did that, I had immediate regrets. It took me a couple days to remember that the self hatred I felt–the lingering yuckiness that wouldn’t go away–came from a place that I was running away from, that I didn’t want to deal with–letting go of control and losing my son. Once I realized that, I was able to reset my goals and start approaching what I fear slowly. I was also able to forgive myself.
Fears come and they go. But the more we learn the stronger and smarter we become when it’s time again to face new fears.
Once we can do that, then we are truly able to look ourselves, the deeper, more profound side of ourselves, and be ok with what we see.
So…spend time this week meditating on what you might be running away from. Are there things about you or others you don’t want to see? Look at them, even though they might scare you. The more you get to know these hidden places, the more you can face them and deal with them and know whether or not they are hurting you or helping you.