And I’ll get to the now what, I promise. But first, this perspective…
Last week, someone retweeted a column I wrote for the Charlotte Observer for Love Your Body day and I received a note via Twitter saying, “this doesn’t really help if you don’t accept self.”
It was a very good point. Because the truth is, if you don’t decide to formally break up with self-hate, you can’t make it to self-acceptance. You have to burn the road to self-hate. You have to walk away.
What’s that, you say? Of course you are done with self-hate. Of course you know it is wrong, it is bad for you, and you get nothing out of it. Of course, you won’t go back to it. Now, tell you the now what already.
I’m getting there. But, first, can I be honest with you? Your “of course” sounds as certain as mine did after I saw the error of my ways in a relationship or two in my 20s. Oh, I walked away from them, definitely saying, “OF COURSE, I am done.” And I was done. Until the new path I was walking got a little hard or unfamiliar or whatever. And, well, then, we know how that goes, right. He called; I answered. But it is just dinner, I reasoned. But if you say yes to dinner with self-hate, it will eat you for not just lunch, but for breakfast, dinner, and its midday and midnight snacks. Self-hate is ruthless like that. And suffocating. You want to wallow in it for just one night, while you are the only one home on a Saturday night, but that wily mistress moves in while you go pop a bag of popcorn to cuddle up with it on the couch for the night.
Sometimes, we keep self-hate on our speed dial, even when we know better, because she gives us something we don’t get anywhere else: a reason to play small and scared. Self-hate protects us from our wildest dreams. Hating ourselves isn’t the scariest thing we can think of, you see, doing that which we secretly imagine, that which we dream of is the ultimate terror because of so many reasons… people might notice us, they might want to talk to us about it, they might expect more greatness from us, we might even expect it of ourselves, we might be unapologetically happy, we might make others happy, the list goes on and on. And all that stuff is so unfamiliar to us that we opt with what we know: scared, small, and self-hating. So we pretend we don’t use self-hate for a reason, that it is just a crappy state we want of, but we often do use self-hate to keep us small. For now, you don’t have to suss out every reason why you’ve ever used self-hate. For now, you just have to recognize that, in some ways, though you have hated the self-hate, you also yearned for it for some reason so breaking up with it will not be clean and painless.
Like any break-up, you’ll have doubts, and you might regret your decision. What you need to do, though, is have faith that if you stay the course, if you continue on this road to self-acceptance, you’ll see you made the right choice for you. You will know that the voices inside your head that screamed “how audacious of you to believe there is more for you out there; that there is more that you can give” were screaming bad advice. They were not right. The whispers underneath those screams, those whispers that said, “You’ve got this. The world is waiting for you. Keep going” were right all along. Isn’t it funny how whispers are almost always more spot-on than screams? You know why that is? Whispers don’t have to rely on gimmicks to get your attention. Whispers can stand on their truth. Screams are desperate. Self-hate, that punk, is a total screamer. Can you see that now?
Okay, so you have decided to break up with self-hate. Now, it is time to begin your new life. So here are the now whats—all inspired by those very first steps you should take after any break-up.
Pack away the stuff. You know the plaid flannel that feels like his hug when you wear it? The t-shirt that still smells like her? The photographic evidence of your relationship visible at every turn (and on your phone)? All that stuff, gets figuratively and literally packed away after a break up. You have to do the same thing with your self-hate break-up. Pack up- figuratively and literally- all the stuff that keeps you small, scared, or wounded in some way. Pictures of a friend or family member who belittles you all the time need to be out of sight. Your calculus book that still mocks you. Gone. You get the picture. Give your space a negative energy cleanse.
Find your break-up buddy. Call the friend that champions you and tell her that you are breaking up with self-hate. She’s going to tell you that you should have never let that scoundrel into your house/ mind and she’s go glad that you kicked self-hate out. And she’s going to remind you why you are fabulous and why the world needs your brand of fabulousness. And when you waiver, you are calling her right back for an attitude adjustment.
Burn, baby, burn. If steps one and two aren’t enough. It’s time for a more drastic measure. Write self-hate a letter. Explicitly explain every way it wronged you and tell it while you are done- emphatically. And then have a little fire ritual with a candle or the fire place and burn that letter. Let it all go with those flames and smoke. Self-hate’s got nothing on your new spunk.
Celebrate every day of your new life. Count the days of your new life with hearts on your calendar, a scratch pad by your bedside, a gratitude list in your journal. Don’t concentrate on the past, on the days you’ve lost, concentrate on what you are gaining every single day by deciding to arrive straight into you. Bask in it.
So, there, just a few first steps to concentrate on after the self-hate break-up. And just like with any big life decision, you’ll begin to see all sorts of steps that are right for you to take now that you’ve made the decision. You’ll see messages in the books you read (Beautiful You, yes, but so many other fabulous books, too), the conversations you have, the music you listen to, everywhere, really. Follow all the ones that are right for you.
Soon enough, like with every break-up, you’ll forget what you ever liked about self-hate and you’ll marvel at how you ever thought you’d fit in that relationship for life. And you will celebrate what a life without limits looks like.