Trade Loathing for Love
“I feel like I ruin everything.”
Anxiety steamrolled my dear friend again, and she ended up alone in the car, instead of enjoying the view with her family. I replied, “If your husband had cancer and tried to climb the stairs but had to stop because he just couldn’t due to his health, would you feel like he ruined it?” “No.” Of course not! We give others grace where we give ourselves judgment and hate.
Many of us started thinking lowly of ourselves when we were kids—the negative opinions of authority figures becoming our inner voice. Trauma can also plant the seeds of self-hatred with the guilt and shame that often follow, whether you endured abuse, combat, or another traumatic event. Maybe that whisper (or shouting) in your brain is new, something that grew out of the limitations and struggles you face now due to your health.
Shame can actually be healthy—a protective function that helps us learn from mistakes. However, shame that festers and turns into self-hatred is toxic. It’s that voice that tells you’re a failure. You’re letting everyone down. You’re ruining everything. You’re not worthy. You’re not good enough. These thoughts are a black fog draped heavily over everything, hiding the rays of joy that try to shine.
Understanding where that voice is rooted is the first step to healing and trading self-loathing for self-love. Many people find professional counseling helpful in the process of identifying and mending these parts of our hearts and psyche. Religion, building healthy friendships, and self-help books are a few other things that can help some people.
Want to trade your self-loathing for love? Here are some tips that you can start doing now.
1. Have a “power word” (or short phrase) to use as a mute button for that toxic inner dialogue. When those negative thoughts start, this word will be something you can say loudly in your head (or out loud) or write down as a counter-attack against those thoughts. It should be something that has meaning to you and represents what you desire for yourself. Some ideas: love, respect, empowered, grace, enough.
2. Let it go, let it go, that perfect girl is gone! No one is perfect; even that cousin who is always posting fabulous photos on social media! Don’t forget that social media is a highlight reel. We have no idea what struggles are going on in their behind-the-scenes and outtakes. No one never yells, only serves from-scratch gourmet meals, never gets behind on chores…. We don’t Instagram frozen chicken nuggets (on paper plates because your sink is piled with dishes), right? (We really should… I challenge you to share of glimpse of your reality with someone, whether on social media or in person!)
3. My go-to advice when someone says something self-loathing to me is to ask them, “What would you say to a good friend if they said to you what you just said to me?” Learn to speak to yourself the same way you would speak to someone you love—because you deserve your love! If your shame and self-loathing have roots in a difficult childhood, it is especially powerful to picture that little kid version of you and how you would speak to them. Speak with that kindness and compassion now to the grown-up you.
4. If your self-loathing is rooted in mistakes you’ve made, begin the hard work of forgiving yourself. Perhaps your health issues stem from poor choices you made. Maybe you’ve allowed your legitimate limitations to become excuses for a poor attitude or laziness. Remember what I said in tip #3? Speak to yourself like you would a cherished friend who seeks forgiveness—with honesty, kindness, compassion, and grace.
5. Try the “3 C’s”: Catch, Check, Change. 1. CATCH the negative thought. 2. CHECK it. Running it by a trusted friend or a therapist can help if you feel you can’t be objective. Is the thought true? Rational? 3. CHANGE it. Trade the negative thought with a positive, grace-filled one. For example, “I’m a terrible wife because I’m behind on laundry again. I can’t do anything right.” This can be flipped to, “I’m really struggling with pain this week, so I’m behind on laundry. That’s okay. I’m doing my best.”
You ARE enough. I hope you can believe that someday.
Do you struggle with self-loathing? Which tip do you want to try this week? Do YOU have a tip to share with our readers that has helped you trade loathing for love?
Resources: mentalhealthresource.blogspot.com, goodtherapy.org