Everyday I put effort into improving myself. I am always pursuing goals of personal betterment. I seek to make myself smarter, stronger, healthier, wiser, to use my time in more meaningful ways.
My drive to improve comes from a deep-rooted self-loathing. Writing these words is about the most open and honest I have ever been. I cannot remember a time I’ve ever liked myself, and I know I’ve never felt self-love. But I also wonder, do most people feel this way? Are most people fundamentally dissatisfied with themselves, even if it doesn’t descend to self-hatred?
There’s a test I’ve come up with: Look into a large mirror. Look into your own eyes as if they belonged to someone you’ve known your whole life. Now, can you say, with complete conviction, “I love you”?
In fact, many times, I find I can barely make eye contact and I’m all too eager to whisper, “I hate you.” Because it’s true. I am not a person I like.
So, I’m on a continuous mission to become better in every way I can think of. But now I wonder if this mission is not causing more problems. I have a lot of goals and expectations for myself. The sheer volume of aspirations means I fail a lot. And each time I fail to measure up to my own hopes for myself, the disappointment validates my self-loathing.
Listen, I know I’m an introvert with self-esteem issues. I know this sort of emo-esque honesty is not attractive. That’s why I don’t talk about this. I’ve been lying to you all. And I just wanted to stop hiding, and put the truth of myself out there. Self-esteem is an aspect of self-respect and I firmly believe respect must be earned. And I haven’t earned my own.
I would really like to hear from anyone and everyone reading this. Do you feel this way about yourself? Are you someone that can say “I love you” to yourself? Where does your self-love come from and how do you maintain it?
I was reading an unrelated article on the Harvard Business Review Blog and saw this article, titled “The Right Way to Speak to Yourself“, linked in the sidebar. It is a fascinating counter-point to this post. Now that I’ve read it, I feel like I have valid reasons for celebrating my successes and for forcing myself not to dwell on my mistakes and failures.
If you’re struggling with the issues I talked about in this post, definitely read the article.
Reflection Judges the Man
I’ve known you for a lifetime,
Each moment I’ve evaluated you
Measured you against the lowest line,
Hoping to see just good enough.
Each day, you deliver
Yet another failure.
That’s 9,626 ways you’ve disappointed.
9,626 reasons you’re hated.
Now you won’t meet my eyes,
Your dignity is only lies.
The truth of this glass is a realization:
As a man, you’re less than a reflection.