I Hate Me + bonus poem “Reflection Judges the Man” [updated]

[jump to update]

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”?

I can’t.

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?

Update 09.02.12

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.

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9 thoughts on “I Hate Me + bonus poem “Reflection Judges the Man” [updated]

  1. That makes me so sad. I wish you could see yourself as others see you. You are such a wonderful person, so smart, funny, loving, thoughtful. I doubt there is anyone who has met you who doesn’t admire you in some way. You are way too hard on yourself. Maybe you need to look at it differently. Instead of expecting so much of yourself and being disappointed if things don’t always work out, try finding a few things every day that you are proud of yourself for. I am proud of you every day. I love you.

    • Thanks, Momma.

      I was dreading you reading this. But I’m very tired this week and I just thought it would feel good to be honest about something I’ve been carrying with me for as long as I can remember.

      I love you. I’ve been consciously trying to celebrate my successes. But they seem so meager compared to my shortcomings…

    • Momma is correct. We write. Q? You must choose to teach, as you inspire me

      • Teach, eh? I enjoy teaching. I’m a tutor right now, actually. And I feel really good about myself when I’m doing that.

        Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. I don’t see what might be inspiring about me right now, but I’m glad that I can be a positive influence.

  2. I know exactly how you feel, because that is exactly how I felt for a very long time–most of my life, until about 3 years ago. I still can’t look myself in the eyes and say “I love you”, but I’ve come to the point where I can accept love from other people. I can at least look myself in the eyes now and say, “You are loved, and that is as it should be.” Where I’m at now is the happiest and the most secure in myself that I’ve ever been.
    Really, the only thing I have to lean on, the only reason I have not to hate myself for all my failings and shortcomings, the only hope I’ve ever got for being better than I am now, is knowing that God loves me. God loves me lavishly, extravagantly, completely, a million times more than I love my own daughter, which blows my mind because good gracious, do I ever love that girl. God loves me regardless of my performance, no matter what I do or don’t do, whether I try and succeed or try and fail or don’t try at all. God loves me unconditionally, with a one-way sort of love that doesn’t require reciprocity–which is great, because reciprocating that love would be just another thing for me to fail at.
    If God loves me, that is empirical proof to me that I am, in fact, lovable, that love is for me and not just all those other “worthy” people. It is evidence of the truth that I am, indeed, made in the image of God, that I have God’s Spirit and God’s Self in my very makeup, and if those things are true, who am I to demean a person whom God has deemed so valuable? It’s a humbling thought, but humbling not in a degrading way–humbling in an awe-inspiring, joyous, freeing, looking-up-at-the-night-sky-in-the-country-and-seeing-a-universe-you-forgot-existed sort of way. I don’t really know how to explain it any better than that–I just feel free, and happy, and finally okay being me.
    (Sorry for the novel…..get me started and look what happens….)

    • Jan, thank you. It is beautiful, and I’m glad you were able to find that fulfilling belief.

      I can accept the love of others, to a degree, I think. But I’m all too aware that I know myself better than they do. I can accept that they love me based on what they know. But I can sense the disappointment that would descend if they knew my truths.

      I too am basically the happiest I’ve ever been. I have my anxiety under control and I’m becoming more social. But the patterns of my relationship with myself are so ingrained. I know the person I want to be, the person I should be. How can I be happy with myself while I am less than that?

  3. I doubt if one can ever truly say ‘I love you’ to oneself, as ‘I’ and ‘you’ are one and the same here. You can love someone else (or something else), but to love yourself would implicate entering a strange loop, where subject is object. What you really love (or don’t love) is your self-image, which is not necessarily you. Your experiment with the mirror makes this even more clear: it’s an image that you’re looking at, it’s not you. To stress this even further: when others love you it’s primarily the image they have of you, which they love (for noone can really look inside your head and completely grasp your essence). So, how come other people do love you, while you don’t? Obviously, because their image differs from yours. Since nobody (not even you, as we just saw) can say which of these images is the ‘real’ you, why not go for the loveable one? It’s a choice, just like it is a choice to be harsh on yourself. I don’t think the latter is necessary. I don’t really know you, but from what I’ve read I would say you’re a sympathetic and good guy. Most certainly not someone to hate. Though this is only my image of you, I just can’t believe the opposite is true.

    • Wow. Thank you for your comment. You obviously put some thought into your response and I appreciate it.

      To respond, I feel like I’d have to derail the conversation into differing definitions of love as well as the semantics of my post versus the meaning of my post. Suffice it to say that I definitely see your key point: to change my feelings about myself, just choose to see myself as others see me, as someone worth liking.

      I run into a dilemma, though. How do I choose to just ignore the shortcomings I’m aware of? I feel like I’d be lying to myself and that I’d be doing myself a disservice if I just chose to become oblivious to the ways in which I’m not as good as I could be. Is it better to live in happy ignorance? Is it better to delude myself into thinking I am good enough?

      This is an idea I am tackling in my next post actually. Is naivete any better than ignorance?

  4. For any still following this post, it was pointed out to me that I can avoid a lot of the disappointment in myself if I just view myself as a work in progress. The idea is that I haven’t failed because I still have a chance to edit who I am. I like this idea, and I’m going to try to keep it in mind.

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