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So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about hating yourself lately and it goes something like this….
You’re mentally replaying a conversation you had with with a close friend earlier that evening. Someone who’s been going through an incredibly tough time. Someone you adore and want to support, as best as you can.
You listen, quietly passing tissues, with a hand on her shoulder.
You attempt to conjure up the exact words or antidote for her pain and suffering. Words that will make a difference… Only you choke with the intensity of her emotions and come up completely blank.
And now it’s 4am and you can’t sleep because you’re overanalyzing the crap out of this situation with an enormous magnifying glass, focused firmly on all the things you could have said that you never said and all the things you could have done but you never did. Because surely, that’s what a better friend would have done? That’s what a wiser, spiritually evolved human being would have managed.
And before you know it, you’re recalling all the other times you fell short of your own sky- scrapingly high expectations.
Every moment that you wished you had done better becomes a mental kaleidoscope; torturous evidence of your many personal failings.
And just like that, it’s 4:24am and you’re trapped in your own self fulfilling prophecy of inadequacy, disgust and wretched self-loathing.
Does any of this sound at all familiar?
I’m going to guess that it does.
Our mind has a tendency to take us down some pretty dark paths when left unsupervised.
If we allow our thoughts to roam without supervision and direction, they will naturally gravitate towards the darker recesses of the mind. The parts where self-hatred, self-criticism and anxiety reign supreme.
According to neuropsychologists; that’s how it is for everyone. Our brains cling to negative thoughts and experiences like velcro, while positive thoughts have a tendency to just slip away (especially in the middle of the night when you’re fatigued…at least in my observation).
So what can we do?
We can practice honing our awareness so we can recognize when unhelpful thoughts are taking over and gently shift their direction.
Choosing curiousity over self criticism helps a bunch too!
Here’s a working example:
Imagine I’m having the thought that I’m useless and I hate myself…
Right there in that moment, is where we can make the choice to stop and pause. Pause before allowing our thoughts to run away like an unsupervised 4 year old in a candy store.
Because what’s more accurate is “I’m having the thought that I’m useless and hate myself”. And what’s even closer to the truth is “Oh look, I just noticed that I had that thought again. I’m having a thought right now that I’m useless and I hate myself”.
In this instance, you can see that I’m not trying to change the negative thought to something positive (you can read why I think positive affirmations are often a bunch of hoo-ha right here). I’ve just become more accurate about my relationship to that thought.
And what happens when I add that little bit in front of ‘I’m useless and I hate myself’ to “ Oh look, I just noticed that I had that thought again; it takes the toxicity out of it.
So, the thought’s still there, but I’m no longer identifying with it so closely. The emotional impact lessens and I’m no longer allowing myself to be defined by my thoughts.
Take it from someone who has been hateful and hard on themselves for many years. This practice has been an ally in many of my darkest hours and I truly hope it helps you too.
I recommend that you go back and read these words out loud, so you can really get a feel for this practice, and personalize it so that it works for you.
Being able to love ourselves is a beautiful notion, but some days accepting and respecting ourselves is just as powerful and, really, it’s the right place to begin.
Be your own best friend,
This practice was inspired by the work of Byron Katie. You can dig deeper here http://www.byronkatie.com/