Saturday, December 12, 2009

Start a Revolution: Stop Hating Yourself

I hated myself when I was anorexic. I hated myself when I was bulimic. Now that I’m somewhere in between, I’m waiting to feel the love.
“I hate the way my fat jiggles in the mirror when I jump up and down,” Mary, a 50-something woman, tells me after the fitness class I teach.
“Oh me too,” Holly chimes in. She hunches over and grabs her thighs for emphasis, “If I could just lose these flabby tree trunks I’d be thrilled.” This conversation continues between the three women as I listen interestedly.
I’m used to this conversation. I expect this conversation. We hate ourselves or some part of ourselves and talk about it to feel better. This is what we do.
After awhile I say, “I’ve heard this conversation so many times among older women and younger women alike. College-age girls are saying the same things. They hate their thighs, their hair, their personality.” I ask the older women gathered there, “Am I doomed to a life of self-hatred?”
No one says anything for a few moments. Thoughtfully Connie says, “When I look at pictures of myself at 25, I wish I wouldn’t have been so cruel. I looked good. But somehow, I never felt it was never good enough. Now I wish I had that body back.” If we can look back and appreciate who we were or what we had, why can’t we see that now?
When I stopped eating my senior year in high school, I had a small, withering body of skin and bones. But it wasn’t good enough. I believed I was fat and lazy. I just couldn’t see it. Upon adopting bulimia, I believed I lacked self-control and had to throw up what I ate to compensate. I just couldn’t see the truth.
When someone says, “You are beautiful” or “Wow, you are so smart” why do we immediately say, “No, I’m not.” I dare say we aren’t just being modest. If someone praises me for who I am or what I do, I hesitate to accept the compliment because I just don’t see it. I can’t imagine that I actually have something good or worthwhile in me.
Women hate the way they look. They ask, “Am I pretty enough? Will I ever be beautiful and worth loving?” Men hate who they are. Guys feel inadequate, like they’ll never measure up to what the world expects from them. They wonder, “Do I have the strength that it takes? Will I come through when it counts?”
Women want to feel beautiful and men want to feel strong. It all boils down to wanting to feel good enough. What is this voice inside of us that screams, “YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”?
I am a perfectionist in recovery. I’m learning that I do not have to be what I’ve been. Less than perfect does not equal failure. Being human means accepting who I am and where I’m at even if I have zits on face, cellulite, three late assignments, and a laundry list of other things the world may deem as what is “wrong” with me.
So why is it so hard to see that sometimes? Why is so difficult to slightly tolerate, or even like, who we are? Look at the world around you. What about our culture encourages mistakes, foibles, self-love, or self-forgiveness? Humanity is hard to find in a world that seems to favor perfection and rigid standards for living. But we are humanity. We make up the same culture we often despise for its cruelty and injustices.
While changing our opinion of ourselves may feel overwhelming, consider this: Who (if anyone) do you know who loves them self? They are hard to find. I’ve never met someone who seems to be completely content with who they are. Curious, I asked my sister, Ashley, last week, “Do you love everything about yourself?”
Almost immediately she answered, “No. Of course not.” But I’ve never heard her beat herself up the way that I do. The difference: Perfection is not her goal. Instead of joining in on self-defeating discussions—which she could because she has her own insecurities—she makes a conscious decision to try to accept herself anyway, to consider that maybe she’s okay as she is. It isn’t that my sister believes she is perfect, but contributing to the chorus of self-hate has never helped her feel any better, so she’s choosing another path.
You’re worth is not measured in accomplishments, but in cells. You, from the day you were born, were made perfect in every way. Only as life went on did you start labeling yourself as “good” or “bad.” Stop waiting to lose that weight, to ace that test, to get that girl. Surround yourself with good, nourishing people who encourage you to be who you are; nothing more, nothing less. Avoid the influences in your life that force harsh standards, weights, sizes, and performance.
In this way, our culture, humanity, you, can make small steps toward a more accepting world for others and for yourself.
Start a mind-blowing revolution: Stop hating yourself. Because the truth is, you are good enough. You didn’t ask to be born into this world. You weren’t asked if you wanted to live by such harsh standards. Revolution takes times. Always remember: You are everything you need to be because you are human, and that’s enough.

(The Clocktower, November 2009)