I hate myself! I shouldn't be like this. I shouldn't like this. I shouldn't want this. I can't pursue this. I'm not worthy of this. I can't be like him/her/them. I don't look right. I don't think right. I don't act right. I'm not disciplined enough to be different. I hate myself! How could anyone like me?
I've lived most of my life carrying this inner refrain, echoing through the empty spaces, whenever I gave myself room to think. The other day Nick and I were talking about identity and insecurity.
Nick: I'm not sure I like myself.
Me: But I like you very much!
Nick: I know.
(A brief pause occurs as I suddenly realize I can't say what I had been about to say: "I struggle with liking myself, too.")
Me: in an awed voice You know what? I just realized I like myself!
Now, let me re-interpret that inner voice from the past, based on the rest of our conversation and my continued thoughts on this discovery. I have been told by many that who I am is unacceptable.
Others think I shouldn't be like this, and attack me for it. Others think I shouldn't like this and laugh at me. Others think I shouldn't want this and judge me. Others don't want me to pursue this and maybe they're right. Others suggest I'm not worthy and they ought to know. Others act differently than I do, maybe it's because they're better than me. Others accept people who look different from me, probably because those looks are better. Others think differently from me and expect me to think the same as them. Others act differently from me and I don't know how to imitate them. Others hate who I am, and so I should hate myself, too.
Realization: Others find it easy to be different from me ... because they actually are different people. I like people who are themselves, but I don't always want to be them. And I definitely don't want them to be me, because then they wouldn't be who they are!
Did I ever hate ME?... Did I ever really hate who I am?
Or did I just hate the obvious gap between who I was and what others seemed to expect of me?
I don't think I even looked directly at myself during all those years. Not clearly. Not without obstruction.
I could only see who I wasn't. And of course that's a hateful perspective. It's completely negative and also blocks any glimpse of the positives.
I set myself up to lose by only seeing negative contrasts ... and so I lost myself.
From the very beginning, however, my favorite moments in life were the moments where I was secretly me. The ones where nobody knew to judge me, because they didn't see me being me. And sometimes, rare and beautiful, the moments where someone appreciated me being myself. I collected them like treasures.
Sitting tucked beneath the library window, reading in the midst of shimmering dust motes, thinking my own thoughts where nobody could see. Escapes hidden in the branches of a tree, dreaming of the sky. Reaching out and becoming the unexpected gift of presence to a friend who hadn't known that I could be there for them in that way. Times I spoke from the depths of my existence, and my voice was heard with surprised appreciation.
These were the times when I let myself out of the box of my inability to be someone else. Moments like deep gasps of air that kept me alive until I learned to choose to be me out of all the smothering possibilities I couldn't absorb.
Now that I think about it, the person I hated ... the part I hated the most ... was the part who tried to be anyone else but myself. That "person who would never succeed at not being me" hurt me deeply by not being me. Believing the lies about who I should be damaged me.
I couldn't see that it was okay to be myself because I was surrounded by people who would hurt me for that, too. Even when others valued me, it took years to realize I could believe them.
These days I'm experimenting to learn how to be myself. It's sometimes hard to know what is really me, because I spent so much of my time trying to stop that reality. One thing I'm discovering, though ...
I really like who I am! It's amazing.
Those moments that shine?... I have them all the time, now.
And, looking back,... being accepted as myself marks the times I've always valued. Being accepted as someone else always felt fake, which was part of why it was so painful to not be me. That I secretly liked who I am is probably why I could never really eliminate myself entirely.
I'm so thankful to the maker of meaning for my intrinsic design.
I'm glad I exist, because I have value and love to offer those who need me.
I'm amazed at and grateful for who I am becoming.
I like myself!
Wow ... who would have guessed I could ever say this? I can't even type those words without tears filling my eyes.