Do you like yourself?
I don’t. I don’t remember over having done so. Even as a small child I can remember telling my mum that if I were someone else, I wouldn’t be friends with me. I was seven years old, and already convinced that I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t understand when my mum got upset, but I hated seeing her cry, so I never mentioned it again. But I never stopped thinking it. Even when I wasn’t in the grips of depression, I still hugely disliked the person I was. Of course, I realise that depression magnified these feelings, and that past experiences definitely contributed to low feelings of self worth, but I always thought that this baseline ‘dislike of self’ was normal.
During a chat with a friend one day I said “nobody likes themselves” (or something similar – I don’t understand how people can quote conversations word for word months/years after the fact!). His reply that this wasn’t true, that most people were at least ok with themselves even if they weren’t completely in love, startled me. Subsequent conversations about the idea of self worth have been a revelation. I had never really thought about how extreme my thoughts about myself were. It was when I started unpacking them, thinking about the whys, and trying to think things through rationally, that I realised that this was a big problem for me.
Once, at an appointment, out of the blue, my counsellor shared something with me. Based on our past conversations, she’d written a list of positive things about me. As she read them, I felt tears begin to fall, and I couldn’t make them stop. When she asked me why I was crying, I couldn’t answer. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then, and I’m still not entirely sure why I got so upset, but I know it had quite a bit to do with my own attitude to myself. This is something I’ve been working on a lot lately. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Changing thought processes takes time, and a lot of hard work. It’s a huge struggle to maintain the level of effort needed to make lasting changes. And I fall short a lot of the time. But I am working on it.
I know that the way I feel is pretty extreme, and that not everyone feels like I do. However, through conversation, I have discovered that a lot of people seem afraid to like themselves (or at least to admit to liking themselves). We’re told by society that it is wrong to think ‘too much’ of ourselves. Being accused of loving oneself is seen an insult. Girls (and boys…and women and men) stand in front of the mirror, listing all the things that are ‘wrong’ with their bodies. Job interviews are a struggle to find a balance between showing our strengths and selling ourselves, and being self depreciating enough to avoid the appearance of boasting.
Of course, I do realise that there is a line between liking who you are and thinking that you’re the best and most important person in the world. Narcissism is a hugely unattractive personality trait. But it would be great if more people felt that it was ok to openly think and say positive things about themselves.
So. Have a think. Do you like yourself? Are you at least ok with yourself? Do you automatically put yourself down? Or do you see the good in yourself (as well as the bad – nobody’s perfect!). Also, do you allow the people around you the space to feel good about themselves? If you’re a parent, or spend time around children, it is especially important to model this kind of behaviour. It’s much easier to develop a good self image as a child, and retain it, than to change thought patterns as an adult. And how a person views themself can have either a negative or positive effect on how they live their life. Believe me, I know.