“The bad thing about not liking myself is not being able to get away from myself. I can’t just go into the next room.”
Anna was being her usual witty self when she made that comment in my office but, sadly, she meant it. Also sad is the fact that a multitude of people feel the exact same way. How can that be? How does that happen?
It’s acquired. Self-loathing isn’t part of the package when we’re born. We don’t come out of the womb disliking ourselves. We learn it—the result of how we were treated as children. I wrote about this in a column a few years back titled The Bent Twig. The column begins with a painful incident I witnessed between a mother and her little girl in a department store. It still haunts me. You can read it here.
As for Anna, her mother was a mother biologically, solely. Maternal she wasn’t. That is, she was minimally nurturing and minimally involved with her daughter. Understandably, Anna, saw herself as an inconvenience and therefore unworthy of being liked. To some extent, she carries that conclusion around yet today. She’s making progress, though, in turning it around completely.
This is what happens: we form an opinion about ourselves as a result of early life experiences—a self-image—that really isn’t accurate. So what we end up despising is who we think we are, not our innermost reality. In short, our true self gets buried beneath layers of lies we have bought into about ourselves.
How to change this? A quote immediately comes to mind—a Wow!—by Brad, another client. Like Anna, he’s familiar with self-loathing—he’s been there. Here’s what he said:
“The brain is a fertile chunk of ground so anything we plant up there is going to grow.”
Brad’s statement suggests that we can take charge of our thoughts—the seeds that perpetuate a negative or positive self-image.
It’s good to know that the false notions we learned about ourselves can be unlearned. I say we start by disbelieving the debris of lies we’ve taken ownership of.
Names have been changed to honor client confidentiality