“In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act”. Author unknown.
I am 45 years old. I have spent most of those 45 years not liking myself. I can relate to the self self doubt and even self hate train as much as anyone else that has ever lived, and I can honestly say that that self deprecation has driven many, if not most or all of decisions I have made through my life. I am not alone in this regard. In fact, it is estimated that “self help” is a 10 to 11 billion dollar a year industry with services ranging from books and audio to online streaming and even life coaching. I know I have personally contributed to that and have numerous half read self help books on my shelves to show for it. None of which really seemed to light me up. Every where you look, there are books and products that would suggest that there is something wrong with you and that you need this book or that product to be a better person. Even religion, and in particular Christianity, implies that as humans we are inherently flawed and need something (in Christianity’s case – Jesus as Savior) to redeem us – something we are incapable of doing on our own. It’s a message that we get from early on and hear time and again through life. Is it any wonder that many of us, myself included, grow up thinking less of ourselves than we should? No, it isn’t. People spending 10-11 billion dollars a year on self help is a good indication that this is an epidemic.
A year and a half ago I found a self help approach that finally took hold. I hired a life coach. I did it with the intent of again improving myself – but originally it was an attempt within the confines of my vision of myself – which wasn’t good. I had very little expectation of myself and wasn’t really sure what I would accomplish. I was striving to be better because I didn’t like who or where I was in life but had very little confidence in myself that I would actually ever really “improve” long term. I was simply trying to alter circumstance to make my misery more manageable. But what I have ultimately altered is the lens through which I view myself and it has been life changing. I have spent the last year and half spending a lot of time working on liking – no – LOVING myself. I found a coach who shifted things from “fixing myself” to “embracing myself”. While I still have moments of old thought patterns, in large part I have been successful at learning to embrace who I am regardless of circumstance and it has certainly changed my outlook on life. And I now consider myself a rebel. I reject society’s message that I am somehow not good enough. I am enough. And that idea is so freeing.
I used to push myself to accomplish things out of some need to “prove” myself worthy because deep down I didn’t feel very worthy. One such area I did this was in endurance sports. I have done a marathon. I have done a century (100 mile) bike ride in the mountains around Lake Tahoe. I have done numerous triathlons. All in my former “I hate myself” life. All are incredible accomplishments but I never really allowed myself to just celebrate them because there was always a voice in the back of my head that told me, ‘yeah but”. “But” it was really slow. “But” you finished in the bottom 10 percent. “But” it isn’t enough to prove yourself. All symptoms of the self hate flu. Due to a variety of life incidents, it had been a few years since my last event when I hired my life coach and I spent the first year just working on getting some weight off and getting back into a fitness routine. This last weekend I participated in my first “event” since my life shift. It was the shortest race I have ever done – but I did my absolute best and finished in a time under the goal I had set for myself. It was slow. It was in the bottom 10 percent. But I didn’t care. I was simply happy with my decision to try, happy with my effort and happy with my results. Despite it being short and despite not being in the kind of shape I was in before I have to say it was my best race ever – because I HAD FUN and celebrated it rather than ruminating over negative self deprecating thoughts. It was after this race that I really understood just how much of a shift in thinking I have accomplished – It was pure self love at the finish line and it was a great feeling. I did it because I wanted to and because I enjoyed it – not because I needed to prove myself and that is a BIG difference.
This is just one example of how freeing actually liking yourself if. It has altered my perspective on life. It has altered my decision making (I now make decisions with myself at the center). It has altered my interactions with others. It has increased my capacity for joy and fun. I like being a rebel. My advice to you is to do the same. Buck the message, be a rebel and like – no LOVE yourself. The best part is, loving yourself is free.