I woke up bruised and broken. It had happened, again. I was beaten up. This was happening a lot lately. I am telling you this because, well, it’s happening to you too.
What do you do when the thing that assaulted you happen to be your own thoughts? Who do you tell? Who brings justice? Who comes to the rescue when the witness and victim are both you? What do you do when the concussion of thoughts that knocked you out also wake you up?
A sneaky little epidemic has made its way into our lives. It’s a dystopia of the mind, from the mind, and by the mind. And it’s eating away at us, one thought at a time.
It’s called self-hatred.
The 20th century
The 20th century saw more technological and scientific progress since the dawn of civilization. For the most part, people gained the ability to think differently. This opened up a whole new world on thoughts about freedom, the self and the other.
All of this came at a cost.
If the 20th century were a day in the timeline of the earth, it would be both the best and the worst day ever. In the second half of the century, feelings of lost opportunities, broken relationships, dreams that could’ve been, and lives that could’ve lived, started to gnaw at people. What got them through this was a sense of hope and compassion, the very things that were stripped away from them.
Enter the 21st century
We are in, data-backed, the most peaceful time in human history. Yet, there’s one raging war that cannot be measured with data. A war that has broken out inside our heads: A myriad opportunities and we don’t know what to do. A million connections and we feel alone. Bigger dreams and we still feel small. So much more money and we have never been so insecure. Lives that can become, yet we aren’t living.
How did it come down to this?
First, it’s not all debris and despair. We are doing okay. It’s just that somewhere along the way to the 21st century, we ran out of things to blame. The world found its feet and it could no longer be the reason we fell. So, we turned our attention to ourselves. We became the center of the universe. And every time we fell off the center, we began to wonder where we are going wrong.
Self-hatred, in essence, is the empty, loopy, beaten and bruised ephemera of hopelessness.
The Dalai Lama was left dumbstruck when someone asked him why there was so much self-hatred in the world. Apparently, he couldn’t even fathom something like that could exist.
You may be reading this and thinking, “I don’t hate myself! I am the love of my life! The universe is the center of me!” Well, you have a different problem then. A bigger one. But, if you are unsure if the self-hate parasite has latched onto your brain, let me show you how it looks.
Yesterday I snapped at mum. Five minutes later, I felt terrible. Normally, an apology should follow, right? Not here. Nothing here is normal. Instead, I was thinking about why I snap so often. Then I thought about how there’s no point writing all this shit if I can’t even be humane. Then I felt annoyed about having my mood ruined. Which ruined my mood further. Mom saw me sulking and apologized to me. Instead of feeling better, I felt worse. And in that terrible feeling, I dismissed her apology with a, “yeah okay.” /
If by now, you don’t hate me, I do!
There are many forms of self-hatred. What you saw was the tip of the self-hatred iceberg. At its worst form, self-hatred can make you hate the idea of doing anything.
Where do we go from here?
Classic solutions to self-hate/self-loathing/beating yourself up, have included everything from yelling, “I love myself” a gazillion times every morning (and then throwing up inside your mouth) to internal voice therapy to random acts of kindness every time you feel like shit. As with most self-help solutions, these are half-assed and baseless. The real solution is harder than this. It’s accepting the fact that this is normal and that you don’t have a “problem.”
Back in the days, this is what Buddha called suffering. I’ll spare you a long narrative. The Buddha kinda hated himself for not knowing what was happening in the world. Filled with shock and hatred, he went off to go find a solution to all suffering. He wandered for a long time during which he promptly starved, almost died, sat under a tree, and then declared: “Life is suffering” and felt better.
Self-hatred is not new. It’s how humans made progress in the first place. Some of the craziest wackos that changed the world with their theories and laws and literature regularly hated themselves over repeated failures and a lack of progress (Newton, Da Vinci, every writer on the planet). But, instead of darkly menacing in the self-hatred zone, they kept working away. Or as one famous writer put it, “I would finish writing a book – hate myself for writing a terrible book – and would start writing the next book.”
If you think about it, a lot of the world’s chaos happened only because someone loved one’s own self/cause/idea way too much that they couldn’t rationalize and come to terms with the fact that their cause was wiping out the entire world including the very people that would spread their cause. That’s why you should exercise caution over the loving yourself ideology. Not to mention, liking your own profile pictures.
A better approach is to admit that you are full of shit and that you have problems and some of these problems take time to resolve. You could go two ways from here: you could become a psychopath and destroy everything or become human and see the same humanity in everyone. If you are reading this, I have a strong feeling you know which way to go.
I had to first admit to the fact that snapping at people doesn’t necessarily make me a bad person. Just like apologizing doesn’t make me a weak person. Most importantly, I had to come to terms with the fact that forgiving myself doesn’t mean that I was getting off the hook easy or that I am turning into a psychopath and will soon start blowing up buildings.
You have been told not to make the same mistake again and again. That’s the exact recipe for self-hate. Because most often, you are beating yourself up over a repeated mistake. A better approach is to change your reaction to every repeating mistake. Instead of wallowing in self-hate and wondering how your life is imploding after each mistake, acknowledge the mistake and change the way you react to it.
First time? You just made a mistake and it happens.
The second time? You fall into the self-hatred pit – that happens too.
Third time is a charm. So walk it off, Princess.
The fourth time? Apologize (even if it’s to yourself; you are most harmed by this after all).
The fifth time: Talk to someone.
The sixth time? Understand why and when you do this.
The seventh time? Check if there’s a pattern.
The eighth time: Go a week/month consciously trying not to make the same mistake
The twenty-fifth time: Okay, you just may be a psychopath.
Breathe out the fire, Dragon
Self-hatred spawns a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. It’s the most terrible way to give up.
Self-hate is a fire burning inside you. You can acknowledge it, tame it, use it as the light that helps you get out of the dark tunnel. Or you fuel it with more hateful thoughts, poke at it, and spit at it and let it slowly burn you alive.
We love like immortal beings, saving it up for an irredeemable later. We hate like we are mortal, like we may pass on without hating enough.
You may be cracked. We all are. You don’t need a new you. You need a new mirror.