This isn’t an overwhelmingly positive entry – it’s a little raw but I wanted to talk about one of the hardest lessons I had to learn while tearing myself apart over the last year or so, namely just how full of shit I was for a big chunk of my life.
Upfront that sounds like hyperbolic self-hating garbage, and there’s definitely a version of this you tell yourself when you’re mired in self-hatred, but you don’t really mean it deep down. Like the idea that none of your friends ever really want you to visit, it’s one of those generic little sentiments, a vain lie that floats around in your general consciousness when you hate yourself enough.
But I really was deluding myself – in some really uncomfortable ways, and I think a lot of people who deal with sincere self-hatred also tell themselves stuff like this. Maybe some of it will feel familiar to you.
So I had this idea for a long time that if I cared a lot and really wanted to make positive changes in my life, that was enough. All you have to do is care – repeat to yourself that you care, tell other people you care, performatively care. You can be an alcoholic dump truck full of frozen burritos and diet Mountain Dew but so long as you keep telling yourself that you’re tortured about this stuff, you’re worried, that means you care, or at least it feels like caring, and that means you’re doing something.
It’ll come up in conversation with friends – someone will bring up their exercise routine, and then I’ll launch into my usual “hey, I’m thinking of getting serious about losing weight” talk. That conversation will invariably end in “who could possibly blame me for not having lost this weight yet?”. They’re being polite – hell, maybe they really think you’re trying your best – but they go along with it. I care about it, I’m sitting here telling my friends how much I care about it, how much it bothers me. I make jokes about it, but everyone walks away from the conversation with “hey, you’re doing your best over here!” because that’s how I’ve chosen to frame the entire thing.
‘I’m existentially tortured about this deeply personal problem, which means I’m stressed about it, which means I won’t do anything about it other than sink deeper into depression and self-hatred. That’s okay though – being stressed means I care a lot. Caring a lot means you must be trying your best.” It never manifests this way in your head – it might fall apart if you lay out like that. So you simply justify not actually putting in real effort, because you’re stressed about it. That’s the cycle. That’s what I did for years and years.
These were personal problems, deeply-rooted character flaws that straight-up haunted me into severe depression and a near-fatal health crisis, and I behaved as though it meant something, materially, how stressed out and upset I was over my circumstances. As though that would change things for me.
The only thing that broke this cycle for me, that busted me out of that comfortable little room where worrying was all I ever had to do, was forcing myself to stick to my commitments and go even if I could justify not going a million different ways. I wasn’t really able to break myself out of it just through therapy or thinking about it long and hard, or by giving myself any combination of pep talks – the only solution was actually doing the work. No amount of overthinking this or over-the-top "self-care" helped me at any point in my life – I had to do the work.
But I did it, and I’m still doing it, and it's the only thing that worked in my situation. It might work for you too if you’re trapped in this sort of thing, if you’re stubborn and anxious and depressed and suspect that you might hate yourself a whole lot. You might be like me, that self-hatred is thick and rich and deep and you're gonna have to prove it to yourself that you're capable of change.
You’re absolutely right that it’ll be hard and scary to actually confront this stuff, but don’t give up, because if it's hard and scary and takes time and effort, that means you're actually fixing your problems.
And it feels - and you'll feel this way too - it felt fucking miraculous when I realized "this is what it feels like to actually do something". Your whole life changes. I promise.
Just don’t give up.