Loneliness makes self-hatred a lot worse.
It’s so hard to talk about it. Most of the time I was single, it felt like an enormous, inescapable part of the reason I was miserable and hated myself so much is because I was alone, and had been for a while, after a string of failed relationships. When I talk to people going through something similar, it’s an extremely common sentiment: I already struggle with serious anxiety and my own fucked-up self-image; being inescapably single heightens that for me and throws my inability to be worthwhile to anyone into sharp relief. Maybe they’ve been alone for a few years, or have straight-up never held on to something for more than a month or two, but either way it’ll lead to a question destined to send the self-hating into a bottomless tailspin:
Why the fuck doesn’t anyone want me?
But it’s not so much the question itself as it is the immediate answer, which will sometimes echo for what feels like months, every time you have a fresh opportunity to answer the question. Every time a date goes poorly, every time it’s the weekend and your apartment is empty, maybe every time you look in the mirror.
I know why nobody fucking wants me.
I’m so fucking fat.
I look fucking terrible.
I’m a miserable fucking drunk.
I’m a depressing person to be around.
I’m an enormous fucking failure.
That’s why nobody wants me.
The allure of romance for someone dealing with self-hatred is obvious, and it isn’t always completely out of reach even if you’re lying in a pile at the bottom of a pit. You meet someone, you feel something, they feel something, somehow. Though you can hardly believe it, suddenly you have someone in your life. Someone who validates you by having chosen you, someone who really can see your real quality. That solves that problem, right? It answers that question. You don’t have to answer it anymore. Who wants me? This person wants me. This one person at least.
It will topple your defenses in an instant. Your self-hatred will build up a callous toward unending loneliness over time; “I deserve to be alone. Nobody’s capable of seeing the miniscule amount of good in me; I’m not worthy of their attention to begin with” but that’s all just a castle made of sand, something you tell yourself to make it easier to stay on the couch.
This one person wants me. This one person at least.
There are films and books and songs that elevate this concept into epoch-spanning romance, and it’s easy to see why – it plays into all sorts of social concepts, like “soulmates”, people who were “meant” to be together because so much of their lives changed during their relationship, that sort of thing. But I think for people dealing with paralyzing self-hatred, we run the real risk of that simple phrase unlocking a painful and destructive cycle that can really fuck everything up.
That cycle immediately reveals the flaw in this kind of thinking: you’ve decided that you’re now potentially worth something because this person sees value in you. So that means if they ever leave, you’re worthless again – which gives you a completely fucked-up incentive to keep that relationship going. Things get ugly and shitty very quickly. Anxiety spikes. Jealousy and bitterness and passive-aggression manifest themselves in frightening ways. A shrieking wretch, clinging to a lie. All those beautiful feelings turn to ash, with this terrifying conclusion:
“The one person who saw my worth has finally figured out the truth.”
And then down you go, sinking into the bottle, the food, the drugs, the anger, the void. It’s a destructive, sometimes fatal cycle.
Here’s the problem: relationships that function are, inherently, partnerships. We’ve decided we love each other enough to try and fight our way through this treacherous life together, and that means your number one role is to support your partner. That sounds easy, but it isn’t. I think you need at least a little bit of strength and a hint of confidence in yourself order to give a committed partner the kind of full-hearted, often painful and difficult emotional support that makes healthy long-term relationships last. I think that’s true for most people.
And I think when I was at the bottom of the abyss, floating around in the muck of self-hatred, I didn’t have the strength for it in the first place. I was doomed to repeat that cycle again and again because I kept trying to fill the void with someone else’s feelings instead of my own.
It’s so hard to say this. It’s embarrassing when I think about previous relationships and how tightly I held on to what was clearly failing because of what it would mean about me. I feel like I can see clearly now, but when the haze of self-hatred clears, it’s important to be honest with yourself and take responsibility for it, otherwise you went through all that shit for nothing.
I share it here because that cycle is painful and terrible, and I’ve had conversations with people throughout my life living through various stages of it, and I think a lot of people deal with this shit in silence, either unaware of the cycle they’re in or unwilling to confront it out of fear. It’s a small step, but here are a few simple things I told myself that helped me deal with this:
You are not alone.
Your value is inherent and entirely inside of you already, even if it feels like it isn’t right now, even if your mind's eye can't see it at all. I promise you that’s where it is.
Life is complex, painful, confusing, beautiful and completely impermanent, and thus, so are relationships.
All three of those things together really helped me break this cycle. If you’re trapped in it, I hope from the bottom of my heart that this helps you in some small way make sense of this shit. Good luck.