It is often said that we are our biggest critics and I have yet to find that untrue. We critique ourselves about both little and big things; from our hair, to our weight. We know they come from comparing ourselves to other people on TV, in magazines, or from our friends on social media. Sometimes the people we love give us (backhanded) compliments and it makes things worse.
Sometimes it’s not all about the physical attributes that make us keep comparing ourselves. What if we critique ourselves on a deeper level? Critique ourselves so badly that it becomes internalized hatred?
I have an extremely hard time accepting all the parts of who I am, currently, like my disability and my mental illness and my looks as well as who I used to be. I become embarrassed and attempt to outrun whatever it is that I don’t like to be reminded of. I tend to believe I am the culmination of my mistakes/failures. Trying not to believe that any longer is a lot harder than it sounds.
I started this line of thinking around five, when I first realized I was in a wheelchair and no one else in my environment was. From that point on, I’ve felt that something was wrong with me. It became a very emotional time and continued that way for a long time. I blamed myself for something that had absolutely nothing to do with me. I didn’t feel as good or as pretty as people who were able. I felt less than and around that time I don’t think anyone paid attention to my feelings or knew how to fix how I felt. Every time I came across something that able people could do that I couldn’t, I internalized that as a deeply ingrained level of hatred. I hated that I felt that way so I picked on myself about feeling that way. It was a terrible cycle.
In 2011, when I was diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder and Anxiety, I blamed myself for that as well. Isn’t there already enough wrong with you? I thought. It was not a good time. Now, half a decade later things are a tad different and I’ve learned a lot. However, that doesn’t mean, I don’t feel guilty about what I felt like I did wrong during that time. When I was mean to my friends I felt like I “broke or “ruined” them for other people, I apologized and they’d forgive me, but I didn’t forgive me. Even now, when I’m reminded of it, I think some of the worse things about myself, (ie: look at the sh*tty gross, undeserving friend you were?!) and because no one can torture you like you torture yourself, it was a bit extreme. None of people who loved me ever said those things, but I felt like they did because depression tells you so. I blamed myself for having depression as well, I was angry that I wasn’t open or honest enough to receive help earlier, but in reality, I was directly and indirectly taught to not deal with those things and just get over it.
There’s a T.D. Jakes quote that goes like this, “When you hold onto your history, you do it at the expense of your destiny.” If I keep bringing my past up as a torture device, I’m never going to forgive myself and it’ll ruin who I’m trying to become. For me, acceptance and forgiveness is a process. I have to learn to see those past reminders as necessary for growth, rather than reflections of my failures. The process is ever continuing and the more that I meet amazing people who accept me as I am right now, the less daunting that the process becomes.
Photo courtesy of Death to Stock Photo