The loneliness of a loud self-critic.
Have people in your life ever changed as a result of your being increasingly harsh towards yourself?
For me the answer is a big Y-E-S. Resounding, whole hearted, serious yes. Yes a million times over.
People have moved toward me or they’ve moved away from me, actually, totally based on how I am feeling toward myself. Sometimes I’ve watched it happen before my very eyes and sometimes I’ve only noticed retrospectively, when I look back and realize someone I have been quite close to is no longer there.
I want to talk about the particular kind of isolation that constant dissatisfaction with the self produces. The dissatisfaction can pop up in all kinds of ways, but my historical dissatisfaction has shown up mostly as hunger.
Deep unbridled hunger was the precursor to an entire arsenal of bullshit in my life, but what it was most viscerally, was lonely.
Almost a decade ago I started to diet. At the time, I had a really fun and super nice best friend. She was the kind of friend that always felt like dancing, was really fucking good at dressing up and looking fly, and would pick me up from the airport when a flight came in early or late. She was generous and kind and completely confused by my insistence that I needed a new weight, because she just liked me. Like, thought I was cool and funny and creative and probably didn’t think about my body very much, because up until that point it hadn’t really been a topic of contention or discussion.
As my diet turned into a supremely obvious and bonafide eating disorder, that friend expressed her concern. She called me to check up on me. She asked me what I needed. She still invited me to dress up and go dance, but I never wanted to go anymore. Eventually, she stopped calling.
When I got invited out dancing by this friend, I only thought of my body. I thought of how I’d probably need to eat more if I stayed awake later, how I hated the thought of anyone seeing my body anyway and how I was simply disgusting. I thought about how I didn’t even want to be around myself, how my life was small and boring and just straight up dumb. A good amount of the time when I didn’t go out dancing with my friend I stayed up surfing the internet, hungry and cold in my bed. I thought about how isolated I felt. I wondered what my friend was doing.
I look back at those times, and I miss my friend but I don’t blame her for her graceful exit from my life. My life got small, impossibly small, so small there wasn’t room for a fun lady to take me out on the town and celebrate being alive.
Luckily, as I learned to like myself, new people came into my life.
Because to like yourself, after awhile, takes significantly less energy than the alternative. It is true that at first I fought and pushed and pulled and tried to like myself, and it took focus in the way that hating myself had, but at least there was the benefit of a significant amount more levity in my days. And once I got into the habit of liking myself, I was able to do it like a reflex. I don’t get sucked into a pit of self-love that keeps me from other people, but I did used to hate on myself so hard that I was impossible to be around. Liking myself instantly turned me into a more likable person.
When I like myself, I wake up with a good feeling and get on with my day.
When I like myself, and my partner says I am amazing and he loves me, I get to bask in the feeling of genuinely being loved instead of ruminating at the thought that I just don’t understand why he feels the way he does.
When I like myself, I feel confident about the stuff that I do and can’t wait to share it with people. This makes people excited about what I do, too, and want to participate.
I can go out dancing if I choose, or I can stay home and not feel lonely at all.
I can make my decisions based on my will instead of a fear of being seen.
We are not taught to show up each day feeling deep gratitude for who we are and where we come from. Liking yourself can be an actual thing- a base level place from where you make your decisions- and it is a radical and feminist act, no matter your gender.
A culture of people who like themselves is a culture of people who take risks and make beautiful things.
Liking yourself isn’t about being perfect or happy all the time, but it is both contagious and attractive.
It’s definitely worth the effort.