So today I have a guest on my blog. A couple of weeks ago my friend Rachel, who I had the pleasure of working with at The Pittsburgh Project a few summers back mentioned on twitter that she was thinking about a writing a post called "From Self Hate to, well, the opposite". Considering the theme of my blog, I was intrigued and asked her if she would let me post it on my blog. She's a great writer and someone I'm proud to call my friend.
You can find her on twitter: @rachelshaeh
And you can read her wonderful blog here: http://rachelshae.wordpress.com/
Thank you, Rachel!
You know that line about pride that usually comes up at Bible studies? The one that goes: "Pride isn't thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less," and every time someone says it everyone else nods and "oohs" and "yeahhhs" and comments on how deep it is. Seriously. Bible studies make me want to break things.
Point being: we've all heard it a billion times. I, however, am a hands-on learner.
So I went through this breakup. It was weird. Surprising, even. I'd just told two close friends how a lot in my life seemed to be going wrong but that relationship was something good and stable, and then the next week I walked out of his house and haven't seen him since. Whoops.
You're familiar with the insecurities-flood following a rejection. Whether from friends, jobs, romantic relationships, schools…whatever. Rejection hurts no matter what form it takes.
I dealt the typical, healthy way: I yelled, drank and danced, moped, sobbed into pillows, played clingy, got angry, drank some more, sought the attention of other men I would likewise never see again, decided all men are idiots, told my insecurities they should shove it, and finally concluded that I am AWESOME and therefore I win. Not sure what I won…
Go ahead and peek at a journal entry from the middle-ish of all this, written after a night full of bad decisions and nothing short of God's protection:
God…what do I do? Why do I do things I know aren't good for me, and I know will push me far away from you? I love you, but I don't act like it. I am two people, trying desperately to fit into one…
What kind of person am I becoming? I think that is another reason to add to my Do-Not-Marry list: he deserves better than me--whoever "he" is. Forgive me for this lie, but it is my emotion at the moment--all I'm worth is the casual[…]Men don't want to date me, they just want as much of me as they can get without giving anything in return.
I threw myself into volunteer work as a distraction, and guess what? When I focused on loving others, I forgot myself. When I forgot to pay attention to the pain and self-loathing, they disappeared. Freely giving allowed me to feel peaceful and loved. Healing exists in service.
While self-hate involves a lot of pain, it's also cripplingly prideful.
A friend of mine rivaled my own mental state. He'd say, "I'm the worst…I have so much sin…I'm such a disgusting person…I felt so close to death when my wife knew everything about me because there's so much wrong with me…"
It angered me to listen to someone so consistently beat themselves up. I realized how suffocating it was to beat myself up. About the same stuff. Over and over.
My recurring insecurities overlap a bit, and revolve around lacking one thing and being "too much" of another--not smart enough, too talkative and loud, not sensitive enough, too blunt, not sharp or clever enough, too crazy and emotional…
I decided to tear them apart by visualizing a sledgehammer. (My dad let me help with construction/demolition projects.)
Part one: Recognize the lies for what they are.
Part two: Focus on my strengths and base my identity in Christ and WHO I AM apart from people's perceptions. My favorite assessment tool is StrengthsQuest. It gives you your top five strengths, and how you can best use them. Whenever I'm feeling beat down, I read over my summary to remind myself that, you know, I'm not half-bad. (Ironically, my strengths all relate to recognizing potential in people and developing their strengths.)
Part three: realize some of those are legitimate faults, and I need to work on them. I think proponents of "healthy self-esteems" wrongly encourage people to love everything about themselves, but that mentality just encourages a self-view of perfection and prevents development and growth.
Because just as loathing yourself is wrong, loving everything about yourself is wrong.
A couple weeks ago, I said something stupid, as per usual, and apologized to some close friends. One response was roughly, "Yeah, sometimes you stress out, sometimes you're too loud, but we tell you grow a pair/quiet down, and then we move on. I love YOU, and those are aspects of your personality but I still like having you around."
So this "unconditional love" thing…it's in spite of who we are, half the time. So all those corny sayings, like "it's not about finding the perfect person, it's about seeing an imperfect person perfectly" are actually kind of true? Huh. Wow. There are probably middle school girls smarter than me, 'cause middle school girls love that stuff. (I just checked: firehotquotes.com still exists. My AIM profile would have been nothing without them.)
I can be over-emotional, I can be too sensitive to people's comments while also being blunt and insensitive in return. I should work on all that.
But my shortcomings don't define me. They don't prevent me from deserving love and respect. They're just another challenge I can work to overcome.
I'm glad I'm me, and I wouldn't want to be anyone else.
I don't love absolutely everything about me because I recognize I have weaknesses.
But I love who God has made me because I know it's for a reason, flaws and all.
I'm most grateful for how much God lets His love flow through me. In a goodbye poster my students gave me today, one of the comments reads,
"We believe you love us <3."
Why yes, yes I do. If I had nothing else to offer, that would be enough. Everything else is just a bonus.