An Asshole’s Guide to Not Hating Yourself
Hi! I’m Louise, and I’m an asshole.
Luckily, that assholery is mostly contained to the way I deal with myself, though – well, that, and Steven Moffat’s run on Doctor Who. For a long time, I thought that my internal monologue, which mostly consisted of dialogue more suited to a waspy socialite who didn’t like the way I dressed, looked, how much I weighed, what I ate, the way I treated people, just pretty much everything that I did – I thought that was normal.
Enter an OCD diagnosis, an eating disorder diagnosis, so on, so forth, and I came to realize that maybe having a constant barrage of criticism going on inside my head…wasn’t normal? People didn’t walk around just beating themselves up as though they had committed major war crimes constantly? And that talking to yourself like that all the time is going to make your life and self-image substantially worse? Wild, am I right? Whodathunkit.
But, like I said, I’m an asshole – and a stubborn one, at that. I’ve written before about the ways that even the most upsetting symptons of mental illness can look attractive even as you’re trying to get away from them, and when you’ve had that internal monologue for as long as you can remember, the thought of changing it just seems pointlessly difficult. It’s just what I think. It doesn’t actually impact the real world. Even as I started getting help for my mental health stuff, I still found myself resistant to the idea of addressing that stuff. I wanted all the manifestations of this non-existent self-esteem to go away, but actually addressing the constant inner thoughts which backed up that non-existent self-esteem? No, they could stay. Somehow. It made sense to me then, alright?
Not to mention the fact that I consider myself a pretty anti-woo person. You know? Like, I really struggle to accept that things which don’t have an immediate and material impact on my life might actually help. And so much of the content I could find that revolved around improving your inner conversation with yourself seemed to come from people who were about as pro-woo as humanly possible. You can see my problem here, yes?
But, in the last year or so, I’ve been really trying to change the way that I talk to myself. And even typing that sentence is enough to swing me dangerously close to woo territory for my liking, but bear with me here: I’m an asshole, maybe you’re an asshole too. Here’s how I managed to stop being quite as much of an asshole to myself, and overcome my fear of all things woo in the process.
Like the perma-Lisa Simpson that I am, I find relief in being able to quantify the steps that I’m taking towards a goal. So that was my first port of call: find things that I could tick off a list at the end of every day, things that I could build goals around and work towards. I have been reccommended a few different meditation and mindfulness (the catch-all term that I’ve seen used to describe this inner-conversation-fandango) apps, but I really found that Headspace worked best for me – it shows you the number of minutes for which you’ve meditated since you started using the app at the end of every exercise, as well as having structured “courses” set around certain themes that you can work through. I find it’s really easy to drift off course with working on something as inpalpable as mental health, but the structure this offered actually helped me build a habit out of this.
And just consciously taking the space to step back from the thoughts that I was having and evaluating them was, I swiftly found, a really powerful thing. I often heard people discussing trying to shift their internal monologue to something more akin to what they would share with a close friend dealing with the same feelings, but I found it a lot more useful to just insult those irrational thoughts into submission. When I could look at them from the outside in, instead of just accepting them as truth, they became pretty funny. Did I tell you about that time I saw a whippet and wanted to be it? This shit is hilarious, when you take a second to actually consider what it’s trying to convince you of, and pointing out that silliness was the best way to start undoing its power over me.
Honestly, the biggest shift that I’ve felt in changing the way I dealt with this stuff was dropping some of the cynicism that I had around the woo nature of mindfulness. I was so resistant to it for such a long time, and I know a lot of people who feel the same way, because we’re encouraged to quantify success in ways that often don’t have a lot to do with actually treating ourselves well. But the best thing I’ve done for myself in the last year has been accepting that treating myself with care is a worthwhile task; it might not be quantifiable in the way that I usually like, it might not have the external signifiers of goodness that I for so long built my life around. And it’s long and arduous and often annoying to try and challenge the shit that runs through your own mind.
But fuck it – it is worth it in the end. All of this, it turns out, boils down to believing that I am actually worthy of the help that people are offering and that I was too nervous to take for such a long time, too sure of my own inherent dis-worth to dare to take on. Changing the way I thought about myself, or at least trying to, reminded me that I actually am worth the effort I’m putting in to make things better – worth treatment, worth boundaries, worth standing up for myself when I need to. It’s difficult, and I’m probably still an asshole to myself more than I should be, but I’m working on it. And working on it, right now, is about the kindest thing I can do for myself. And hey, maybe you deserve some kindness, too.
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