A 10-step plan to deal with self-hate
(a message to myself from my smarter self)
By Emelia Symington Fedy
First off, stop what you are doing. Whatever is making you hate yourself, stop it right now.
This may be very difficult. The reason you are feeling self hate might be, for example: you wrote a shitty email to your ex and it was the wrong thing to do and now you want to do damage control by apologizing or explaining yourself. This is where you walk yourself into the hamster wheel of hell and it gets worse.
So please… just sit on your hands and STOP everything.
The worst thing for me about self-hate is how horrible it feels:
- My throat gets tight.
- My heart beats really fast.
- An overall feeling of panic and anxiety begins to take over my entire body.
- I think mean and dramatic thoughts about myself (you fucking suck, holy shit you are so stupid, how do you even have any friends, you are ruining your own life, you are such an embarrassment, everyone knows what a shithead you are now, oh god, why, why, why, not again, who lives like this? etc).
- I try to think of ways to compensate or quickly fix whatever I did wrong this time. I start to spin out on what should be done immediately.
- I feel ashamed. I look to outside stimulants to take the shame away as fast as possible (food, smokes and Ativan are my holy trinity).
It is most important to counter this rapid downward shame spiral before it gets completely out of control. This is why the first step is to STOP.
Ways to make yourself STOP are:
- Go for a quick walk or do a headstand or run around punching the air (I know, it is so dumb and annoying to be told this… but exercise does help move the hate around).
- Phone a friend and tell them exactly what happened and ask for an outside perspective to gauge how bad the damage really is.
- Lie on the ground and pray to God/Allah/ Goddess/Yaweh/Harry Potter to help you (I’m not joking).
- Sit somewhere quiet with your hands across your heart and breathe deeply and feel the shame deeply. Do not run from it. Feel it.
- Ask yourself: what is the worst thing that could happen now? Can you live with it?
- Know that you are not alone. If you feel generalized self-loathing on a weekly basis, there most be at least one other person in the world who struggles with this issue too.
- You are brave for being honest about it. Being vulnerable about the reality of how much you suck sometimes is the hardest thing to do, but it is also redemptive. If a movie were being made about your life, the audience would all be rooting for your quirky, loveable character.
- But right now that really doesn’t fucking help at all. I know. Crawl into bed if you are near one. Go home early. Be soft. Treat yourself like you are sick—because you are.
- Every time another wave of self-hate washes over you, try not to push it away. The more you breathe into the hate, in the faster you will get used to it.
- A secret. The hate is not really hate. It is actually profound love. You care so much that you want to tear yourself apart when you are not perfect. That is an amazing quality about you.
The important thing to remember in these situations is that the hate you feel toward yourself is actually far worse than the shitty event that happened. Funny that.
Also, when you are upright again, you can ask yourself… what did I learn from this hellish situation? What can I promise will be better next time?
And still, with all these options and positive outlooks, when the worst imaginable happens, if, after 20 minutes of rolling around, brisk walking, calling your besty and praying to Harry Potter hasn’t helped in taking the pain away, then feel free to call in outside assistance (a shot, a toke, or sour cream and bacon chips).
Because nobody’s perfect. Sometimes you fuck up really, really bad and you do something stupid and regrettable and there is nothing that is going to fix it. All you can do is try to figure out how to get comfortable sitting in the all-consuming hole of shame.
Chances are, it’s going to happen again.
About Emelia Symington Fedy
Emelia Symington Fedy is a theatre creator, writer, yogi, friend and popular raconteuse. Her favorite quote at the moment is: “Live the light, spread the light, be the light” (found on a Yogi Tea teabag). This is probably because she has a penchant for darkness.
Sign up for more of Emelia’s offbeat essays at her popular site tryingtobegood.com.