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What I Learned on My Journey to Stop Hating Myself

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I’ve always been really hard on myself. When I was a kid I would punch myself in the head or if I was in trouble and had to stand against the wall to get swats, I would bang my head while I was there. Although I learned to stop doing that, I was still taking what everybody told me to heart.

The great number of people who say I’m “slow.” The doctors who said I lacked empathy. The kids who laughed because I couldn’t kick the ball right. The teachers who told me I would never amount to anything. All the people who told me I was a bad person.

Even today I still hear some of those types of things. It turned out just a few were true and most all weren’t. I shouldn’t have believed a lot of them. All the bad things that people said about me. They didn’t even know me. I still believed them. I trusted what they said about me more than what I knew about myself.

I really hated myself and who I was because of autism and bipolar. I tried to deny and ignore it for 23 years. I finally had to admit that I had problems; I had to stop hating myself at the same time. So there I was admitting I had problems — but had to learn to stop beating myself up for it.

I was working a big time job. I was being bullied and teased about being autistic. I was being told what a bad person I was because I am bipolar.

I hated those people with all my heart. All that hate finally burned me up. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to stop hating. Before I could stop hating them, I had to stop hating me. Before I could believe that the things they were saying weren’t true; I had to believe in me.

I was at a point where I felt I didn’t deserve all this, but I had to do something. I don’t deserve a lot of things. I didn’t know what to do. So I just said the heck with it all. I’m going to go have a start having a good time.

So why should I believe that I’m not a bad person when I’ve done all these bad things? I chose to believe it because there’s no way I was going to become a better person if I didn’t. It was part of becoming — and maybe the only way — I could become the person I wanted to be.

The first thing I had to do was to stop beating myself up. There’s no easy way to do it. When I see that I’m beating myself up, I stop. I distract myself. Whether that is watching TV, listening to music, arts and crafts, or reading something new. Whatever I have to do.

It will get easier every time that you do it. You don’t have to be perfect. No pressure. Just try it once.

It’s not something you get right all the time, right away. I learned to do it time by time. I did once and then I did it again. I just kept doing it till I got it right. As you go along, it gets easier. You get better at it.

Every time I did stop beating myself up, I patted myself on the back. Good job. I deserved to be congratulated. I didn’t beat myself up. That’s an accomplishment.

The hardest thing  I had to learn was not to beat myself up because I beat myself up. I did screw up but just couldn’t hold it against myself. I was never going to get through this if I didn’t give myself a break. So I just threw my hands in the air and gave up. I’ll get it right next time.

I started giving myself real breaks as well. My doctor calls them mental health breaks. They are five or 10 minutes for me to relax or catch my breath. They are also a good time to do my relaxation techniques. These are the relaxation techniques I used to help control my anger.

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First, find a relaxation technique out on the net that you like to do. Do it at least a few times a week. Once a day is best. I like to do it when I come home from work every day.

Once you have found a good relaxation technique, choose a word to use as your keyword. Of course it’s easy to choose “Relax.” Although I chose the word “Calm.” That way when I heard the word relax or talked about relaxing I wasn’t using my keyword.

When I did my relaxation technique, I repeated that word over and over again. That way I trained my body. I could now say the word “calm’ when I wanted to relax. I used this for anger, anxiety and in general if I worked up for any reason.

I got serious about the self-affirmations that I learned in group therapy. I wrote out 10 statements that were good about me or that I wanted to be good about me. Again, that I
“wanted” to be good about me.

I am a good friend.

I have a good heart.

I am a good person.

I am worthy.

I am good enough….

I said them in the morning, every morning. I stood up and said them like a personal pledge of allegiance with my hand on my heart. You don’t have to do them in the morning. It can be before bed or anytime but the morning worked best for me.

As I said these statements, they became habits. Habits of thinking I was a better person. I unconsciously was holding myself to them. In a few weeks I made progress. In a few months I became them. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually I realized I already was them. I just needed to believe it.

If a statement was making me feel good, I kept it. If a statement had become comfortable then I replaced it with a new one. Don’t be afraid to change them as you go along.

Anytime I did any of these things right, I patted myself on the back. Well, not just these, but anytime I did something good for myself I patted myself on the back. I congratulated myself for every little thing that I did. I still do. I made it a habit to tell myself that I am doing a good job. I deserve it.

I started treating myself. Whether that was out for lunch, a haircut, a new clothing item, incense, bath bombs or just a $5 item. I found it’s not so much the price as it is the act of buying it for myself. Yes, I do deserve these things.

One thing that I still like to do is to go out to eat or buy myself a good lunch every payday. It’s a reward to myself for making it through the month.

All this didn’t happen overnight. I did the self-affirmations for almost a year. It took me a couple years to learn not to beat myself up. I still need to work on that at times. Again, I still pat myself on the back for everything that I do. Altogether this took me a little more than two years.

I had a 12-step program hold my hand. You can have a counselor or a therapist hold your hand. It’s so much easier than going it alone.

I hope you learned to love yourself. You do deserve it. You are worthy. You are enough. I wish you the best.

Getty image via cosmaa

Originally published: July 25, 2020
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