The Mighty Logo

The Path to Accepting My Inner Demon and Loving Myself

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

My inner demon likes to tell me that I will not succeed in anything I try. It assigns rejection and dislike to people without them really saying or doing anything. My inner voice takes the negative side without a thought. It seems automatic, unavoidable and heartbreaking. The majority of my mistaken sadness lies only in my mind. It does not appear before the feet of friends, family, even strangers. It’s taken almost a half-century to realize how to control those conversations. Do you have them too?

How many times have you assumed the worst in someone, or put up a wall before they even have a chance to truly engage with you? How many people have you cut off under assumptions that they don’t even know exist in your mind? I can’t say the number of times I have done that, but years of pulling away from everyone has led to a disconnect with people.

I really can’t say how long it has been this way. I can pinpoint the moments that have been life-changing, mostly bad in this instance. That self-protection alarm screams in the faces of others to keep them at bay. The assumption is “they” will not want anything good from me. It’s the belief that most are out to hurt me, so I never allow them to get close enough to prove me right. It’s a simple way to decrease emotional pain and wounds of abuse. It often seems better to simply keep people away with sarcasm, attitude and attacks. At the worst of moments, it comes in the form of suicidal ideations and self-destructive behaviors. Sometimes it is simply a survival skill. If I tick you off or come across hard, you will not even try to get closer. If you had been close in the past, you will run, not walk, to the exit door of friendship and belonging. All of this is an effort to hide.

My self-protective skills from childhood have been the barbed wire around me keeping others away. We trauma and abuse survivors have a little voice, that voice inside our heads that says all the wrong things. I see someone in a store, and I don’t go to them to say hello. Thanks to my little demon, I walk in the opposite direction or cross the street hoping not to be seen, hoping not to run right into judgment. “Judgment” becomes my demon’s new name, assigned by the little inner destructive darkness that keeps me bathed in my insecurities while zapping whatever strength I thought I had gained by now. That passive-aggressive behavior is the result of all the negativity, and I should know better by now, feeling dumb as well as unworthy of love and belonging.

Lately, I have been having inner conversations with myself. I find myself reminding myself I am in fact worthy of being alive. Furthermore, I have been striving to change that demon. Taking the conversations to a new-to-me place, living my authentic life.

You know, I recently saw a musical artist give me one heck of an example of doing just that. A much younger than I, Lit’ Nas X. I find his videos fun and it’s interesting to see the perspectives of a gay man unafraid to live his truth. Listening to him talk about his latest controversial video, I have found if you shut down your sophomoric instant reaction, you find some powerful meanings in there. You find a fun truth as well, someone who is sharing who this character is to the world. His job is to entertain us, not teach us or cater to us. He’s shown me a strength I haven’t recognized in others before; it’s a powerful tool. I find myself stopping from going down that self-destructive road my inner demon has taken me every day of my life, as far back as my earliest childhood memories.

I feel as if I can finally start to embrace that soul inside of me, and show it compassion in ways never known to me before. Perhaps at some points, others have tried to do just that, but my demon wasn’t going to allow me to recognize that, instead choosing to demonize everyone. That’s a side effect from all of this that has been fun, almost a childlike exploration.

I’ve had what I call firsts: What it is like to have long hair, to spend money on self, to order food for one without guilt. The simplest of things, but wow, so powerful and addictive to experience. Walking away from the dark voice that was full of guilt, self-loathing and in some cases near hate, that has held the world at bay for a very long time.

It’s the little things that were traumatic at one time. “Normal” things were once abnormal to me have added to those “firsts.” Putting on makeup with many colors, trying on a dress and not caring what anyone else thinks of it. Embracing the eccentricities that are me. Things as a little girl that should have been taught. Now being accomplished at the “tender” age of 40-something. In truth about to reach another milestone, I find myself doing more reflection. There is more recognition of hard truths. There is finally less of a desire to hide from it. Once frightening, now exciting to experience new things, people, places and freedoms. It’s sad to look back and see the prisons I put myself in. It’s also a rallying cry to keep it up and live. Perhaps finally there can be a sort of friendship between my inner demon and me. Maybe even an embrace.

Allowing myself to truly love and belong, to truly be me. To realize I was my own enemy all this time is sad, but also life-changing. What does the second half of life have in store? What new and amazing experiences are waiting? It’s not an easy switch to flip, but I can say it is well worth it. I have never known joy in the way that I allow myself to feel every day. My budding friendship with my inner demon is more about resolving my own inner conflicts and letting them go.

Image of original artwork by the author

Originally published: April 16, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home