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Learning to Love Myself (Ugh)

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My therapist: “You need to practice self-compassion.”
Me: “I will… when I earn it.”

We sit facing each other in her cozy office, and the light from a large window casts a friendly glow over us. It’s been a good session so far. I like her. She reads all the right books, she has a Wonder Woman water bottle on her desk. She even uses just the right amount of profanity. She smirks at me gently, because even though we’ve only had a handful of sessions, she seems to know me pretty well at this point, and I see no reason to pretend I make any kind of sense.

I struggle with loving myself. I am not self-compassionate or self-caring. Sometimes my depression makes me very selfish, and the damage it does to me and to my life and to my relationships… well, it has ruined any chance of me looking at self-love with any kind of realistic viewpoint.

So I need to start here. Why not love myself?

Answer: I’m afraid of being a narcissist.

I’m afraid that while I often hate myself, I also do sometimes think of myself and my own wants before anyone else, and if you covered that with a blanket of self-adulation or vanity, I might be an unstoppable force of evil in the galaxy.

Except… Self-worship, self-adulation, selfishness, vanity… these things are not self-love or self-care. Narcissism is based on what the mindless self wants. Self-care seeks out what the mindful self needs.

There are things I need to do for myself that my soul genuinely needs like my body needs air, water, food, etc. I need Forgiveness, Purpose, Love, Passion, Mission, Recreation… all the things that depression wants to shove aside and replace with Escape. The things I need will keep me healthy, but my depression wants me to starve on a diet of spiritual and emotional junk food.

The worst part about it is that I’ve convinced myself that by denying myself these things, I’m making some noble sacrifice, as if denying myself these things will mean that there’s enough to go around for everybody else. But it doesn’t work that way.

I’ve got to stop saying I hate myself. I’ve got to stop saying I suck. Saying these things out loud gives too much power to this disorder that’s putting itself between me and my future. I don’t need fancy tricks or cute activities to woo myself into a loving relationship. I just need to start with a cease-fire in my head. No more “I hate me.” No more “I suck.”

Maybe when that’s done I can take a bubble bath or something.

Getty Images photo via monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: March 9, 2018
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