Unlearning to Hate Ourselves
Last Saturday I babysat my friend’s children while she and her husband had a much-needed date night. As I tucked her two daughters into bed, I had the idea for each of us to take turns sharing a high and low from our week. They asked me to go first and within seconds I listed not one, but three lows. When it was their turn, they had no problem listing all the wonderful things that had happened in the last week - they went swimming at the pool, watched a great movie, played hide-and-go-seek, and caught lightening bugs in the backyard. But when it came to thinking of their lows – they pondered for a few moments, looked at each other and then at me, and said, “We can’t think of any lows!”
Once they had fallen asleep, I walked out of their bedroom, and became unnerved by the fact that at some point in the last twenty years as I transitioned from childhood into adulthood, it became easier for me to find the lows in my life than the highs. I wondered, how did it become more familiar to find the things I hate than the things I love?
For many of us, this tendency to zone in on the bad – whether it be little annoyances, monotonous routines or bigger life challenges –transcends past our daily experiences. It often takes shape in being in abusive relationships with ourselves, verbally and sometimes even physically. As a 26-year-old, it’s almost hard to remember a time when I didn’t feel self-conscious in a bathing suit, worrying about trivial so-called flaws like cellulite, fair skin, and jiggly thighs. It’s so easy, especially as women, to get caught up chasing the media’s definition of perfection that we forget all the beauty surrounding us if we choose to look for it.
In the YouTube video, Jessica’s Daily Affirmations, that went viral back in 2009, a young girl, no older than the age of four, with frizzy, curly hair stands on her bathroom sink, looks at herself in the mirror, and passionately lists all the things she likes about her life.
I like my Mom!
I like my Dad!
I like my Allisons (She must know quite a few Allisons…)!
I like my hair!
I like my haircuts!
I like my pajamas!
I like my stuff!
I like my whole house!
I find myself watching this video every few months. It reminds me that we are not born hating ourselves. We are not born looking for the lows in our weeks. I know this because when I look at children I see little girls at the pool with their bellies hanging out of bathing suits without a care in the world; I see little boys splashing in puddles on a rainy day, covering themselves in mud; I see little bodies getting up after falling down on the pavement. When I look at children I see smiles, resilient spirits, and pure authentic joy. I see love – both for themselves and life itself.
Life is a continuous series of learning and unlearning. As we grow we absorb a wealth of knowledge – much of it essential for our survival and success. But then there are lessons that need to be unlearned if we are to find peace within ourselves. My intention is to become cognizant of the voice inside of me that hates and reconnect to my inner childish self who only knows the language of love.