I was sitting in a church basement on the corner of 72nd and Broadway. It was a Tuesday night and what I remember most about that church basement was how much I hated myself.
On the outside it looked like I had it all. I was well dressed in my sleek black skinny jeans, Nine West loafers and Zara blazer, living the NY glamorous life. I had an apartment in a trendy doorman building on the Upper West Side, super cool roommates I brunched and bar hopped with on the weekends, and a job at ABC-TV just a year out of college. I was living my dream life.
But I was at constant war with my body. I weighed 105 pounds soaking wet yet when I looked in the mirror all I saw was a short chubby girl. What started in high-school as some harmless “dieting” had become a relentless, energy sucking cycle of starving myself, then bingeing when I got so hungry I felt like I was gonna die, followed by running to the gym every evening to workout for 2 + hours so I wouldn’t gain weight.
The whole boring cycle was robbing me of my life.
So here I was in the church basement at my first OA meeting surrounded by middle aged overweight women I couldn’t relate to. Talking about 12 steps and holding hands chanting the Serenity Prayer.
But this was my only option like it or not. Going into treatment was too expensive and I couldn’t afford therapy on my $23,000 a year salary. So I sat there every week and continued to hate myself. I had no compassion for that girl. No forgiveness for her mistakes. No empathy for her condition or state of mind. If I made one mistake, I would beat myself up and then do all the things one does when one hate themselves.
I became secretive and defensive. I lashed out at friends who tried to help. What did they know anyway? They didn’t know what it felt like to truly hate everything about themselves.
I looked in the mirror and said horrible things to myself. Mean things I’d never in a million years say to a friend or someone I loved.
I didn’t value myself so I got involved with somebody who was in another relationship, unconsciously believing if he chose me over her, that would prove I was worthy of being loved.
I feel sorry for that girl, really for anybody living this kind of life. The life where we don’t see how special we are or that we deserve to be loved and treated with respect and kindness especially by ourselves.
And although I’ll never get those years back, fortunately the Universe gives us many opportunities to choose our own adventure and pick a different path.
I decided one day to choose a different path.
It was the beginning of a different life where I put myself first and my demons to rest.
Over the next 2 decades, I did the work. I worked hard to climb out of that self-hatred hole, forgive myself for things I had done, people I had hurt, and choices I had made that I regretted.
I sought out teachers and friends who called me out on my shit and didn’t allow me to engage in any behaviors that weren’t kind and loving to myself anymore.
Here’s the thing that happens when you stop hating yourself….You make better choices. You put up with less. You choose yourself more. You release old self-destructive patterns and replace them with loving ones. You stop making excuses for other people who are shitty and the things in your life that just aren’t OK.
When I really learned to love myself, things changed. I changed. I’m sometimes floored with how differently I move through the world now.
I don’t engage with anybody wasting my time or not treating me with respect. This goes in the workplace and in personal relationships. If someone doesn’t treat me with kindness or is playing games with me, I’m out.
When you not longer hate yourself, you don’t need to lash out. The days of screaming at another person about how much they suck and why don’t they treat you better become a thing of the past.
Nope, you just don’t engage anymore. You quietly walk away with no anger or resentment in your heart. You don’t reach out because you miss them. You don’t get hooked again when they text you or ask you for something you simply don’t want to give.
When you no longer hate yourself, you stop judging other people.
You don’t really care anymore what other people are doing because you’re doing you, they’re doing them, and there’s a certain amount of empathy and compassion you now have for others because you finally have it for yourself.
When you no longer hate yourself, you don’t drink in excess, do the drugs, over-eat or undereat.
You no longer think a bottle of wine, a pint of ice cream, a hit of coke or a decadent meal are going to make you feel better after a long hard day. You stop making excuses for not moving your body and make time to take care of yourself physically, mentally and spiritually even the days its really f*cking hard.
When you no longer hate yourself, you become accountable.
If you want to accomplish something, you put a plan in place to be accountable to someone. If you’re drinking too much, maybe you join AA. If you’re unhappy with some aspect of your life, maybe you seek out a therapist.
You stop doing life alone. When we stop hating ourselves, we let other people in to help us.
No more secrets. No more hiding.
When you no longer hate yourself, you set boundaries.
You set boundaries with your time, with your family, in your relationships. You set boundaries at work so you can show up every day as your best self. You stop saying yes to things because you want to people please. You stop believing that if you say no, you’re a bad person.
When you no longer hate yourself, you don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes.
You don’t have the expectation that you need to be perfect to be loved. You stop working hard to be liked. You settle into yourself, into the feeling that being you is enough.
I was thinking the other day about someone I really liked. I’ve met maybe one or two people in the past 2 years that have caught my attention, made my heart skip a beat. He was one of them.
But he wasn’t available. I was disappointed, even a little angry as the months went by and his situation didn’t change. I knew he felt the same about me but wasn’t doing anything about it.
When you no longer hate yourself though, you don’t think, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t things ever work out for me?” Nope. Wanna know what I think?
If not this, something better.
This isn’t about me.
Maybe it’s not our time. Maybe it’s not the right thing for us in this moment. Maybe it’s coming later. Maybe you’re just too damn fabulous and that thing you so desperately want isn’t aligned with your fabulousness!
When we no longer hate ourselves, well the world opens up in beautiful ways.
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Dina!! I copied and pasted this one so that if I need to remind myself, all I have to do is read your words. As always, thank you thank you thank you. B.
p.s. have the best experience in Peru! xo
Wow! What an amazing story. Knowing you as I have, I had no idea you had these struggles. And these victories. I just saw someone confident and owning it. That’s an amazing journey! So much respect.
And I agree! When we’re young I think we have expectations for ourselves that looking back we realize we’re the wrong focus.