I love me… I LOVE me…. I love ME!!!! I really, really do!!!! Like the smartest, cutest, most adorable, loving, faithful, innocent, obedient, little puppy in the whole wide world; I love ME… just like that.
Ok… Ok… let me quell the cringing and judgement of the grammar-nazis out there. I intentionally chose to reference ‘me’ rather than ‘myself’ because I’m writing this as if I’m not the person I’m talking about. I want anyone reading this to be able to <insert name here> when they see the word ‘me’ so they can imagine what it’s like to feel the words ‘I love Malcolm’ or ‘I love Becki’. Plus, using ‘me’ sticks out because it doesn’t sound quite right, and for a long time, loving me didn’t sound quite right either.
Besides being grammatically different, saying ‘I love Jeffrey’ rather than ‘I love myself’ has a slightly different psychological effect; at least for me it does. ‘Myself’, a reflexive pronoun, is used when the speaker both performs and receives the verb’s action, but I’m stepping outside of my body to talk about two different people (a.k.a., the old me and the new me). I feel that when I say ‘I love myself’ it somehow feels diluted, not as strong, not as referential to the person for whom I want to express love.
By now, if you’re still reading, you may be thinking, ‘What is this nut-job talking about and why is he giving me a grammar lesson?’. Well, here goes… I know I’m not alone in having spent years, decades, large fractions of a century hating a person I should have loved. The person I should have cared for the most in this world. The person I didn’t want to be; that person is Donald Trump… HA! The person is me. (But I do love Donald Trump… stay tuned for my post on that; it will change your life)
Any decent therapist, given enough time and money, will eventually extricate the root of all your problems. (My therapist is the best in the world and will give me free therapy after reading this, right Tom?) It’s that pain, those memories, that trauma you’ve buried deep, Deep, DEEP in a part of your head, under lock and key… and booze… and drugs… The pain you thought you or no one else in the universe would ever find and consequently relive again, <spoiler alert> it usually goes back to your childhood; or your mother; or your mother’s childhood. `
Growing up, I was super popular from first grade through high school. If getting your ass kicked counted as sex, I would’ve been the school slut because I got it all day every day. Before school, lunch, recess, after school, and at home; it didn’t matter who or why, I was an easy target for anyone and everyone who needed to show dominance over me. It didn’t matter if they were older, younger, related to me or didn’t even know me, everyone seemed to want a piece of me.
I don’t consider myself a complete victim in all these circumstances because I now know I played a part in many of these attacks. Whether it be the tattle tale, the easy target, the cry baby, the person who didn’t know how to walk away, the person who didn’t know how to effectively communicate, the person who didn’t know self-defense, the antagonist, the seeker of negative attention, ad infinitum.
On top of all the scars from childhood came the inadequacies induced by the media who hypnotized me into thinking that I was physically undesirable. They told me I should have the right height to weight ratio, hair color, face symmetry, wardrobe, style, etc. I was surreptitiously being programed to hate my exterior by nearly every ad, movie, and TV show I watched.
The pickle on top of my shit sandwich came in adulthood. It came in the form of blaming myself for all that I wasn’t. If I got rejected, it was my fault. If something didn’t go as expected, I was to blame. I set out to change it, to not be at fault and in doing so, I put all the world’s problems on my shoulders (or rather in my head) and the world is one heavy ass mo-fo (not fat shaming, it’s just a really big mo-fo)
My solution was to bury the pain by either forgetting it or thinking I had forgiven it. I wore my collective buried trauma as a badge of honor and strength because I survived it and it made me who I had become; an unauthentic me. The flaw in this strategy is that pain doesn’t just go away; you can run, but you can’t hide from it. I may have buried it in my head, but it was still there, waiting for the right scenario to come out and bite me emotionally. Seeing a kid getting bullied by another kid would trigger an emotion and I would react to that emotion in strange ways like blaming the victim or losing my temper over something totally unrelated; the whole time not realizing what I was doing. I was running on autopilot. My sole purpose in life was just to make myself happy. To keep me laughing no matter the cost because laughter is the best medicine.
I became a different person; someone who wasn’t me. The old me didn’t feel loved, had one friend, a broken family, and that wasn’t enough. I needed more and I wanted to get as far away from that person as possible. I pushed away people who didn’t elevate my social status. I built up these fake lives with not so much fake people but people who perceived me as someone else. These lives of fiction inevitably crumbled horrifically at my feet and I was left painfully alone to pick up the pieces.
I wanted the life I fantasized about; that I saw on TV. I wanted a ‘Brady Bunch’ family, a dog named ‘Lassie’, ‘Happy Days’ friends, ‘Wonder Woman’ strength (and the lasso… and maybe the tiara), and ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ looks. If you don’t understand any of those references, I’ll translate to 2020 tv… I wanted a ‘Modern Family’ family, Brian from ‘Family Guy’, ‘Friends’ friends, still ‘Wonder Woman’s” strength and lasso, but not the tiara, and ‘Thor’ looks. If you don’t understand those references, I’m sorry, you’re probably too young to be reading this.
As Judge Judy, one of my favorite fast-food tv shows, says to defendants trying to obfuscate the truth “If you tell the truth, then you don’t have to have a good memory”. I truly relate to this quote because when you’re living lies for years, it’s exhausting trying to remember how you’re supposed to act across all your different social and work groups, who knows what lies and what truths, and keeping everything straight so as not to be found out. It’s mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting.
In order to keep everything together, I had to have complete control of every and all situations. Control became my drug. Everything had to be my way, and even if it didn’t go my way, I would make the failure into a win one way or another. I was extremely vengeful and manipulative. If I was wronged, I would get even with someone; it didn’t have to necessarily be the person who wronged me. I held on to resentments until they had been satisfactorily repaid and even then, I may not let it go. If someone cut me off in traffic, I would follow them for 50 miles just so I could pull along side them to give them the middle-one-gun salute before cutting them off. It was utter insanity.
I became a perfectionist, everything I did had to be perfect and if it wasn’t, I would work harder and longer until it was. People weren’t allowed in the house unless it was white-glove clean. At work I didn’t just know and do my job, I knew everyone’s job. I didn’t need to rely on anyone, I could do everything myself. This made me the best worker because I knew everything and I could use my power to get more of what I craved; more control.
At the same time, I wanted everyone to love me and a perfectionist, manipulative, vengeful, controlling, insecure, self-loathing, mean-girl isn’t someone you want to be friends with. So, I hid a lot of it from the world and did most of my evil deeds in whispers. I would setup people to fail, planted unrelated rumors that would expose another’s weaknesses. I was extremely passive-aggressive to lash out at those who defied me; self-deprecating to maintain appearance of humility; and judgmental of others to compensate for my inadequacies. If things got out of hand and I was called on my behavior I would use the phrase, ‘I’m just joking’ as I usually was trying to make people laugh so they would like me.
The one thing I held onto tight through all the iterations of me was the hate I had for the person I really was deep down. I hated that I was nerdy and had to hide it. That I mocked Star Trek geeks when, in reality, I wanted to hang out with them. That I was insecure about my appearance and had to pretend I wasn’t. That I took my insecurities out on other people by judging them, making fun of them, pointing out their flaws, and passing judgement on those who weren’t like me; fake and fabulous.
My self-hatred made me a miserable mean-girl and I really just wanted to be a nice loving person, but that wasn’t cool; or so I thought. It’s funnier to take pictures of people wearing clothes that are too tight and posting it on Facebook to get a quick laugh and hence a small burst of dopamine from what I thought was validation of my great sense of humor. I hid behind my social network and didn’t care about anyone except for the people who made me feel good. The rest of the world could fuck the fuck off. My world, my mind, my spirit, my soul, and my happiness all became smaller and smaller until I was just sad and alone.
So, to fix everything, I started loving me. The end…
Oh, if only it were just that simple! In order to love me, I had to stop the hate. At first, I thought I just needed to stop hating me. Just stop it… ok 1, 2, 3… stop hating now! Ok, that didn’t work; 3, 2, 1… stop hating NOW! It took a lot more than just love at first sight when you know nothing about the person. When I’ve hated me, despised me, avoided me, I needed to get to know me. I needed to understand what it was I hated so I could resolve it, make peace with it, and love it as an asset or as a defect.
As I slowly dug deep into what I hated about me, I discovered that the roots of hate were related to other people, places, communities, organizations, or past experiences. I hated that I was overweight, then understand what is overweight. Over who’s weight? Who decided my self-worth was determined by a number? It wasn’t that I was overweight, I was under-tall… if I were taller, I wouldn’t have this belly sticking out of my torso and the number would be socially acceptable to the world. There was my problem; my weight wasn’t the problem, the belly was the problem. Who decided that bellies were a problem? Pretty much everyone who was insecure about their weight. All the beautiful people that are idolized because their DNA is predisposed to metabolize food better than me. Or they don’t get to ever eat ice cream. Or a million different reasons why they look the way they do and I don’t.
I had to adopt love as my default. Because everything and everyone that I hated, mocked, judged, and/or pushed out of my life lead me to a very dark and lonely place. I had to drop the acts and become a new me; the real me. At this point I had nothing to lose, but I also had a lot to learn on my quest to love me.
This is so cliché, but I had to start treating me how I wanted to be treated. I’ve heard this my whole life, but it never clicked. Would I let someone else treat me the way I did? Would I fat shame someone I loved? Well, I used to, but not to their face. Now I don’t fat shame anyone, but I still fat shamed me. I no longer judge people on their looks, or age, or height to weight ratio, or what they believe in, or how they live their lives, so why was I doing it to me. These were remnants of my past when I did judge people. When I was compensating for my own insecurities. I had to break myself down and love every single itty-bitty thing about me. From my greying hair to my ice cream belly, I had to love it all. No more saying I’m fat. No more saying I’m ugly, no more saying I wish I had what someone else has. No more wishing I could look different. No more trying to get people to like me based on what I wore or how much money I had, or the material objects I had. I had to get people to like me for me.
I broke me down to the basics. I isolated a lot because I didn’t know who I was. When I did go out and meet new people. I didn’t know what to say. Was what was coming out of my mouth authentic or was I going back to old habits just to be liked. I stopped wearing ‘nice’ clothes and went for comfort. My uniform is a T-shirt and basketball shorts, with or without flipflops. That’s it. I wanted to be vanilla. To be as plain and unnoticeable as possible. I stopped shaving, I didn’t cut my hair. I just wanted to be seen as a person, not a perfect person, just a person.
Finally, as I started to meet and get to know more people I stopped judging me. I started liking me. I liked who I was becoming. I liked authenticity. From there it was an easy jump to love because I’m LOVEABLE! And from there the love I have for me as the rest of the humans on this planet has only gotten stronger. I am a happier and a more complete person. And let me tell you, ice cream tastes so much better when the spoon isn’t made of guilt.