It’s time to break a really bad habit—your self-loathing. You’ve probably been doing it for years, decades, maybe your whole life. So, it’s understandable how inextricable it’s become with your sense of self. Self-loathing sustains itself on the conviction that you’re just really a bad, worthless, inherently contemptible human being. It’s one of the hardest convictions to dent.
Maybe you’ve grown perversely comfortable with your self-loathing. We grow attached, often ferociously clinging, to anything and everything with which we’re deeply familiar, however enhancing of, or destructive to, our self-interest.
And so, although you may know your self-loathing is highly self-destructive, maybe you’ve felt futility at the prospect of retiring it. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that you know nothing else. Worse, maybe you’ve convinced yourself that you merit your self-loathing, having “hook, line and sinker” fully subscribed to yourself as loathsome.
How, then, do you confront your self-loathing when you’ve become a grand-master practitioner of it, for God knows how long?
Let me propose a somewhat counter-intuitive perspective as, if nothing else, a starting-point from which to address your self-loathing: You’re really not that important to loathe yourself so much. (Now allow me to elaborate, as I join you here in switching up the pronouns between “we” and “you,” as after all, we’re all in this together.)
When we loathe ourselves, we’re exhibiting what I call “negative grandiosity,” without recognizing it. Yes, self-loathing, surprisingly, requires grandiosity to fuel it. When we loathe ourselves with the harsh self-contempt of self-loathing, we’re basically insisting how incredibly, notoriously, importantly, uniquely, distinctly “bad” we are. We’re affirming, in a sort of reverse way, how “special” we really are—special in the sense of how specially, remarkably contemptible we are. In this sense, I suggest there’s a counter-intuitive, grandiose self-importance necessary to see ourselves in the unique, special light of self-loathing.
For this reason, it’s critical when confronting our self-loathing to appreciate the grandiosity underlying it—a grandiosity easily obscured by its self-punitive negativity. By that I mean, instead of asserting our grandiosity as expressive of our ostensibly unique, important, magnificent greatness and superiority, we express it, instead (as I’ve noted) as an expression of our ostensibly distinguished, unique, terrible badness and inferiority. Both expressions are caricatures of ourselves—most always, we’re neither very importantly great, nor very importantly bad: these self-perspectives, in other words, are just the flip-sides of a form of grandiosity.
When you recognize the grandiosity expressed in your self-loathing habit, it can give you pause. You can access the absurdity, the pretensions of the claims you’ve been making to “qualify” as so notoriously deserving of your self-loathing. After all, you’re not a serial killer, are you? I’m guessing you’re not prowling the streets late at night looking for people to assault? I’m guessing you’re not robbing 7-Elevens and banks? I’m guessing you’re not living your life with the intention to inflict harm on others for your sadistic pleasure? I’m guessing that your claim to self-notoriety is ultimately something of a sham, a self-deception. I’m guessing, if you were you to come off your high self-negative horse, you’d have to face the reality that you just don’t belong on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List—a list of criminals, incidentally, who almost certainly don’t even loathe themselves.
Almost always, when we loathe ourselves, we’re really loathing ourselves for feeling like incredibly imperfect, incredibly insecure, deeply flawed, error-prone, sometimes hurtful, sometimes disappointing, sometimes regretful and, often, under-productive human beings. But these are unsupportable reasons to loathe ourselves, as almost all human beings feel and are these things, routinely. In a sense, this makes us very ordinary, doesn’t it? It’s very possible that our grandiosity won’t accept our ordinariness—that it demands we convince ourselves either of our magnificent superiority, or prodigious, mind-blowing inferiority, the latter conclusion supporting (grandiosely) our self-loathing.
It’s a strange but real paradox to consider: We’re just not importantly bad enough to merit our self-loathing. For this reason alone (and there are others, I’m aware, far more important), we can embark on the thoughtful retirement of our self-loathing. Paradoxically, it will humble us while alleviating the untold stress and misery our self-loathing causes us.