In Defense of Self-Loathing

Dear Bob, you posted this quote on Facebook: “On your last day on earth, the person you become will meet the person you could have become” – and asked us what it meant.

I said it sounded like hell. To be confronted at the end of it all with the fulfilment of your potential is, in my opinion, going out with a bang infinitely worse than an untimely gunshot to the head.

See, I have this vague belief that within each of us there is a sort of blueprint for the person we want to be, and we can only be truly satisfied with our time here – and thus ready to die (like, completing our life cycle) when we build ourselves according to this image (using our will and self-knowledge). This has got to be the most airy-fairy belief that I have. It’s a little embarrassing.

But it provides an explanation and justification for that terrible state we know as self-loathing. When the contrast between who we are and who we want to be is so striking that we feel completely worthless and doubtful that we will ever achieve anything to be proud of.

In comes the culture of self-compassion, which teaches you to love yourself no matter what, to quell the negative feelings with positive affirmations and undeserved validation. This, I argue, is the deepest form of self-harm. To deny our inadequacy in our own eyes is just putting us out of touch with what we need to do to become better.

Self-loathing, then, should be considered an indicator that we are quite far off from our ideal.  Like a built-in self-improvement mechanism that should not be ignored, but should be accepted and utilized. But it’s difficult when the human psyche also comes with so many other mechanisms to help us avoid doing just that. Denial, rationalization, disassociation, to name a few. And then there’s my favourite; humour. For comedians where self-deprecation becomes part of their shtick, never to be dealt with because now it’s their livelihood, it’s no wonder so many go to a dark place and can’t come back.

So when you feel like you hate yourself, there is probably a reason. Admit it and inquire within. Maybe you feel stifled in a job or relationship, a bad habit has been left unchecked, or some other belief/behaviour dissonance that is slowly eating you up. Trite but true; the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. And it’s not the fact that you hate yourself. That’s just the effect.

It’s reassuring, in a way; hating your situation because you know you are supposed to be in a better one. Someone’s looking out for you. Now don’t let yourself off the hook.

Listen to this post on soundcloud.

 

zebra

3 thoughts on “In Defense of Self-Loathing

  1. Interesting and useful take on self-loathing. I am doubtful about this innate blueprint you talk about; and I see you recognize your doubt about it to. I have this other idea, somehow in line with Rousseau’s General Will claim. If I lived alone in the world, I would not have a reference to compare myself with. My pleasure would be in what I achieve no matter what else. It is this permanent hammering of society’s model of success and achievement what can drive a person to hate himself. But this is just one factor. I am not saying you could not hate yourself for not having been smarter or more ethical when you could habe been.

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    • True, it’s hard to tell the difference between what measure we are failing to live up to. I only slightly lead toward the innate blueprint – easy on the “blueprint” – because some of my…er…whims in life seem to me to come not from society but from my own eccentricity, and it’s when I ignore societal influence and go with my whim that I feel I am living up to….something.

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  2. Pingback: Letter from Japan #3 | Episyllogism

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