This blog post was already featured on The Burgundy Zine’s August blog and monthly zine. To view it, click here: The Burgundy Zine.
Ever since we were kids, we were told that we could do anything. If we wanted to; “we could be astronauts, we could be superheroes, we could be Disney princesses/princes, we could be the President of the United States” (T.F. Anon.), but how many of us have attained these goals? NASA is not flying people out anymore until approximately 2021. The superheroes in the comics and the movies do not exist (unless you’re filthy rich and can afford Batman or Iron Man’s lifestyle). Disney princesses/princes must follow intricate roles for low wages (in FL and CA they are not sustainable), and now we are on our 45th president.
Personally, I wasn’t brought up with these unrealistic goals because my mom wasn’t the kind of person to tell their kids they could reach for the moon. (I say mom because she’s been there through it all, my dad was absent during most of my big decisions). Instead, my siblings and I focused on the here and now. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until the Spring of 2017. Up until then I set my own goals and crushed them. When I first started college I went through about six different majors before I stuck with English. Throughout the whole debacle, my mom was still there for me. She didn’t care what school I went to or what career path I wanted to follow, she just wanted me to be happy with my own decisions. While my brother and I have remained indecisive (for most of my life) and my youngest sister is still eight, my twenty-year-old sister has known what she’s wanted to be since kindergarten (although she’s been faltering lately). So, the way we were brought up has differing affects on all of us.
These unrealistic goals have been inflicted onto us since before our parents were parents, before their parents were parents, and so on. Setting these goals are a prime example of what society wants us to be. There isn’t anything wrong with telling your kids that they can be astronauts, princesses/princes or the president, but sometimes they grow up to think about this more literally than it’s originally meant. Thanks to a few anonymous participants, I have concocted an elaborate example on how three things can start the cycle of self-hatred and how they can be resolved.
Let’s begin with what exactly self-hatred is. It starts out as an internal argument with yourself. You don’t like the way you look, the way you compare yourself to others, the way others seem to compare you to how society thinks you should look and act. The simple act of following a blog or fashion magazine can lead to the downfall of positivity. As soon as you start comparing yourself to others, you can start to lose your self-love.
Keeping a firm grasp on your self-love is very important. I had it once. My grip was tight, and nobody could touch me. Over time, things started to change. Social media became more readily available. My bare face with bags under my eyes, acne, and large pores weren’t enough. The times changed. Makeup was the new norm, and when I started to figure it out, women started to get praised for baring their naked faces. So, which is it?
Society will always evolve, but I’m not the only one who has fallen into this cycle. There are several others. According to a few men and women I interviewed; Darnell, Emmanuel, Marisol, and Braxton (these are pseudonyms to keep them anonymous). I am not alone. All four of them have informed me that their cycles of self-hate begin with comparisons.
Darnell and Marisol were brought up to think that there is a certain age for certain life achievements. If you’re not married by the time you’re in your mid-20s, you’ve failed. If you don’t move out at eighteen, you’ve failed. If you don’t get your own home with an established income by the time you’re 30, you’ve failed. All of this became preprogrammed into their brains as they grew up. Filled with “you must” and “you have to’s”, Darnell and Marisol were sent into the real world with high expectations. Soon they were met with the sudden reality that the goals that were set cannot be planned, and if they were planned, they were not easily attainable. (Marisol eventually discovered a potential solution, but we’re going to get through everyone’s personal growths later.)
Emmanuel was brought up the same way. Except he grew up with the lack of a great parental influence. His mom was absent his entire life. Sure, Dad was physically there, but he wasn’t there mentally. Soon after graduation, his dad decided “wait a minute, I have a son. What is he doing with his life?”. This left Emmanuel with two choices that his dad gave him. Either he had to join the army and get out of his dad’s house, or he had to quit his current job that put miles on his car. Regardless, it was an ultimatum that his previously-absent father set before him. Despite having a long term intermittent (yet serious) girlfriend, Emmanuel chose the military.
Braxton often finds himself thinking back to the “good ole’ days”. He kept focusing more on the “what-if’s” instead of the “here and now”. Nostalgia was taking over his thought process and he constantly compared his current life to how it could’ve been if he just changed one step in his past.
Another factor leading into the cycle is stress. Personally, I go through days of questioning everything and wanting to pull my hair out. School and quite a few personal issues have taken a toll on my mental health these past few semesters. There would be times when I’d quit showering or eating, and there’s times when my fiancé would force me out of the house for mental breaks. I’m not alone in the amount of stress I experience either. Sarafine, Spencer, and Mark (pseudonyms of course) have similar stories.
Sarafine has recently started college and the number of classes and the amount of debt shoved upon her has increased her stress level. She goes through periods of self-doubt and moments where she’s just wanted to drop out.
Spencer grew up learning incorrect ways to cope with her stress. Instead of handling it, she would shut everyone out and isolate herself. After isolating herself too much, she’s ended up spiraling into a pit of depression and anxiety starts to set in.
Mark used to be a happy, easy-going guy until he “let the stress of job hunts cause him to get weak-minded” (Mark). He let his guard down and decided to listen to the bullies around him and eventually ended up breaking down. The meaningless words from his close friends and family caused him to feel more down than he already was, and he still hasn’t found a way out of the cycle of self-hatred and lost hope.
The final factor leading into a cycle of self-hatred would the continuous uphill battles we face every day. Some of us face more than others and they can range from continuously fighting off your mental disorders, to changing the way you’ve thought about something your entire life, to trying to ignore bullying. Jamie, Alice, and Bridget have all given me their personal experiences with these uphill battles.
Jamie’s self-hatred started as early as kindergarten when she realized she liked girls. In kindergarten, she told her mom that she really liked one of her friends, who was also a girl, and her mom told her it was wrong. This lead Jamie to believe that liking girls was wrong all throughout her life because her mom engrained this thought into her head at such a young age. The conflicting emotions inside Jamie’s head eventually grew worse. She started to suppress her feelings and started lying to herself whenever she thought that her feelings for a girl increased to more than a friend. As she got older, this suppression eventually turned into depression. She felt isolated and it drove her crazy until she realized she wasn’t alone.
Alice discovered that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. She was raised with an abusive mother, who wasn’t biologically related to her. It wasn’t until she was five-years-old that she discovered that she was adopted and in her teens, her mom prevented Alice from expressing herself. Since then she realized that she didn’t belong with her adopted parents and the closest thing she had to a family was her uncle and grandma. However, their relationships only stood until her grandma passed away and her uncle did something her dad didn’t like so her dad secluded him. Luckily, her and her dad still had a closer relationship than she did with her mom, so she had someone to talk to while he wasn’t away (he was in the military). After a ton of realization hit Alice, she started to experience the true symptoms caused by her parents that put her up for adoption. As she got older she started to put more pieces together on why she is the way she is mentally and has surrounded herself with likeminded peers.
Bridget told me that some factors that contribute to her self-hatred is internalized racism, abuse, and isolation. She was treated differently while she was growing up and people talked down to her because she was half-black, which left her feeling inferior. Even though she’s aware that it isn’t rational, she feels that she would be treated better if she were fully white. Bridget studied psychology and sociology in college and she learned that sexual abuse is one of the main causes of eating disorders, and that being in isolation increases self-hatred and suicidal depression (Bridget).
Now what happened to the man who helped me realize how many unrealistic goals are embedded into our brains at a young age? He’s focusing more on his career and what he wants to do with his life (T.F.).
Marisol eventually discovered her passions, she discovered her love for animals and pursued a career in the same field. She’s surrounded by dogs every day and it helps, but the urge to compare is still there. Emmanuel faced a difficult decision and chose the more logical route to please his father. Braxton also found his passions, but unlike Marisol, his passion was more in the vehicle area. Braxton decided that working on cars was more important than living in the past, so he put his all into his work.
Sarafine cut all the toxic and negative people from her life so she could start focusing more on the positive. School is still just as overwhelming, but she’s made sure to fill in her free time with fun activities. When she isn’t working on a paper, she’s hiking with her dog or going on adventures with her boyfriend.
Spencer decided to focus more on her personal health and changing her nutrition helped her improve her overall lifestyle. Her mind became clearer, she’s able to concentrate, sleep soundly, and her stomach issues caused by stress went away.
Jamie watched YouTube videos with several people who went through situations like her own. She read personal stories about the LGBT community on various sites and felt more comfortable with herself. While she still couldn’t understand why her mom put those negative thoughts in her head, she still makes sure to remind herself that she isn’t alone.
Alice has undergone a lot of counseling to help realize all the things that she was repressing. Going to counseling has helped her ease her mind and take into consideration that what she’s experienced throughout her life, wasn’t her fault. Now she’s more vocal about her opinions than before and voices all her concerns to where everybody hears them. Also, she’s surrounded herself with friends who have gone through similar experiences and they’ve helped her realize she isn’t alone.
Like Spencer, Bridget began to focus more on her nutrition as well. She started to get really into skincare products and started to express herself more. Also, she now does this little trick where she replaces the negative thoughts in her head with positive ones. Thinking this way has helped her increase her self-love overall but it’s still an uphill battle.
While Darnell and Mark haven’t found their paths yet, they all remain positive on their journeys. Self-hatred might not have a cure and it’s incredibly hard to fight your personal battle towards self-love, but if there’s a will there’s a way. Eventually, you will achieve complete happiness. It might feel like an uphill battle right now, but if you’re determined enough you can keep fighting and succeed. Erase social media if you must. Take more selfies every day. Dive into your passions. Do anything that will distract your mind from constantly comparing, stressing, or creating more issues for yourself. Everyone feels down at some point, even those that seem happy-go-lucky 24/7, but don’t give up just yet.