Some days liking myself can be difficult. I think this is why I was addicted to Facebook.
“Likes” can feel like a puff of a social media sized cigarette, a shot of nicotine that goes straight for the self-esteem. Someone “likes” whatever-the-heck you posted so that must be a good thing, right? Right?!?
“Likes” cannot substitute for liking yourself, your decisions, your work and your relationships. Recovery is learning to like yourself, learning to be your own friend. Seeing yourself, really seeing.
For years, I hated myself. It was second nature to judge myself, pick at my flaws and rehearse my failures. I was addicted to approval so bad that I couldn’t allow other people to see any of my flaws. I couldn’t see any good in myself, so I assumed that other people must have felt the same way.
It was self-torture.
The ways of self-torture are subtle: Thinking you don’t deserve to be happy, that other people haven’t screwed up as much as you have, that you are somehow so damaged that you are beyond worth, that you are ugly, or that you cannot make a positive contribution to another person.
I know first hand how easy it is to drive yourself crazy trying to become fit, successful, together, creative, brilliant. You can be fit, rich, good looking, successful or famous but none of these things will make you love yourself any more.
Feeling that you are worth it will never come from achievement, wealth, brains or other ways that society “likes” you. None of these things are wrong, but in themselves they are empty. They can be very subtle ways of manipulating other people to feed your need for approval.
Liking yourself can be difficult. You have to be honest with yourself and that is not always pretty.
Abuse, addiction, mental illness, self-judgment, perfectionism reinforce our shame. Shame uses your own words and your own voice so it becomes very believable. Shame says that you are not worthy, you are not worthwhile, you are not worth it.
I have spent much of my life going to war against my shame monster. At various times, I have tried to fix myself, fixate on my behavior, or flee from my emotions. I have tried to out-think it with positive thinking. I have tried to exercise it away. I have engaged in unhealthy eating as a way to numb it. All of these are in essence attempts to avoid, numb or escape from under my shame.
You can learn to accept rather than fight or hate yourself. I know, because this is the journey I am on. I am learning to be gentle with myself, like myself and even love myself. I have said it before, but recovery is not about the booze, the drugs, the depression or the anxiety. It is about who you are apart from the booze, the drugs, the depression or the anxiety.
Feeling that you are worthy means that we take a risk and invest ourselves. It takes vulnerability. It means finding what makes you feel more alive, more connected with other people and with yourself. To me, that is what recovery means.
At this stage in my life and my recovery, I don’t want to wast one more minute worrying about what other people think, trying to manage my image, worrying about how fat or thin or smart or sexy I look, trying to impress people, trying to figure out what people want from me, trying to be “good,” and trying to earn love. Spending my time and energy fighting, avoiding, resisting, and trying to fix myself, these are are empty. These things are not worth my energy or my attention. They are not worth living for.
I won’t lie, but sometimes it is tempting to lose myself under a numbing blanket of anxiety and depression: Losing days and weeks eating, sleeping, watching TV, and watching life go by. Getting lost in dark moods is a powerful way to distract from the hard work of real life – opening up to life, investing myself in relationships and caring for myself enough to invest energy in my important values.
Life can get you down and it can be difficult to be in the moment, to enjoy your life. But really all that you have is this moment. So how are you spending your time, right now? What makes you feel more alive?
“Likes” don’t make for a life that is meaningful. For me, bringing joy, experiencing joy, making things, observing, feeling, holding, touching, and enriching. These are the things that are worth living for.
I still have days when I don’t feel the love. I don’t like who I see in the mirror. But those days are fewer and less potent than they used to be. When I feel like this, I am learning to accept without trying to fix myself, fixate or flee.
For me, this is recovery. And it is worth it.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Marianne Williamson
If you enjoyed this article, you will want to check out some of my other writing:
I write articles that talk about the kind of changes I am trying to make in my own life. I hope that my writing also helps you. My topics include addiction and mental health recovery, relationships, and personal growth. I work as an Addiction Therapist, an Editor for the Good Men Project and freelance writer, and Adjunct Professor at City University, Edmonton. But what is most important is that I have a family and I am in recovery from depression and anxiety. My mental health experiences are part of my personal University degree, but they do not define me.
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Keep it Real