It’s a classic catch-22; I have no value as an individual so let me spend all of my time and energy making you feel better. I’m an expert on coping strategies, even though they don’t work for me, but that’s just because I don’t deserve to feel better. But you do! So let’s get to work. That way I can justify my existence by helping you learn to enjoy yours! Do I sound insane? I do? Oh, that’s probably because, by definition, I am.
1. in a state of mind which prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill.
I find it so much easier to see my belief that all human life inherently has value in my close friends or casual acquaintances, instead of this sobering cartoon of Grimace that I see when I look in the mirror. I’ve realized that this is my brain’s way of processing this logical fallacy. All human beings deserve rights except for me. I’m not human. I’m a hamburger mascot (altered so I don’t infringe on hamburger-based copyright laws) and therefore I don’t deserve to take care of myself. See! Two birds with one stone!
Self-deprecating humor aside, this thought process is a problem. Not just because of the cliché, “put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others,” but because this mindset is near-inescapable. It gets to the point where this martyrdom becomes a cornerstone of your personality, and the thought of changing becomes so alienating and uncomfortable it feels like rejecting who you are. Which is another catch-22, because being unworthy of love is now the core of your identity, so accepting yourself is now rejecting yourself. You’re caught in this one-man play version of Catch Me If You Can (2002). But, just like how Tom Hanks eventually catches Leonardo DiCaprio, you too can catch your self-hatred and lock it in jail. Only to ultimately give it a job working on check fraud for the FBI. The key? Lying to yourself.
Not your real self, but the inner masochist that’s hellbent on proving you’re the worst person who has ever lived. I promise you no matter how determined you are to punish yourself, nothing you have ever done warrants the type of abuse you’re putting yourself through. The belief that all your friends hate you, that only an idiot could love you, that you’re ugly, untalented, and a virgin who can’t drive. That. That is the type of self-flagellation that is WRONG. You are NONE of those things. If you are a virgin or can’t drive, there’s nothing wrong with that; I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make a Clueless reference. RIP Brittany Murphy.
We tell ourselves these things because we were taught to believe them. Somewhere along the way, someone took advantage of your trust and told you to think this way. This isn’t your fault, but it’s time to teach ourselves to believe something else. I’m going to sound like a pretentious yogi for this next bit, but as someone who has read one-third of all the top 10 best-selling self-help books, I can say I’m qualified to do this. So here it goes:
STEP 1) Go to a mirror
STEP 2) Look at yourself, really look at yourself, and examine your features. If you see something you like about yourself, say it out loud. Say, “I like my ____.” If you’re not there yet, that’s okay. Move on to step three.
STEP 3) Repeat the following phrases. Even if you think it’s corny or you don’t believe it, just repeat them out loud while looking into your eyes. This is the lying but not actually lying to yourself section.
I am deserving of love.
I am loved by others. Other people enjoy my company.
I deserve to feel good about myself.
I am worthy of the love others feel for me.
I make the lives of those that love me better simply by being there.
I am not broken. I do not need fixing.
I love myself. I deserve to love myself, and I do.
I love myself.
Step 4) Repeat. Repeat it multiple times in one sitting or repeat it several times in a day but just repeat it. Repeat it every day. Repeat it till you get that warm feeling in your chest that you don’t fully understand what it is, but it makes your jaw loosen and your shoulders less tense. Then repeat it again. Feel free to edit it to fit you more personally if you need to. Just set an alarm every day to remember that you deserve to love yourself.
By now, it’s abundantly clear I didn’t write this to enter the snake-oil selling self-help market. I wrote it because I’m still stuck in the mindset that I only matter when I make someone else feel better. So this article was just a trick to get me to believe that I deserve to feel better about myself, and to be honest? It kind of worked. I did the steps after I wrote this. It's not a miracle cure, and I still feel like the worst person alive sometimes, but I do feel a little better each time I do this. So hopefully, you will too. Because you deserve to enjoy your life and not just hate yourself for being yourself.
Cover art by Katie Wilkerson