How to Love Yourself When You Hate Yourself
The movie that scared me the most is The Ring.
The little girl with wet black strains of hair all over the face, revealing just one eye.
That eye is filled with rage and hatred like a wounded wolf. She crawls up from the black water of an abandoned well, and then out of a TV screen.
You’re peeing in an empty public toilet when suddenly you feel the chill on your neck. You look up to see her reflection in the broken mirror.
She wants to possess you.
- - -
When I was small, I stole money from my parents. Not just once but many times. I never forget my mother’s face when she found out.
For years, I couldn’t forgive myself. A thief. I just couldn’t accept that.
What I couldn’t see was the pain that my 6-year-old-self carried - the pain that drove her into stealing the money in the first place.
It was the pain of a caged animal, of a child soul unexpressed, of too many classes and too little play, of seeing the people she loved most in the world hurt each other.
She needed to escape. So she stole the money to rent comic books. That was the only world where she was free from pain.
But I couldn’t see that. All I saw was a thief - the disgusting stain of the family.
So I shove that little girl into the well of my mind. I closed the lid. I walked away.
That girl carries with her, into the water, the shame, guilt, and hurt. And I carry with me, into the world, the incompleteness of a woman who rejects a part of herself.
However, there is always a little crack - a small opening at the well’s lid. When the moon wanes, that girl crawls up, finds me in the dark, calling “Mother . . . Mother . . . ”
For decades, she kept chasing, I kept running, like a dog trying desperately to rid of its tail. The more I ran, the more I hated myself.
Until one night.
The night I slept in my old bed at my parents’ house. It was also my parents’ first bed.
On that bed, my parents had conceived me. On that bed, I had slept next to my mother when I was five. On that bed, I had curled up to cry after the leather belt of my father had licked my skin raw. On that bed, I had, times and times again, shoved the girl down the well only to have her crawling back up again.
I felt an indescribable pain in those days. And that pain somehow led me to what’s called “Shadow Work”. The shadow is a concept created by the famous psychologist Carl Jung.
They are the parts of ourselves that we judge to be unattractive, unacceptable, and wrong. We’re afraid that if we let them close, they’ll take over us. We’ll be out of control; we’ll lose our perfect image, and be abandoned by other people.
So we push them away, keep them hidden from ourselves and other people. However, rejecting the shadow only increases your overall sense of inner chaos. There cannot be peace if we keep waging war with ourselves.
That night, on that bed, I realized the only way for me to finally be free from that war is to make peace with this little girl.
As I lied with my chest facing the ceiling, I breathed softly and began to whisper: “I accept you, the girl in me that stole the money.”
Suddenly, it felt like black water was spilling up and out of my heart. It enveloped my body. But I was too tired to fight any longer. So I surrendered. I breathed. I welcomed.
In a moment, a relaxation came over me. The next thing I know, I fell into a deep sleep, one of the most peaceful sleep I ever had.
I vaguely recall a dream of holding the girl’s hand walking on a field of grass.
In my dream, I gave her all she wanted - a lot of comic books, a piano, a piano teacher, dance classes, the right to not go to school and cozy bedroom with a door that is never locked... She doesn’t need to steal money to quench a child thirst for joy anymore.
What did I learn?
I learned that I need to accept the part of me that I fear and judge the most with naked arms and a tender heart. If I can do so, that part will be healed, and I will be whole. I must let my abandoned children come Home.
This is, what I believe, the highest act of self-love.
(10,000 times more powerful than eating kale and having pretty toenails.)
To find a way back into love with the parts of you that you hate and the parts of you that hate you.
To push aside heavy lid atop the well and let whatever comes come. Or to dive into the black water, if that’s what beckons, carrying nothing with you but love.
It takes courage. Love takes courage.
But this is the only way I know, if you want to truly, truly get out of pain and get into peace.
Now tell me, my beloved...
What are the parts of you that you haven’t accepted? How do you feel about welcoming them Home?