Today’s the day I stop hating myself.
**If you read nothing else in this post, skip down to the exercise at the bottom.**
A couple of months ago, I was working on the logo and branding images for The Process’ social media and site. I sent one of the images to one of my dearest friends with a self-deprecating qualifier along the lines of “this is tacky and terrible but do you think it’s publishable?” I was not prepared for her response.
My friend Katie and I aren’t exactly delicate with each other. We talk real talk all the time. But for some reason her reply text really hit me. It said:
“Shannon - ❤ every time you present a beautiful idea by discrediting yourself first, I'm not giving my input. I love you but you’re killing your worth and yourself. Honey! I can’t let you do this to yourself anymore.”
Yikes. I wasn’t ready to hear that. But are we ever ready to hear the hard truth?
Her words stuck with me, as they should have. At first, I was a little pissed -- but I think that was the shock. Then I cried because she was right.
I hold a ton of self-hate. I’ve learned that about myself in going to Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I’m really cruel to myself. You should see how weird I get when people try to give me a compliment. Validation, I’ll take but don’t you dare compliment me. If someone was as cruel as I am to myself to one of my friends, I’d tear them a new one.
Katie’s words were in the back of my head when I wrote down the list of things I'm proud of in the photo above. I wrote it on my way back from hiking across the Alps, which with altitude sickness and all, was a feat for me.
Writing the list was an emotional experience. For one, if you read it without any context, it’s riddled with privilege. And it is. I am very fortunate and privileged to live the life I do. I do live paycheck to paycheck without savings because I choose to spend my money on travel, music, and experiences. I fund my own experiences and I work very hard for those paychecks. But I recognize that it’s a privilege to be able to make that choice.
It was also an emotional experience because I simply can’t believe where I’m at. Twenty four-year old me would have never guessed that I would’ve lived in New York for three years. That I’d actually book successful shows in New York Fucking City and for causes I find important in a time that’s confusing and scary. A time where we need art and community more than ever.
That I’d then move to the opposite corner of the country from my family. That I’d spend time in Europe. That I’d make friends in all corners of the world. That I’d climb mountains and love it. That when I wanted to see something exist, I’d just create it. That I would launch projects that touch people’s lives. (I’m not changing lives by any means, but I have successfully helped musicians gain supportive fans who would’ve never known about them otherwise.)
I have literally lived the dreams of my younger self. Dreams that I would’ve never told anyone about because I would’ve been too embarrassed.
Then why on earth am I so mean to myself? Why am I always reminding myself of the things I haven’t done? Or how should be skinnier. Stronger. Faster. Richer. More involved in the music industry. Why are people always telling me to be more confident? Or worse, why do I encourage the people who love me to talk to me how I talk about myself because it’s “funny.”
Here’s the thing, self-deprecating humor can be hilarious. Being mean can be very funny. It doesn’t make it right. There are other ways to find humor in life. We can make light of our mistakes - that’s different. We can laugh at ourselves when we’re clumsy or make mistakes. Laughter is a crucial tool for making it in this world, in my opinion. But I don’t have to beat myself down with a figurative sick for some laughs -- for acceptance. And I sure as hell don’t need to encourage others to treat me or anyone else that way.
I know where it came from and I don’t feel like diving deep into that. It was a defense mechanism. I said all the negative things about myself in a sarcastic tone so no one else could say them first. Or to lessen the sting when they did. By doing so, I was shining a spotlight on those “negative” characteristics instead of bringing the positive ones to light. Healthy, right?
Well, no longer my friends. Today is the day I start letting myself be proud of me. Today is the day I start truly loving myself. Or, more realistically, today is the day that I start trying to let myself be proud of me. That I become more intentional with my thoughts and actions.
I sometimes say that I am proud of myself in search of validation from others - usually family members. But never do I feel truly proud of myself for the work I put in. For the things I dedicate myself to. For constantly pushing myself out of my own comfort zone.
Fuck that. I have to be proud of myself. I have such a supportive network of friends and family but I’ll never accept their support if I don’t believe in myself. And what on earth is the point of doing these things if I won’t allow myself to feel fulfilled by or proud of them?
I’m never going to enjoy my life if I don’t fully embrace its radness. I’m never going to learn what it is I like and don’t like about the things I do if I don’t take some time to reflect on, enjoy, and ponder them. If I don’t recognize how hard I’ve worked for them. I’m very much a work in progress but I love me for my flaws and my willingness to work through them. To let my work on and with them guide me towards doing the things that I can be proud of. I no longer will let myself hate me because we don’t need any more hate right now.
Here’s an exercise I encourage everyone to do:
- Write a list of things you’ve done you’re proud of.
- Paste it to your wall.
- What about those things are you proud of?
- How can you incorporate more of those elements into your life moving forward?
- Think about the things you’d like to work on. (It’s super important that you don’t bash yourself here - this is not a time for self-deprecation, it’s simply an exercise in self-awareness.)
- How can you be intentional in your actions to do things you’re proud of that will help you improve the things you want to work on?
- Do something to celebrate you because you’re awesome.
What were your favorite pride moments of the past year? I’d love to read through them in the comments below!