My name is Sarah, and I do not love myself. Not even just a little bit. Maybe at some point I did, but like childhood, it sounds like a distant memory. And there is such a thing as a false memory. I have a lot of them.
I always knew I had a mild taste of dislike for myself, but I can finally admit that love is not the equation either.
I’ve been bumbling around and scratching my head for a while now trying to figure my life out. I’m 23, this is expected if I want to enter the working world and be taken seriously. And the reason I keep tripping over my two dumb awkward feet, moving fast, but not getting very far, figuratively speaking, is because I do not love myself.
“Get very far” does not mean noteworthy landmarks of life. I graduated college, top of my class even. Although I’ve been a temporary worker for a while now, I still don’t know what it feels like to be unemployed. I moved into an apartment with my boyfriend. I have friends who are willing to be in my life even if I don’t get to see them all the time. I have a family that is not at all intact, but alive and still loving me. Sure these are nice things. I worked hard for them, and I wish I didn’t believe it was all just luck. It’s hard for me to enjoy these things because I do not love myself.
It affects me. It affects everything I touch—my relationships with other people, which are important to me and worth my time. It affects my blossoming career as a writer. Yes, a writer. At least I feel one thing loud and clear. I’m a fucking writer. I love it, man. But I am not about to develop a new love and hide behind it without loving myself first. There are a lot of problems about being a writer who does not love herself.
This is a great way to start a blog series, right? Okay, so this girl Sarah does not love herself, why should I take anything she has to say seriously? And you’re right, I’m a hypocrite. I’m a danger to myself and others.
Here is why: I know I have the ability to change other people’s lives. This is not my opinion, believe me, I just have seen the look in a few people’s eyes when they told me. I have leaned on that when I REALLY feel like garbage about myself. I lean on what other people say because I don’t believe it myself.
But even then, I recalculate. Maybe my numbers were off. There is no way someone can possibly think this about me, I think. And anyone who knows me knows this is the part where I begin to find things hilarious. Cackle worthy, not just funny. Knee-spanking. I laugh at people when they tell me a lot of things. My grandpa told me I was his “movie star.” FUNNY SHIT. My mom told me I was her “pretty girl.” Good one, Ma. My professors called me a “leader.” What the fuck does that mean? My best friend and boyfriend tell me I am a “good person,” and this is the funniest thing of all.
But here’s the dangerous part: I TELL OTHER PEOPLE TO LOVE THEMSELVES. All the time. Every single day. And when I say it, I mean it. I think good people deserve to hear it. Even if it begins to echo off the walls. I tell people to do something, and I am very convincing and eloquent about it, but I can’t do it myself.
I found a piece of hypocrisy I wrote months ago before I started serving at the bar. It is called “Pieces of Advice I Tell Myself That May Perhaps be Helpful to Other Human Beings.”
Take a look at #5 of my own prophetic advice to others (and myself):
#5—Fall in Love with Everything. (It should add: “But make sure you love yourself first before you fall in love with everything.”):
Love what you do, what you find out about yourself. Most importantly, but also the hardest concept to stomach: love yourself. Do it. Love your small feats, your strength when you didn’t know you had it.
Love the underappreciated self-control. Self-control comes a long way. It is one of the greatest virtues.
Love the results of hard work, but love the process more. Look at your work from every angle and then pee on it, claim that territory and take pride in it. Share it with others.
Another hard one—love your own voice. If you know what you are talking about, have done the research, have seniority, have lived through it, speak up! People will generally appreciate and respect what you have to say if you don’t approach it like an indignant asshole.
And another hard one—love the sexy skin you’re in. Get naked! Love yourself as a sexual being; you’re an animal after all. Don’t be a pompous, sleaze ball, but don’t sink into yourself with self-hatred or get sucked into the self-conscious black pit. This one is hard to do. I barely let my boyfriend see my complete stomach, and I cringe when little people or people sitting down wrap their arms around my waist for a hug. I make oompa loompa sounds when I walk. Love your curves, mama. It’s all about how you use your piece, buddy.
I have not followed any of this advice one bit. See, I told you. I am decently eloquent, aren’t I? But for the life of me, I can’t do any of these things myself because I fail before I even begin. I don’t love myself. Problem. Red Flag. STOP. Don’t pass go.
Where is this coming from? Here’s another ounce of TMI that I probably shouldn’t spew all over the internet. Someone recently told me he is in love with me. One morning before the 7:35 train, I spilled coffee and cinnamon all over myself. He saw it happen, laughed, and I so did I. Then I said hi. I sat next to him on the train every day for the next 3 months, but he told me the spilled coffee is what got him.
This is a problem not only because I’ve already found someone I want to spend my time with, who has accepted that I don’t love myself, and tries to make up for that lack of love, but also because I can’t get by on loving myself. Sound like a skipping CD, yet? (I’m trying not to be cliché and say ‘broken record’ Who am I kidding, all of this is cliché, but that’s okay. It’s an important one).
Anyway, this smart, sweet, regular dude who accompanied me on my morning commute to a life I’ve personally made soul-sucking, undid some of the damage I did. He told me he loved me and stopped talking to me. The last thing he said before saying he never wanted to see me again was, “The worst thing about this situation is you don’t even know that you are a person who is worth falling in love with,” and again it sounded foreign, and my first instinct was to laugh. But I didn’t this time. Because it’s not funny. You do not get to laugh at people who are brave enough to express their love for someone else. You just don’t. Him loving me, and I not loving him or myself is not funny at all.
I still feel like I did something wrong. Maybe I led him on. Maybe I should change shampoos. Maybe I should just stop fucking talking to people for once in my life. Maybe I smiled too much. Maybe I’m just a manipulative asshole who gets someone to fall in love with her and gets some sick satisfaction watching this person squirm when she doesn’t say it back.
I know there are a lot of amazing people out there who are passionate about others and may want to live for them too but don’t love themselves. If you are one of them, I am aiming this straight at your forehead. Do you love yourself? If you find this funny, change the subject, can’t look the asker in eye, then: Problem. Red flag. STOP. Don’t pass go.
This seems like an easy question, but it’s not if you really think about it. I like to think that I am smart sometimes. People certainly tell me I am smart. Then why has it taken you such a long time to reach this conclusion, genius?
I can say this until I’m purplish blue in the face, but chances are you aren’t going to listen to me. I have spent my life picking life lessons from other people and filling up my basket with berries of all kinds. This one, not a single damn soul can tell you. But I am going to say it just in case. Maybe it’s a seed, an inception if you will.
If you are a young person who does not love herself or himself, BEFORE YOU FIGURE SHIT OUT, work on this first.
The odds are NOT in our favor. Jobs are still not there. Temporary positions, contract positions, internships, are there. If you want a job you have to know people or find a good ass recruiter who knows the trenches. I got my recent temp job ironically because of a cover letter I wrote that started off as a joke cover letter. “Funny,” even if it is pathetic, can take you a long way if you want it to. But generally, people aren’t going to give you ANYTHING. You can’t just wait around either. I promise you, I am in the corporate inner layers. It’s terrifying to see the amount of people pretending to be fast asleep.
People are scared. Even the ones who are nestled safely in jobs won’t dare look you in the face and explain why they deserve to be there more than you. They see you moving around all crab like, and don’t want to stick their neck out because it might cost them their job or worse their time. I don’t know. Maybe the majority of people just don’t give a shit. Anyway, I still don’t have a “job” to call my own.
How can people expect young adults to figure themselves out with this kind accepted working world? My proposition is simple. Here’s my naïve idea on how to fix things: Remember that college education thing that the leaders in this country harp on and on and on about? You know those core classes, gen eds we all have to take? Math, philosophy, lit, even religion at some schools? I had great experiences with all of these classes. But I had only ONE class with hintage of career development, and I went to a pretty damn good school. And it was a SENIOR YEAR Social Work class that got me to decide against the service sector of Social Work. BAM, just saved me some time right there. A little late in the game, but that’s alright.
Career development needs to be a requirement, man. Not an aloof, offsite, if-you-want-to-stop-by gray building with people who are quivering about mentoring you because they’re afraid of their lives too. We need the best of the best here. Experts, not necessarily with degrees, who see these young people, who remember the phrase “been there.” No student should be able to get a diploma without career development training. Let’s get our money’s worth. Scratch that. Let’s get our life’s worth.
And not just career development. Let’s go back to classes where we re-learn ourselves, where we have to ask OURSELVES tough questions like: “Before I begin, do I love myself? If so, WHAT do I love about myself?” They seem easy, even besides the fact. What is this, sitting around in a circle, holding hands, and singing kumbya? Yes, yes it is. I think forcing ourselves to ask these questions can save us.
I know the interview process well. I have studied it. You have to if you want to get to the “next level.” I still have a long way to go. I promise you, the number one, favorite interview question is: What makes you stand out from all the other applicants? This is the worst fucking question in the book for people who don’t love themselves.
So, what if your answer was, “Well, I love myself. Not to the point where I am in love myself. But I am willing to love myself and treat myself right. I don’t know what I want to do. But I am balanced enough to figure it out and make few weird turns, bro”?
It will help if we can just drop the act and do it together, don’t you think? But like I said, this is something people figure out on their own. Some people never do. Maybe this will get your wheels turning at least. My name is Sarah, and I do not love myself, but I am ready to try.