This is my eighth-grade year book picture…after I scribbled me out. There was a time when I hated everything about myself. In 1987, “I hate you,” “You’re ugly,” “Nobody loves you,” were the words I screamed, while blotting out my face.
Recently, someone gave me a compliment or at least they thought they did. They said, “Girl—I love your Marilyn Monroe hips."
I smiled, and said, “Thanks”—I guess? Her words caused a whirlwind of self-hate and self-disgust to manifest that had been dormant. What I didn’t hear was “You look great,” or “beautiful,” or “lovely.” I heard, “You’ve got a terrible pear shaped body. You’re too wide…too ugly…too fat. Who could love you?”
Afterward, I did exactly what my husband told me not to—I stepped on the scale. The blinking bold digits sent shock, disappointment, and self-hatred surging through me. With tears in my eyes, I thought to myself, How did I allow myself to get here…again? I hate my hips. I hate my waist. I hate my legs. I hate my face. A hundred-and-forty pounds was better than this lousy hundred-and-seventy pounds…you freak! I spent three hours curled up like a pill-bug beneath the covers with my eighth grade year book open to the photograph I scribbled out, and crying inconsolably. The familiar combination yanked me back to when I was fourteen-years-old and stood looking at myself in my mother’s three-way mirror. That recollection went something like this…
“Around the table leg, I continue wiping while at the same time wishing I could clean up the mess my life had become as easily as the one in front of me. Ever since I can remember a conflict wages between my ears— ‘good angel’ versus ‘bad angel’— light verses dark. Regrettably, I don’t have any enchanting “Cinderella” tales to share—none I can recall while laying my head to rest at night. There are no princes in disguise, luxurious stagecoaches made from ripened pumpkins, or mystical godmothers with magical wands to appear who, with the wave of a stick, can whisk me away from the pain and misery that is my life.
I close my eyes while rinsing the dishcloth, and consider the dreams most little girls have of prancing around in their mother’s shimmering veil and elegantly patterned wedding dress. I imagine a girl—her face overflows with innocence and beauty. The girl stands in a loft and admires her reflection in the mirror. A sprawl of golden hair drapes across her shoulders, and tucked behind her ear, a spree of freshly picked baby’s breath. The girl smiles and raises her hand to her lips. Pecking her palm sweetly, she exhales and her tiny fingers splay as fan blades subtly spinning around.
The image of a mother materializes beside the small girl—the mother reaches up and catches the kiss. “You are my beautiful princess. Whatever you desire in life is yours.” Happiness and laughter fill the space between my ears.
But now I’m back. I open my eyes and the image crumbles away. The vision of playfulness, innocence, and encouragement ruptures into more pain, and loneliness, and yearning. I grasp at straws to find another vision to help me escape the dark place I’m in, but there is none that rushes to relieve me.
Overcome with despair, I prop the broom handle against the stove. Tears flow from my eyes like rain from a gutter. I hurry out of the kitchen to Mother’s bedroom to analyze myself in her full length three-way mirror. I gaze at my reflection, and examine the contours of my high cheek bones and scrawny face, my broad nostrils, undersized ears, the braided-scar on my chin, and two bulky front teeth that looked like Chiclets.
“Look at how ugly you are. Nobody loves you. Nobody cares about you. How could they? You are a pathetic loser.”
Grabbing the orange handled scissors, I clutch a fist full of hair and begin clipping. “I hate these curls.” I scream, “I wish it were straight and Barbie doll blond.” I turn sideways to better view my five foot four silhouette. I pinch the excess skin beneath my arm. You have to lose weight. A hundred pounds is too fat. Ninety-eight pounds is better. Angst and self-loathing boil over like an unattended pot of potatoes. I punch my thighs and yank my hair to inflict physical pain—anything to keep the internal pain from swallowing me up.
The “bad angel” taunts me. You are Cinderella without the fairy tale ending. You are not entitled to live happily ever after.
I suck my belly in, exposing my rib cage. What prince would go out of his way to rescue you? Look at you. Aunt Mable’s right— you are a worthless little tramp, a floozy-Suzy.
In the clenches of my tug-of-war, I stare long and hard in the mirror hoping to find a consoling memory. Through the storm in my mind, a timeless phrase wades to the forefront. “I am what I think. Think on happy thoughts,” I encourage myself. “I am what I think. I am what I think, I am what I think. I crave happiness. I crave normalcy. I crave love. But how do I get this triune?” My thoughts waffle from good things to bad and back again. “You’re not so ugly,” “Well, maybe a little,” “Now you’re fooling yourself,” to “You’re not so ugly.”
Disappointment settles in when I realize nothing about my appearance is different, except for the few clumps of walnut-colored curls at my feet and the discolored knuckle marks on my thighs. The geyser of emotion has once again erupted and retreated. I stand still and watch the lonely and desperate image staring back at me. How long can this behavior last? I ask the both of us… (a small excerpt from my memoir titled, In the Land of Canaan, Maine: A Little Girl’s Giants, to be published).”
Self-hatred is a slippery slope and it can send you careening of a cliff into an abyss of isolation and self-disgust. When you fall in it, you have two choices “Keep falling or climb out.” The only one who can make that decision is—YOU. Every choice matters. It takes practice and persistence, but you can overcome. Peter said in Acts 2, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”
The word untoward in the Greek means, skolios: curved, winding, crooked. It’s where we get the word Scoliosis from.
This again, makes me think of when I was young. My older sister, Pauline, had curvature of the spine. It caused one of her legs to be shorter than the other, and when she walked she had a signature up—down—up—down cadence. In order to accommodate the imbalance, my mother handmade a special lift to put in her shoe. Over time, although, brutally painful, the chiropractor worked on her back, and was able to straighten her spine to make the awkward limp disappear.
You are stronger than you think. Not to mention, you are the only one inside your head---only you can do the hard work of reconciliation to help restore peace between your body, mind, and spirit. Wait, what about God? It doesn't matter what the scripture says, if you don't apply it---The power is in the application. This being said, the next time you think about treating yourself like a verbal and physical punching bag consider the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” There’s a scripture that I love “But God demonstrates his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Sin simply means to "miss the mark." Maybe you’ve been missing the mark because of the curved, winding, and crooked way you view yourself?
Change Your Perception—Change Your Reality
“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens” – Louise L. Hay.
Yes it is possible to accept yourself--completely! You do this by practicing the fruit of the Spirit on yourself. In order to love your neighbor as yourself, you first have to love YOU!
A therapist will tell you that we make a hypothesis about ourselves, and then our brain searches for information to verify our assumption. You’ve decided that you are not worthy of love, and you blame you for all of the brokenness you’ve experienced: “If only I’d said ‘no’.” “If only I’d fought back.” “If only I’d kicked and screamed.” “If only I’d listened.” “If only…,” can you see yourself yet? Because of that belief, your brain is looking for and finding the evidence to prove your unworthiness. By doing so, you are actively making that hypothesis true. What if you started telling yourself that you are deeply flawed but you are worthy of love? If you decide that this is true, you might find the proof to back this up, and begin loving yourself.
“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it” - Martin Luther King Jr.
Self-hatred is Scoliosis of the Mind. The curved, winding, and crooked way you view yourself paralyzes, confuses, and darkens your life.
Have you heard of Dr. Emoto’s rice experiment? He cooked a batch of rice and separated it into three containers. He labeled one jar “Thank You,” one jar “You’re An Idiot,” and one jar, he left “unlabeled.” Every day for a month, he spoke whatever was on the jar to the rice inside. After thirty days, the “Thank You” rice was mostly white, and had a pleasant smell. The “You’re An Idiot” rice turned mostly black, and “began to rot.” And the “ignored” rice fared the worst because of neglect that occurred. I can’t say that I’ve tried this experiment at home, but I can testify that when I changed what I spoke over myself something amazing happened—I stopped rotting!
Thankfully, I no longer wallow in a constant state of self-hate, although, I admit, I do have spells from time to time. When this happens, I speak a new hypothesis and align my thoughts and speech with what’s true. And before long, I’m looking for and finding the proof that: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” “I am loved with an everlasting love.” “I am worthy of love.” “I am beautiful.”
So, it’s been a month since stepping on the scale, and I have no plans to step on it anytime soon. However, I have started back eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and I’ve made plans to start running again. Today, I understand that my emotional well-being is connected to how I feel physically. Thus, aligning my thoughts and taking action helps to prevent the up—down—up—down affects Scoliosis of the Mind can have.
Okay, maybe you are broken. Maybe you find yourself questioning why God made you the way He did. Why are my ears tiny? Why are my teeth bulky? Why are my hips wide? I get it. But there’s a good broken and a bad broken. Meaning, you can take the shattered pieces of your life and make a stain glass ornament to reflect the Light, or you can allow yourself to be swept into the garbage can of your mind---the abyss. Either way, it's your choice.
I heard someone say, "By accepting who you are, you embrace your authentic self and all your faults and imperfections"---I find this to be true. When you do this, it is experiencing what it means to live an abundant life here and now. Wayne Dyer said, “Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.” I’m living proof that happiness and laughter can fill the space between your ears, and instead of just surviving, you can overcome!
I am M.O.R.E., and so are you!