Must I fight against what I dislike about myself?
Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.
We naturally move away from what we dislike, what threaten us, disgusts us, etc.
But, what happens when what we dislike is ourselves? What happens if I have some personal characteristic that I consider disastrous for my social and love life? Well, I will try to avoid it being noticed, or I will fight to change it and in short, I will become anxious and worried every time that “it” shows itself and jeopardises something that I am seeking or leaves me in a bad place. Even though I try to change it, avoid it or make it disappear, if it is important to me and I feel as if I am missing something, the anxiety will constantly follow me like a shadow. And that is natural, because what I “hate” about myself is what I am. What I resist, is me. This perception I have of myself that makes me feel split in two, a part of myself that I like and another that I hate, does not allow me to be at peace. One part of me struggles against the other part to hide it as if it were an unpardonable sin that prevents me from entering a social paradise.
It happens when we think that we are not sufficiently intelligent, creative, diligent, pleasant, convincing, good-looking, extroverted or brave. We judge that we are not really acceptable. So we make an effort to appear to be something we are not. This struggle creates a permanent internal conflict, through us constantly comparing ourselves, and without realising it, with an ideal that we have internalised about what we should be like. In this struggle we end up as eternal losers.
Is there perhaps some other way of dealing with these thoughts and judgements about ourselves?
Before seeking to change anything, we need to be conscious that we have an ideal and that we are constantly judging ourselves. We need to realise it when we are in a real or imaginary situation. To learn, choose one of those imaginary situations that cause you anxiety and pay attention to the physical tension it produces in you, without seeking to avoid it: tension in your head, or stomach or throat…Pay attention to the feelings that arise, without fleeing from them. Identify what you feel: shame, impotence or reluctance…Also observe your thoughts, the things you say to yourself: “It is not going to turn out well,” “The same thing will happen to me that always does,” “They know more than me,”…Be like a neutral witness to what happens and be aware of everything that is triggered in you when faced with “those situations.” Breathe while you observe all of this.
Gaining awareness of what happens to us, without running away from it, without judging it as negative, is a fundamental step so that the reactions that are unleashed cease to be intense and that you give yourself space to respond and not to be swept along by fear and anxiety. Practise it first in private, reliving ordinary situations until you manage to familiarise yourself with your own reactions and also with this new way of dealing with them.
In short, things can only get better!