“My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Every time you judge yourself you break your own heart.”
I’ve been thinking about what everyone said on my “fat and ugly” post last week. I can’t say that I’ve never heard most of it, I’ve even said some of it – to others. But why don’t I ever apply it to my self?
The voices in my head? Oh sure, they say, you shouldn’t judge other people. But you, you Zazzy really are just as horrible and ugly and stupid etc., as you think. Stupid voices. Don’t you wonder where they come from? Conventional wisdom says they mostly come from our parents, teachers, peers, and the media. And it is true that I was never good enough for my parents, that teachers were more inclined to talk about what you did wrong rather than what you did right, that I was teased by peers and come on, the media photoshops already beautiful models to make them even more perfect. But not everyone tortures themselves like this even though most of us are subjected to similar criticisms and pressures.
Don’t you like what I did there? Found another way to blame myself? Must be something wrong with me because, after all, there are some people who don’t carry these stupid messages in their heads despite childhood criticisms etc. I wouldn’t do that to other people, either.
Once upon a time, I specialized in the treatment of women who had been victims of childhood sexual trauma. Nearly all of them judged the small child who was abused as having been capable of fending off their abuser. As adults, all we need to do it talk to a child to see that this isn’t true. But most of these women saw that child as flawed or bad for not saving themselves. And there are all kinds of reasons. If you get past the physical limitations of a child fighting off an attacker, eventually someone says, “Well, I should have told someone.” Even that superficially logical argument isn’t true. Child victims are told that this is normal – and they don’t know better – they’re threatened, people they love are threatened, they’re told it’s their fault or that they’ll get in trouble and they just don’t know that those things aren’t true. Some of them are even in situations where it really would be dangerous to tell. It takes a lot of time and tears to forgive that child and place the blame where it really belongs.
So what am I getting at? We judge ourselves so harshly. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to someone we loved – or usually even to a stranger. Can you imagine telling a friend or your child that he or she is too fat and ugly to be loved? Would you judge someone you care about by the way they look? Do you love someone because they’re pretty outside or because they are kind or smart or funny inside?
I know this, I do. But I keep doing it to myself. And I don’t think I’m alone. I think there are far too many people who are unkind to themselves, who don’t treat themselves with respect, who listen to those voices that tell them that they’re not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough. If we stop and think, we know it’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s plain not nice. But we do it anyway. I do it anyway. And the voices have voices to justify themselves.
It really is important, I think, to stop this self loathing. I’m not sure how, except to remember that I wouldn’t treat a friend this way.