Since I was a teenager, I’ve struggled with a low sense of self-worth. As early as I can recall, I’ve not liked that dude staring back at me in the mirror. Having opened up my heart and admitted this, however, I know I’m not the only one. I can feel it when I talk to some people. I can feel it when I watch some people, and while it’s my struggle as well, I know it’s very unhealthy.
The other day I was at Wal-Mart and there were two ladies in the potato chip aisle, both appearing to be in their mid-to-late 20s. One was about 5’2” and couldn’t have weighed over “90 pounds soaking wet,” as my Grandma Stroud used to say. She had long, dark hair, a pretty face, model-looking figure, and a large ring on her finger. Her smile was contagious as she seemed to move gracefully from one item to the other.
The other was around my height of 5’10” or so, and probably weighed in the mid-to-upper 200s. Her short, blonde hair was thinning, as were her worn-out sweat pants. The poor lady’s teeth seemed as scraggly as her coat. She stepped nearer to the other lady, almost embarrassed, and said, “Excuse me,” as she reached for the pizza-flavored Pringles. She could barely look the other woman in the eye.
“Oh, I’m sorry, let me get out of your way!” the long-haired brunette smiled, stepping out of the way, not judging the other woman in the least.
The larger woman grabbed two cans of chips, and slowly proceeded to limp down the aisle. I recognized that limp; she had chronic pain issues. Every step seemed to be a chore.
I went on about my business, but couldn’t get the look on her face out of my mind.
This is what her look seemed to be saying to the thinner woman: “I hate myself. I hate that I’m not thin like you. I hate that I don’t have money, like you appear to have. I hate that I can’t dress like you. I hate that I don’t weigh what you do. I hate that I’m not healthy, like you seem to be. I hate that I’m so tall and galumphing, while you’re so petite. I hate that you’re so pretty and I’m so ugly. I hate…me.”
It broke my heart, but as I’ve explained to my wife, I can’t really say anything when I see a woman who carries feelings like this, because, as a man, it’s extremely difficult to do without it coming off inappropriately.
But to that lady in the chip aisle, and to anyone else who has ever felt like this, please let me say:
You are God’s child. Your worth is so vast, it could never be measured by human standards. To God—and to those who love you dearly—things such as looks and weight are inconsequential. You are a beautiful person. Your smile lights up a room, and you are a wonderful blessing.
Now, that’s easy for me to say, but putting it into practice is tougher. I don’t know why I struggle with self-loathing, but some days are pretty bad. I’ll literally have to look in the mirror and say out loud to that old dude starin’ back at me: “Make peace with it. Make peace with him.”
Sorry if this seems too personal or too weird, but I’m trying to keep it real, my friend. I am cursed with an urge to write about the dungeon of my own self-hatred today; about the shadows of self-deprecating attitudes, and how dangerous they can be. These feelings taint the way we handle every relationship. Every joke becomes an insult, and every cross look becomes a challenge. Every snicker seems to be mockery, and everyone seems out to get us.
When dealing with self-hatred, the whole world just seems a little darker. People seem to hate you. They’re out to get you, and for good reason, you assume. Believe me, if you don’t get this under control, it just gets worse as you get older.
“As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?” from “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)
Here’s a poem I wrote a few years ago, trying to deal with the mirror-man:
“God, I Hate That Man,” by Rob Weddle
God, I HATE that man in the mirror
And self-hatred breeds when the image gets clearer
Bloated, gray and balding, skin sags
Stretch marks, bent back, scars and eye bags
A picture which sits on my desk at work
Is me at 19 with an arrogant smirk
That kid in the picture (the one with the smile)
What lessons in store, what a long, grueling mile!
The mirror was kinder in my younger years
But the man I am now is less driven by fears
The one staring back at me has a great life
Children, grandchildren, a beautiful wife
God help me not hate the man in the mirror
And may I accept him as Heaven draws nearer
For this man’s more simple to love by a mile
Than the kid in the picture…the one with the smile
The man I am now has faith like a rock
And finds simple laughter in my daily walk
Kinder and funnier, with anger at bay
Braving life’s trials like a prep school ballet
God, you love them the same, I know
But I love You more every day as I grow
So I promise I’ll try to love me like you do
And let love and laughter skew my worldview
I would like to put forth the assumption that life would be a much sweeter, kinder and gentler place if we could dispel these dangerous and debilitating thoughts. Perhaps we should try and make a vow to, if not love ourselves, at least not hate ourselves.
Think about it: babies don’t judge their care-givers. They look to them for everything; love, support, food and shelter. They stare lovingly into the eyes of those who cherish them, and giggle at funny faces and tickles. To babies, there are no ugly people. There are no fat people. There are no “losers.”
You’re a good person. It is essential you begin to see yourself as those who cherish you the most see you.
Ok, ok, I’ll admit: that’s good advice for both of us.
When accosted by devastating feelings, read the verses below, and let us try and remember that we are amazing and beautiful creatures, fashioned in the womb by God Himself:
“I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord! You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place, carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something. You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book. (Psalms 139:14-16, emphasis added)”