This morning, I finished reading “There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate” by Cheri Huber. As a way of helping me process some of what I learned, I’m focusing this post on truths from the book.
1. Truth: As children, we learn that love, acceptance, and approval are “out there” and must be earned somehow. I heard this idea first in one of Brene’ Brown‘s books, that when we are young, 0-5 or so, we view love and attention as survival issues, because we are aware that we are dependent on others to have our needs met–unless we can get others to love and care for us, we’ll literally die. We believe we must earn our very survival, get others to meet our needs.
Then, even later in our lives, we don’t look to ourselves for love or care, don’t see them as needs we can meet. “Without feeling full ourselves, what looks like generosity and kindness is often a backwards plea to get our own needs met. A silent, ‘If I meet your needs, you must meet mine,’ ” (“Start With You” by Nona Jordan). Some of us, without even being conscious of it, stay stuck in this way of being. Stuck in looking to others for love, acceptance, and approval, we don’t learn to love, appreciate, accept, care for, or trust ourselves, we try to earn it.
2. Truth: Stuck here, we believe if our needs aren’t met, it’s because we’ve failed. We need others to meet our needs and when they aren’t, when they don’t, it’s because we aren’t good enough, we’re flawed or broken. If only we could please or perform, be perfect, we would get what we need. We don’t believe we can provide for ourselves. We become self-hating, self-destructive, self-denying, and smash ourselves to bits to try and be what we think others want. We believe we aren’t loved or accepted because something is wrong with us. We spend our attention, time, effort, and energy trying to be good, earn approval, get permission, please others by being perfect. It’s like that cellphone commercial where the guy keeps saying “can you hear me now?” but instead we are saying “do you love me now?”
3. Truth: The way out of self-hate is to learn to love and accept yourself, exactly as you are. No need for self-improvement or change, no need to earn this. We can simply drop the trying, the smashing ourselves to bits, and accept ourselves–simple in theory, but hard to do when something is so old and deep and sticky, but it’s workable, and worthwhile to try. And the good news is:
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves–the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds–never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. ~Pema Chödrön
One wish: That we all know our basic goodness, remember it, have faith in it, trust it. “If you are ever going to be free, you must be willing to prove to yourself that your inherent nature is goodness, that when you stop doing everything else, goodness is what is there,” (Cheri Huber). Goodness that is loving and accepting, that can provide everything you need. “We think we are rocks, but we are gold.” May we all embody and manifest this truth.
There’s so much more truth in Cheri Huber’s book, 300 rather than just three. I put folds in the top corners of 37 pages, the places where something shimmered, the brilliant glittery light of truth almost burned through the page, made my eyes tear up. Letting go of self-hate is important work. For those of us working with it, (here’s your bonus wish), may we accomplish it quickly and without obstacle so we can get on with the good work of loving ourselves and being of benefit to others in their struggle, so that we can ease suffering in the world.