I’m sure that title may not sit well with some people. Stick with me, I don’t intend to be offensive.
I work in radiation oncology. I have met countless patients in the midst of cancer treatment. While I no longer provide direct patient care, I still hear stories. I see their faces. I will always carry the lessons I have learned from the people I’ve been fortunate to treat. Working in a field where you are surrounded by people fighting for more time and/or less pain has completely changed me. The lens through which I view the world is permanently different. Issues that many people get angry over or fixate on seem trivial to me. Most arguments I see as a waste of time.
Many of us, including me, operate with the assumption that we have a long life ahead of us. We take our health, our most valuable asset, for granted. When illness or injury befall us, that false sense of security vanishes like a raindrop in the ocean. We then see just how valuable health is.
We are born. We die. Our expiration date is not known.
This brings me to the title of this post: self loathing is a luxury. I do not equate depression and self loathing. Depression is a real debilitating disorder. I am referring to healthy people who constantly criticize themselves. They hate their thighs, smile, stomach, perceived inabilities, hair, etc.
If you have a body to hate, you are much more fortunate than those who have lost use of body parts, capabilities, time, or their lives due to injury or illness.
Am I suggesting that you shouldn’t try to improve yourself? Of course not. But please, stop the inner dialogue that tells you aren’t smart, pretty, handsome, tall, short, fit, capable, whatever, as you “should” be. Strive to be your best version of you, but embrace your weaknesses. Self acceptance may enable you to enjoy your life more. You may find that you see opportunity where once you saw closed doors.
My middle school had a motto that I found stupid at the time, but now appreciate. “Attitude is Everything.” Life, and fitness, are filled with set-backs and disappointments, but we have the power to change our experiences by choosing how we react.
Here is an exercise that may help you recognize your own unconscious negativity:
Week 1: Do not say anything negative AT ALL. You can think it, but do not say it.
Week 2: Same, but consciously find something positive about negative experiences.
Week 3: Same, but share your positive observations with others.
Week 4: Same, but in conversation, discourage negativity in others by not engaging them if they berate themselves.
Within a few weeks, you may realize how hard you are on yourself, and you will quickly see negativity in others, too. I can’t put in words how helpful this technique has been for me.
What are some of the ways you have held yourself back? Are you willing to step out of your own way so that you can enjoy your life? What are some techniques you have used to squelch negativity?
Time is too valuable to squander via self hatred. Life is just too precious, and too short.
You might like this other post I wrote: What Defines You?
This article was written for the Daily HIIT. The original article can be found here.
Disclaimer: I’m not a mental health professional, and don’t claim to have “the answers.” I’m just sharing what I’ve learned from my former patients with the hope that it might improve someone else’s life as much as it has mine.