I Hate Myself, But In A Good Way

Photo by Tom Grill

I hate myself sometimes–my face, my body, or even my hair when it won’t go quite exactly how I want it to go.

Since I was 13 years old, my weight has remained fairly constant, but my height has changed by around a foot. In a span of a few years, I went from awkward overweight child to awkward underweight teenager. I’m only now just at a healthy weight for someone of my size, and it only took me seven freaking years!

Since I’ve experienced being both overweight and underweight, I sympathise with the arguments for each. I’m often asked which was worse, which I considered the worst to deal with.

The honest answer? When I was “just right.” That perfect moment of equilibrium, when my height and weight were in perfect harmony? That sucked, ironically enough.

Being either side of the “right” weight meant I had a goal to aim towards, some target I was aiming for that would grant me a sense of accomplishment when I reached it. Because when I was unhappy with how I looked, I was damn well motivated to do something about it.

But when I was just the right weight? Well, that was hemlock for my motivation.

When I was overweight, I was around 5′ 4″ and weighed 10 stone (or 60 kilos, for you non-Brits). This put me on the cusp of being obese. For around six months, every meal I ate consisted of junk food, but no one in my family or circle of friends commented on this. Despite seeing me literally killing my insides with junk food, no one batted an eyelid.

Of course, my family’s silence was more than made up for by the bullies at school. Their insults made me turn to food more. It wasn’t until I tried running at a school sports day that I realised that even though the bullies were Class-A dicks, they had a point: I wasn’t healthy.

I vowed to change my diet and lifestyle. Lucky for me, this change coincided with a massive growth spurt, and the weight loss came naturally as I grew.

However, as I got to over six feet, I became painfully thin and underweight. The same clothes I’d worn whilst overweight were now in my wardrobe, too big for me to actually wear. I took instead to burying myself in baggy long-sleeved tops all year round. Touching or looking at my body quickly became something I wasn’t comfortable with.

Strangely, no one commented directly on my being underweight–not even the bullies. What were once direct insults about my weight that forced me to act were now snide jabs at how I couldn’t lift my arms, which simply made me feel worse. Being a brooding teenager, my self-confidence took a huge hit, of course. It came to the point where I wasn’t comfortable leaving my house without layers of clothing to make me seem bigger. It didn’t work, but that didn’t stop me trying.

It took another long hard look in the mirror to decide that I needed to sort myself out and get my weight to a healthy level.

Ironically, when I did finally reach the literal embodiment of the Goldilocks adventure, I became complacent. Why would I do anything to improve myself? I was already fine. So, I stopped exercising, and my health suffered as a result. I wasn’t being spurned on by my jeans feeling looser or flexing in a mirror when I thought no one was looking. I just stopped, becoming lazy and unmotivated in the process.

So, I had to find a new source of motivation. And that source was a simple shift in attitude, something as simple as always remembering my self-hate.

After almost a decade of being on both sides of the weight spectrum, I realized that focusing on what I hated about myself actually motivated me to do something about it, far more than a vague New Year’s resolution, or a bet with myself after a heavy meal.

Now, going to the gym isn’t about hating that I just ate cake. It’s about hating the fact I’m angry with myself for eating cake. When I work out, it’s not about getting rid of those love handles or totally working on my abs. It’s about wanting to get rid of that niggling feeling in my head that tells me I don’t look great, but at the same time, always needing that nagging feeling to be there.

That’s the part of myself I don’t like now–the part of me that doesn’t like me.

And I have to be honest, it feels great.

But not so great that I stop hating myself.

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  • Wait… So guys do it too? I always thought it was just us girls who were mean to ourselves. 🙂

  • The bit at the end is a little confusing – yet, unfortunately, I actually understand it…
    I could really do without bad self-image motivation. I would really like to be a naturally healthy guy, that simply likes to work out and groom himself, with no stress about it whatsoever… but unfortunately that’s not the case, and here, as much as I hate it, my bad self-image serves it’s purpose. But, to be honest, it doesn’t really feel great, perhaps my self-esteem issues are more deeply rooted… I DO feel great about not looking and feeling as bad as I could have were I to let myself go, so there’s that!
    I would also like to point out that the “bad-looks” of others can be quite motivating as well – e.g. seeing a 50 years old guy in bad shape and with a lot of health problems makes me wanna go to the gym, do some running, eat more healthy, so I won’t end up like him when I’ll turn 50…

  • One’s self-value should not come from the way one fits into his or her clothing. It’s not healthy to hate oneself, no matter how it motivates you. Self-loathing doesn’t make one a better person. This seems to be a constant theme of this blog. Don’t be happy with yourself, don’t have confidence. Always be constantly striving for something better. Putting on a few pounds shouldn’t lead to hating one self anymore than being skinny should. If you measure your self-worth by how much you weigh, you will never be happy, you will never be good enough. It’s ok to gain and lose weight as your priorities in life shift. That shouldn’t change the way that you feel about yourself. You are still loveable, no matter how big or small or hot you are. When you agree with the bullies, when you let them make you feel less of a person, they have won. No matter your size you are a person worth knowing and loving, a person who should stand tall and be happy. You deserve it, ALL THE TIME!

    • If you’re so happy with everything about yourself, why do you still read this blog, Meg?

      Musings is about sharing the lessons we’ve learned in life, about striving to make ourselves better people. If you believe that you have nothing left to learn from others, if you believe that everything about yourself is so perfect and there’s no reason to change, then why aren’t you out there enjoying your life? Cuz you’re clearly wasting it commenting on here.

    • I have heard this so many times. Looking at everything through rose tinted glasses doesn’t fix anything. “Oh you should be happy with who you are”, “Don’t let the bullies win”.

      It’s frankly stupid to talk like that, telling someone to ignore a bully is like telling them to kiss a bullet wound better, all you’re doing is addressing a surface issue.

      I was overweight, a serious health problem, I used being bullied as my motivation. If everyone in my childhood was like you and told me I was fine just the way I was, that I should be happy with my body the way it is, I’d be dangerously overweight and at risk of cutting decades off of my life. Sometimes a shock is what it takes to convince people to change.

      I appreciate that you’re saying people should be happy with who they are, but this isn’t a blog where we say everything is going to be ok. I think it’s far more useful to give people advice they can actually use in real life as apposed to generic vague statements about how everything should be perfect and you should be happy and wonderful all the time.

      But that’s just me I guess.

  • I disagree with Meg; being positive all the time just isn’t possible. There are both positive and negative forces within everyone. I’m glad the author found a way to use a negative force within him constructively.

  • Is your goal in life to be perfect or to be happy? I know skinny people who are never happy with their thinness and fat people who are happy and spread their happiness to everyone around them. I think that this is a blog that claims to be about love. What about sharing love instead of simply wanting it? You can love yourself enough to be healthy. Exercise because it makes you happy. Eat because it makes you happy. Love because it makes you happy. I’ve never known anyone feel good when they hated someone? Especially when they hate themselves. Hate eats you up inside and tears at your soul. I read to know I am not alone. When others suffer, it makes me sad. I have struggled with my weight my whole life too. I have been told I was fat when I was healthy. I have felt unloved because I was fat. But I think that happiness is a choice, and I think that mental health is as important as physical health. You can be both healthy and happy, they should not be mutually exclusive. Don’t hate yourself for being overweight, love yourself enough to be healthy.

  • I’m not perfect, but I am beautiful in my imperfection. I am always late, I feel insecure, I constantly question whether I make the right decisions in life. Sometimes I work too much, I neglect my son. I have pimples, I struggle with my weight. I overanalyze everything. I had a kid with a guy who lives in another country. I have never had a boyfriend for longer than 4 months. I am not perfect. But I love others and I accept others for their imperfections. I believe that being a better person means one who is kind, helpful, positive, thoughtful, loving, happy, and stands up for what she believes is wrong and unjust in the world. I believe in working hard, trying hard, loving hard, but also in balance. I believe that who you are on the inside and the way that you feel is important. I believe in being well-rounded. I believe in being happy, looking at the bright side of life, doing what makes me happy, and forgiving myself and others for their mistakes. Life is a learning process, sometimes we fail, but sometimes we succeed to. And we learn from both our failures and our successes. It’s about seeing the good in yourself and in others. I see a fat person dancing and smiling and I applaud that person, for that person is enjoying themselves. If you see a fat person dancing and smiling and you think that that person is annoying…I simply, fundamentally don’t agree with your life philosophy and your definition of a better person. How can you learn from others if you only listen to those who agree with you? Are you learning or lecturing? And if you are lecturing others. Are you seriously telling them to follow your example and hate themselves for all of their flaws so that they may become better, skinnier people? Here’s what I have to say about that. Those bullies weren’t trying to make you a better person. Your friends they loved you when you were skinny and they loved you when you were fat. They love you through your failures and successes. They love you because you are you. You want to teach a lesson. Teach people not to be assholes and bully eachother. Teach people they shouldn’t judge others by their weight. You were fat, but were you happy? Or were you overweight because you were unhappy? Did losing weight make you happy? Were you unhappy feeling unhealthy or did you hate yourself because you were fat? Subtleties of language make a vast difference. And what I read here was that “I hate myself.” Not, I hate the feeling of being unhealthy. And that you are motivated by “self-hate.” But go ahead teach people to hate themselves, that’s a fabulous lesson on how to be successful and happy in life.

    • Dennis,
      “Why aren’t you out there enjoying your life?” Um. Out where? Here? Africa? (One month left.) I enjoy every second of my life, I enjoy sharing my opinion and listening to other people’s opinions. I like this blog, sometimes people say amazing things, sometimes they say stupid things. Sometimes it’s brilliant, sometimes it’s banal. But I enjoy it, so take that as a compliment. I think that your fundamental philosophy in life has lead to irreconcilable differences, but just because I don’t agree with everything you say and worship the ground you walk on, doesn’t mean I stop listening to what you have to say. I don’t believe in surrounding myself with only the ideas and the people who agree with me. 🙂 I like to hear what all the writers have to say. It’s not all about you, sweetie. And yes I am happy and I do like myself and find no reason to change my fundamental values. I am working on being nicer to others and loving others more, but that is my own personal goal that I struggle with. I don’t have to agree with everyone to love them.

  • For example, I liked your article on trying too hard. I agreed with you. 🙂

  • I just don’t like you personally, because I don’t like the way you make me feel. You don’t accept who I am as a worthy person, you find fault in everything I do. You don’t understand me. And that doesn’t make much of a friend. I’m not reading to make friends. Ok, I think I have answered all of the questions.

  • A mentally healthy way to maintain your health would be to set goals like running a marathon or playing a sport or working out with others or a group. You can feel good about yourself and stay motivated.

  • Maybe you should consider the science.
    “Nine years ago a study group — 999 men and women aged 65 to 85 — completed a questionnaire on health, self-respect, morale, optimism and relationships. Since then, 397 of them have died.

    Optimistic participants had a 55 percent lower risk of death from all causes and 23 percent lower risk of death from heart failure.”

  • Another scientific study on happiness and success, you should consider.

    The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success? By Lyubomirsky, Sonja

    “The authors suggest a conceptual model to account for these findings, arguing that the happiness-success link exists not only because success makes people happy, but also because positive affect engenders success. Three classes of evidence–cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental–are documented to test their model. Relevant studies are described and their effect sizes combined meta-analytically. The results reveal that happiness is associated with and precedes numerous successful outcomes, as well as behaviors paralleling success. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that positive affect–the hallmark of well-being–may be the cause of many of the desirable characteristics, resources, and successes correlated with happiness.”

  • What’s the point of living a long life if you are unhappy and miserable all of the time in order to stay “healthy?”

    And these people are trying to sell stuff, but you know it’s true:

    “The way that you look at yourself can determine how you feel about the rest of your life. When we believe we don’t look good, we don’t feel good. That goes for men and women both. Some believe that they won’t be accepted until they lose weight or have plastic surgery. Personally, that’s just dealing with the problem on the surface, it’s not changing whats going on inside. It’s important to feel good about ourselves no matter what. Some people have a difficult time accepting themselves and who they are.

    Our self image plays a role in weight loss. If you can’t accept who you are right now, permanent weight loss will elude you. Self image and weight as I’ve said before go together. I can’t stress that enough. When your trying to lose weight, do it for yourself, not for someone else. That doesn’t work because when they lose interest, you will stop losing the weight or even gain it back.

    Just say to yourself, I am worthy of love and acceptance. It’s a great way to reprogram your thinking. No one body is perfect. The goal of weight loss is to be healthy so that we can live a long life.”

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