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009. When Self-Hatred Has Its Boot On Your Neck
If you want to be better, you have to meddle in a dark power inside you. You have to tap into something that will be a little bit toxic. That power is self-hatred—that feeling you have when you take an honest look at your body and your life and say, “Oh my God. This is ridiculous.” Now, the world will train you to silence that voice. “No, no, no—you’re fine. You don’t need to change. All that body stuff is just vain people on Instagram. You’re not a fitness person. You’re happy. You need to love yourself.”
No. You have to hate yourself. It’s the difference between getting it done every day and giving up after a couple days. But here’s where self-hatred can be bad: When you fail, and you hate yourself so much that you actually just decide to give up. How do you deal with that? Here’s how:
First, recognize that you have tapped into something that is necessary for discipline, but it is an unstable power source. This is how it’s unstable: It gets you up in the morning or gets your into the gym, but when you tap into self-hatred and then don’t go to the gym anyway—or you eat the donut anyway—then, you’re screwed. Then, self-hatred puts its boot on your neck and you feel overwhelmed, crushed, disabled, sapped of strength by disgust. And you’re tempted to abandon self-hatred altogether, because it’s so painful.
But don’t. Even though self-hatred hurts you when you fail, and even though self-hatred is cruel to you, it plays fair. And this is the second point. Listen to your self-hatred when you fail. It’s going to say, “Gotcha! I won. I was right. You’re lazy. You’re gross. You’re weak. You’re worthless.” And here’s what you say: “Today, you’re right. I failed. I was lazy. I was weak. It wasn’t pretty. But tomorrow, I’m going to remember this feeling. I’m going to remember your boot on my neck. And tomorrow, you will know the feeling.”
That’s what you do with self-hatred. You yield. And you say, “Okay. You got me today. And you know what? You’re right.” Don’t tell yourself that self-hatred has nothing to say to you. Most of the things it’s saying to you are truths you have neglected for a long time. And it hurts to hear them all at once.
And, what about self-love? What about self-care? Shouldn’t I love myself? Yes, but you’re now learning that self-love doesn’t always feel good. That was a childish conception of self-love. In fact, we now have to make a distinction between sinister self-love real self-love, and between sinister self-hatred and real self-hatred. And here’s the confusing part: sinister self-love and sinister self-hate are actually the same thing. It’s this habit we have of indulgence which destroys us. Death by self-love. Weakness by self-love. We don’t see things that make us weak as forms of sinister self-hatred—things like indulging in comfort food, and taking unearned rewards that make us fat and slow and weak and undisciplined.
So we opt for more complex, raw version of self-hatred who is every bit as much our friend as self-love. We need it for its power. We need it like the dark side of the force—to give us power when we are facing something that is just too much.
And when you fail, and self-hatred turns the knife against you and says things that hurt you, laugh it off. Shake it off. And critique your self-hatred when it says anything that smacks of finality. When you hear it say, “See? I knew you were a failure. I knew you were weak.” You say: “I did fail today. You’re right. Today’s decisions were made out of weakness. But I’m not a failure. I’m not a weak person. In fact, I’m gonna use you to make me strong. Say what you need to say. Today you can do your little victory dance. Tomorrow, I’m going to remember this. And I’m going to make you look as stupid as I feel right now.” Keep self-hatred your energy. Your focus. Your determination. Use it for your purposes. It’s powerful. But if you know how to listen to self-hatred, and if you know what to say to it, you’ll crush it better than someone who doesn’t.