I came across a poem a few weeks back by Nikita Gill. The corner of the page was folded down — evidence that I’d read it before. I have no memory of such, which surprises me — given how worth-remembering it is. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree…

Affirmation for Days of Self-Loathing

On the days you find the mirror hard to look at,
remember there is a myth which says<

the face you have in this life
is the face of the person you loved most

in your last.
I know it’s just a myth

but think of how much more love
you would give yourself if it were true.

No matter how much has changed in my life over the years, how much I have changed, one thing has remained the same: my highly-honed and quick-to-activate self-critique. It’s caustic, harsh, and sadly, seemingly endless. “Self-loathing” is an accurate naming.

I don’t like admitting this.

It’s not all of me, of course. It’s only one voice I hear. Sometimes I can completely ignore it and other times dismiss it out-of-hand. I don’t even agree with it most of the time, but still, it remains — sitting in some dark recess of my mind, waiting for a moment to spring, and muttering under its breath in the meantime.

I sometimes hear myself say, “Oh, what I’d give to weigh what I did when I was 20, 30, 40, even 50…” Or I look closely at my 61-year-old face and wish for the skin I had during those same decades. But here’s what is true: I was just as critical of what I saw even then! I was just as unsatisfied. I was just as self-loathing. By sake of comparison, there was nothing to complain about! So, here’s what is even more true:

Self-loathing has nothing to do with our weight or our skin or any manner of things we might wish were different; it has nothing to do with the mirror at all!

We have internalized the belief that we are not acceptable as-is. We always want something to be different, something to change, something to be altered or adjusted or improved. Always! It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re 16 or 61, the pattern persists.

There has to be a better way, a braver way, a way to finally-and-at-last see ourselves as beautiful and whole no matter what.

A few mornings back, I woke up to this question:

What if I WAS the person I loved the most?

What would that mean?
What would that require?
What would I start doing?
What would I stop doing?
How would that feel?
Who would I be?

There are a million more questions that flow from these. I hope you’ll give yourself the time and space to ask them, that you’ll let yourself hear your most honest and vulnerable answers. Not the ones that rise up, unbidden, from the self-loathing voice that natters on. Instead, the ones that barely whisper from deep within. Harder to hear, to be sure; far more reliable and true.

It’s hard to imagine, given how familiar we’ve become with self-loathing, but were we to love ourselves the most, all the voices (and demons) within would be silenced — forever and ever, amen.

Underneath self-love (and an end to self-loathing) is something even more primary:

We must believe we are worthy of love in the first place. Others’, yes; our own, even more.

I wish there was some simple formula for this, some mantra we could repeat, some genie in a magic lamp, some potion to drink, some switch to flip. There’s no such thing. (But oh, the efforts of Capitalism to convince us that there is! We are bombarded by formulas and mantras and magic and potions and switches the instant we open Instagram or Facebook.)

No simple formula, *just* a life. This life. Your life. And mine.

A lifetime to let go of self-loathing. A lifetime to disbelieve and unlearn the lies. A lifetime to hear and trust our heart. A lifetime to allow, even welcome self-love. And maybe, if Nikita Gill is right, other lifetimes, as well.