Ah, yes. An article on how you can stop hating yourself. How is some rando on the internet like me going to know your unique situation and the complex reasons why you hate yourself? The truth is that I don’t.
What I do know is that I used to hate myself for a number of reasons. I found some ways to get over this which have allowed me to love and respect myself for who I am. As I’ve learned to love myself more and more, I’ve also attracted other self-respecting and incredible people into my life.
Loving yourself sounds a bit egotistical sometimes. But the truth is, if you don’t love yourself deeply, who will? All loving yourself means is that you care deeply for your own happiness. What’s so bad about that?
Here’s my story of how I stopped hating myself.
My parents were poor Asian immigrants going through a horrible divorce and I was one of the few Chinese kids growing up in Wisconsin. I can’t say that I verbalized the words, “I hate myself,” but I certainly hated a lot of aspects of who I was which deeply influenced my self-esteem.
I hated the fact that my parents were poor and couldn’t afford to give me an allowance so I could go to Dairy Queen and get ice cream like all my friends. I hated the fact that they spoke broken English and that my house smelled like Chinese food. I hated the fact that I wasn’t as athletic as my friends and I got picked last every time during recess. I hated that I looked the way I looked — and that people who looked like me on TV were only represented as nerds, losers, and hopeless romantics. I remember that as a high school student, I’d tune in to as many Houston Rockets basketball games as I could in order to see Yao Ming play even though I’d have to constantly adjust our RadioShack TV antenna to get coverage of the game. I hated that my mom rarely had time to cook me dinner so I’d have to cook for myself while my friends would have giant salads and barbecue ribs from places like Whole Foods. I hated that the cute blonde girl I had a crush on in freshman year of high school honestly asked me if I was anorexic because I was so skinny.
As I got older, a few things started to change. I realized that hating things about myself wasn’t really making any positive impact on my life. I could complain and think the world was out to get me, or I could shift my mentality into a growth mindset.
I also realized that I could put in the effort to change some things, such as my economic status, the people who I hung out with, my education, my athleticism, my shyness, and my dating potential. On the other hand, there were things that I couldn’t change so easily, such as my ethnicity or my mom’s stinky Chinese food that made my clothing reek.
Over a gradual process through the years, I reinvented myself to become the person I wanted to be.
The catalyst for me was the day I realized that my greatest perfections all came from my imperfections. All the shit that made me special came from what I thought initially were flaws.
Let me explain what I mean.
I grew up poor and was raised by single mother, right? This forced me to become mature and independent at a young age. I had to cook for myself, get a job as soon as it was legal for me to do so (at 15), and create my own success. My friends all got allowances while I had to become entrepreneurial and find ways to make money myself. From selling Oreos on the street to mowing lawns to even more risque pursuits involving marijuana, I had to find ways to become financially independent early on.
I was a scrawny kid. My high school crush called me anorexic. Fine. But I didn’t go home and cry about it. (Well, to be fair, I probably cried on the inside…) I decided to use that negative energy and hit the gym. I figured if I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and lifted heavy weights consistently, I’d biologically have to put on some mass. Well, my body actually responded better than I ever thought possible — I went from 120 pounds to 165 pounds in mostly muscle in a couple years of consistent training.
For a long time, I still battled with my ethnicity, something that I couldn’t change. I couldn’t change the fact that even though I felt American on the inside, my face was Asian. In college at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Every bar I went to, every college football game, every house party, I’d be literally the only Asian person, if not the only minority. I was constantly hyper-aware of my identity and how I was perceived in the eyes of others. The more hyper-aware I got, the more I resented the my “Asian-ness” and the “Asian-ness” of others around me. The worst part was that this part that I hated about myself wasn’t changeable. I was stuck with it.
So how do you stop hating something you can’t change about yourself?
This one was harder to do because it takes a mental flip and change in perspective.
Remember when I said that the catalyst for loving myself was the day I realized my greatest perfections all came from my imperfections?
Well, that’s exactly what it took for me to stop hating the fact that I was Chinese. Instead, I started to realize that standing out wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I had vast amounts of life experience living bi-culturally in a Chinese household within an American society that allowed me to better understand and connect with people. Furthermore, when I went to China for the first time as an adult, it was pretty cool to be able to communicate in Mandarin Chinese to virtually anyone there just because I had grown up speaking it at home.
Sure, back home sometimes people discriminated against me due to the color of my skin, or had preconceived stereotypes about me, but it also gave me a special uniqueness and life experience that few others had.
Today I’ve reinvented myself so much for the better that I really have completely let go of that younger constantly self-aware and self-conscious person that I used to be. This doesn’t mean that I still don’t hear the voice of my inner critic sometimes, but I’ve simply learned how to deal with it in a positive way. I’ve become much more in tune with what is important to me, and now I find ways to convert negative thoughts into positive action.
If you let your own inner critic define who you are, then you’re simply going to be that person. If you’re able to take those thoughts and output positive energy to improve your self worth, then you’ll not only stop hating yourself, but learn to become the person that you never thought you’d be able to become. I know it, because I’ve been there, done that, and came out on top. You can too.