Echo tried to love Narcissus more than he loved himself.
Little did she know that she was attempting the impossible.
I tried to love someone more than they hated themselves.
Little did I know that I was attempting the impossible as well.
“How do you teach someone to love themselves?” I asked the cloudy sky, my hands splayed over my stomach, fiddling with the strings of my white hoodie with blue sleeves, rolling the plastic tips back and forth between my fingertips. “How do you teach yourself to love who you are after you were raised with an oblivious amount of hatred surrounding you?”
Self-love (n): Regard for one’s own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic).
Self-hatred (n): Intense dislike of oneself.
Maybe it doesn’t seem impossible from where you’re standing. If you already love yourself, it’s a hop, skip, and a jump onto Self-Love Lane, and you’re where you need to be in your beautiful fenced front yard with lush, perfectly trimmed, healthy grass. You take a deep breath of that crisp, cool air, and you can say with ease:
“I love myself. I wouldn’t change anything that I’ve done in the past, because it’s made me who I am today.” And you could walk to your front door, unlock and open it, close it and lock it, and that would be that.
But if you live on Self-Hate Highway, everything’s hellfire and brimstone. With a not-so-lovely childhood, not-so-loving parents, and a love-free school environment, one would walk up to their apartment complex littered with garbage and trashbags piled up next to the front door. You can already hear your parents yelling and arguing inside, and your little brother sobbing his little baby voice ragged, and then there’s a “scuffle” that gets the attention of the neighbors again, and you have to smile and tell them that it’s fine, dad is just drunk and he fell, you know how he is with his weak legs and beer belly, and you laugh and thank them as they close their door, and then when it’s shut all the way, you take a deep breath and sigh.
When you contemplate just running away from home, trying to get away from everything, the guilt destroys you because you couldn’t just leave your little brother with those two monsters that you’re supposed to call your parents. They berate you even though you get straight A’s, your coaches are concerned whenever either of them picks you up from practice, and your girlfriend in the drama and theatre club knows how awful your parents are from what she picks up from the phone calls, and wants you to call child protective services.
But you can’t, because your parents are wonderful people when they aren’t drunk or exhausted from work. When they aren’t around each other because they’re two magnets from the same pole - try to put them in close quarters and they fight back.
Mom has a beautiful, complex mind that has such wonderful ideas that make you have extended, deep conversations about theology and ancient history. When she’s clean of any alcohol, her eyes are sharp and she can focus on her work so long to the point where her coworkers have to tell her that it’s time for lunch, or that it’s time to take a break or go home, please, we’re running out of work to give you.
Dad is, to put it very simply, hilarious. Making jokes and impersonating people, always able to make you or your little brother laugh. He makes fun of himself and he’s not afraid to poke fun at other people. But he has his serious side, and it makes you feel proud whenever you see him confront people when they do something wrong and don’t try to correct it.
They’re both wonderful people.
You love them from the bottom of your heart. But they’re the same people who started you on the long, painful road that allows you to easily slip the three lovely words that have been your best friend for the past handful of years, and as you take your hand and lift it to the door handle, already mentally prepared for the battle of getting to your room without getting hit, you mutter your mantra once:
“I hate myself.”
Once in the morning before school:
“I hate myself,” I say to my reflection in the bathroom mirror.
And once before you go to bed:
“I hate myself,” I repeat to the same mirror, hair wet, teeth minty fresh and clean, face and body washed.
I tell my girlfriend that I love her, and eventually I confessed to her that I truly and deeply hated myself, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t love her. And she smiled and squeezed my hand and told me that she knows that I can slowly start the road towards loving myself. “Baby steps,” she’d said.
We’ve been dating for four years. I told her that I hated myself in the second.
I’m valedictorian in my class and I have a full-ride to the college of my dreams, and my girlfriend is going to the same college. I’m going for biomedical engineering, and she’ll be on the other side of campus studying to become a full-fledged actress.
So, as I look up at the cloudy sky with blades of grass stabbing me in the back, I come to accept that I will always and forever hate myself.