It was as if the words possessed a power; the ability to unlock an unbreakable cipher or a hidden chamber that once cracked open spilled out truth or peace over your life?
Fortune cookies, mantras, psalms, astrology…there are so may avenues for advice, for direction, for enlightenment.
But sometimes it's simplistic words, nothing particularly novel or scholarly, which makes a profound impact on the manner in which we perceive ourselves and the world that we inhabit.
Several months ago I stumbled upon a small piece of writing that challenged an enduring barrier within my life. The words, which were simple offering nothing overtly analytical or deep, profoundly resonated with me. And as a consequence I have re-read them often, particularly late at night.
Do not believe all the things that you tell yourself late at night.
You see, simple! Not excessively philosophical or deeply innovative. Yet in that small assembly of words, stood great meaning. Instantly a problem, which I had always sensed deep within me yet could never identify, was revealed. In that moment I felt like I met my greatest adversary for the first time; nocturnal self hatred.
As an over-thinker, compulsive analyzer and introspective frequent flyer, I have a tendency to be hyper critical of myself and of other people. And as such I have often been my greatest enemy and harshest critic; a prisoner and victim of my own subconscious.
"What you said last night, was stupid! Utterly stupid! What must people think of you?"
"All your other friends have their lives together. Why don't you?"
"Step away from the licorice allsorts…for the love of beach season, please back AWAY from that sugary treat!"
"Yes, you look fat and old. Can't you see those wrinkles? And those stretch marks; look how many there are!"
Have you ever heard these cruel sentiments before? Have they ever been hurtled towards you? Whispered even? Essentially what I am asking is, have you ever hurtled and whispered these sentiments to yourself late at night when you are feeling vulnerable and alone?
I have; many, many times in fact. And each time they have sown little seeds of doubt and anguish within me.
Night time, it seems, is an obscure stretch of time that is conducive to nurturing and fostering these little seedlings of self loathing and doubt. It's as if once the sun sets, our self imposed mental jabs cultivate and feed these toxic little seedlings until they begin to stretch far and wide; generating deep, formidable roots within us.
When I stumbled upon that small quote several months ago, I realized for the first time that I was a victim (and a perpetrator) of my own making. And I had allowed these little seeds of self-hatred to flourish and subdue within my spirit.
Every night when I terrorized myself, I allowed these toxic thoughts to enter my consciousness, and consume my spirit. The roots within me were indeed deep and formidable.
As a perpetual self-hater, I can expound much about the long-term effects that self-loathing has on a person's ability to love and be loved. It's a tiresome and all-consuming mind-set which doesn't allow one to develop a vast capacity to love outside of self-absorption.
You see love is not always a natural or organic expression. We need to practice its virtues to truly understand it. As they say You cannot truly love another, unless you also love yourself.
So loving one's self teaches one about love unlike self hatred which is utterly polarizing and devoid of love.
So when we dwell in that dark place, that prison inside ourselves, we don't practice love in its purest and truest sense. Instead we limit and debase ourselves to this prison which ensnares us, entraps us and stunts us mentally, physically and, most devastatingly, spiritually.
Self hate is Satan's stronghold
Self hate is essentially Satan's stronghold over us and our capacity to love.
And he delights in this toxic disposition, for we were crafted in the image of a mighty creator and we were fashioned to love; to love others and to love ourselves.
Yet we don't always comprehend this. Partly because self-hatred is totally self-absorbed and partly because we don't think that even Satan would be interested in us.
But he is interestedâ€"sadly very interested.
Although I am still battling with low self-esteem and self-hate I am starting to realize that this behavior and toxic philosophy cannot be isolated nor separated from my faith and relationship with God. In essence my faith is going to suffer (actually it is suffering) because I do not love myself.
So in response to these lows and deep dissentions of the toxic mind, I have been seeking the word for light and joy and love.
When I feel myself drifting into a fog of self-loathing and hyper-critical introspection, I have grasped for God's wisdom, support and recognition in addition to his acknowledgement that I matter to him.
And he has told me this, actually continues to tell me this, despite my minds old and well-versed tendencies to dampen this love with disparaging thoughts.
So I say to you again "Do not believe all the things that you tell yourself late at night".
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Deakin University.
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