I had a moment yesterday—a brief, fleeting moment—when I did not hate myself.
My friend called it “The Unicorn of Feelings”—as in, it’s so rare, some say it doesn’t exist.
However, the strangest thing about this moment was not that it happened (although it was as strange as seeing a three-eyed cat), but how sad it made me feel right afterwards.
I wondered: Why can’t I feel this way all the time?
How would that change me as a person? Without my omnipresent low grade self hatred—who am I?
This is not an easy thing to discuss, even for me, a woman who makes a habit of publicly dumping out the contents of my brain. To admit that I liked myself seems arrogant, and then to also admit that I normally hate myself—well, let’s just say neither statement speaks of glowing mental health.
And yet, I don’t think these feelings are all that uncommon.
If someone asked me to list some things about myself that don’t suck, I could come up with a few. I’m a pretty good mom. My hair is okay. I (almost) always write thank you notes. I make decent soup.
But what would it be like to get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say: “Wow! Hey you! Aren’t you one lucky duck, with your strong body and your sense of humor and stuff?”
And not to say it like I’m trying to convince myself—but to mean it? To spontaneously—without any conflicting feelings—be happy to be me?
I’m afraid I’d get too comfortable. That if I start accepting my body, I might also start eating ice cream cones every day after lunch—and dinner.
It’s self hatred that gets me to work out seven days a week, so what would self love have me to do? Watch another episode of Chopped?
Also, if I started thinking I was “all that,” would people be quick to point out that I am mistaken? Would my husband leave me because I no longer feel the need to be endlessly entertaining and still look “hot” at 45? If I let myself be dull, and tired and frumpy, would my friends wonder why they’re friends with me and move on to other friends, who have bright eyes and contagious laughter?
Is it fear that keeps me (sort of) thin and (occasionally) funny?
It’s so sad—so sad—that I keep myself locked in the irons of discontent, believing that if I were to be free, it would be the end of me.
A yoga teacher once told me a story of an elephant…
The elephant was captured when she was young, and she was sold to the circus. She was chained to a post for all the people to see. All day and night, for 40 years, she was locked to this post, unable to roam more than the length of the chain. When the elephant turned 40, the circus suddenly went bankrupt and they came and unchained her, and she was free. “Go! Go! You are free!” they said, but the elephant didn’t move. She stood beside that post until the day she died.
I see my chains–-why can’t I find the key? And if I did, would I use it? Or would I continue to dance like a circus elephant who expects she has to earn her keep?
Or—and this is a big “or”—would I realize I’m not an elephant at all, there was no circus and unicorns are real?
Imagine if I—and you, and our friends, and mothers, and fathers and all the men and women in the world who ever felt trapped by negativity—suddenly shook ourselves awake and saw the gorgeous golden horns upon our heads, our smooth white flanks and our powerful hearts?
What a tribe of mythological creatures we would be.
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Gwenn Seemel