As a life coach, it would be easy for me to talk about my health and self-love journey like it’s been simple and linear.
I could talk about how I first started hating how I looked and even who I was back in high school, and how I struggled with anxiety attacks and horrrrrrible thoughts about myself and my life every day for over 10 years.
I could talk about my life-changing trips abroad, from volunteering in India to practicing meditation deep in the Himalayan mountains. And all the training I’ve undergone through the years – on behavioral therapy, positive psychology, nutrition and herbs, energy sciences, movement-based healing, etc. – that helped me truly heal and learn how to love myself again.
And I could “end” my story by saying that I’m now a life coach who helps other people find the exact same healing…and all of that would be true.
But I’d be leaving out something sooooo important – about myself, and about self-love and self-improvement overall:
That as much time as I’ve spent “working on myself,” there is still loooots of room to grow.
Now, don’t get me wrong. In my life, I have achieved a lot, and I set up every day so that I can thrive and kick ass at my goals. I focus on opportunities that will bring out my strengths. I stay away from the people, situations, food, etc. that I know will take my mind to a really bad place. Basically, every day, I choose not to feed my “weaknesses.”
But that doesn’t mean I’m perfect or have the perfect life or know all the answers. Like everyone in my community – like you! – I’m just a human trying to do what I can to be better every day.
That’s why, today, I want to get real about the negative traits that run soooo deep in us, even years of starvation won’t kill them. They’re the traits you go months without thinking about. Until you run into an ex-classmate from college who looks just as innnsanely gorgeous as she did years ago or get into a car accident because some jerk cut you off or get hit with some other trigger. And, suddenly, that icky trait pops right back up.
Now, I know how freakin’ hard it can be to acknowledge less-than-awesome things about yourself – especially if you’ve been working for years to be the doggone best version of yourself.
So, I’m going first. Here’s some of the shit I still hate about myself. Plus, how I love myself and feel confident in spite of (or even partly because of!) every single one.
Gettin’ Real: 26 Things I Hate About Myself
- Patience is not my greatest virtue…to say the least. I want everything done yesterday. Occasionally, that means I totally wreck my body by staying up until four in the morning finishing a project I could just postpone until the next workday. Or snapping at coworkers I suuuuper appreciate and respect because they don’t finish things as quickly as I want.
- I don’t sit well in silence. If I meet a friend for coffee and they don’t start talking right away, I’ll immediately start blabbing about my work schedule that week or what I did that weekend or something toootally trivial, like the weather. And that means I constantly miss out on making the deeper connections with people I really crave.
- I have cellulite on my legs that just won’t go away. I eat vegetables and do yoga. Would it kill my legs to show a little more appreciation for those things every once in a while?!?
- I often don’t finish what I start. If you walk around my apartment, you’ll see shelves full of tooonns of books…but in almost all of them, I only made it to the 80% mark.
- I’m messy. Why do I never think to put my clothes where they belong at the end of the day? Why is making my bed a herculean task? (Sorry, Mom, I still don’t know the answer).
- Perfectionism and I are besties. No time for a 90-minute, professionally choreographed yoga routine? Then I guess I won’t do it at all!
- I’m literally a human porcupine: I show up to an event and immediately get all prickly, thinking, “These people will nevvvvver like me.” I often need to talk myself into feeling connected and relaxed.
- I have different sized eyes. Even worse, I don’t care if people “can’t tell.” I’m still too embarrassed to look straight into the camera for photographs, sure that someone will notice and laugh.
- The wrinkles on my face make me look sooooo old. I know all the celebs on magazine covers are photoshopped, but sometimes I still see them and think, “Damn, wouldn’t it be nice…”
- I’m terrible at small talk. I don’t know how to pick a conversation topic that is interesting yet casual, and I will usually end up babbling and making everyone feel awkward. Including me.
- I don’t take care of my cat as well as I’d like to. He loves playing outside but he ends up being in my Brooklyn apartment all day because I’m “soooo busy.”
- I have a steamy, uncontrollably passionate love affair with chocolate. If it’s within 1200 feet of me, I’ll smell it, find it and eat it. Self-control? Only if I just came out of a four-hour meditation…and already had dessert after lunch.
- I don’t know how to say, “No” and then feel like a toooootal failure because I over-commit, feel like I’m doing cruddy on all of the projects I’m balancing and end up grumpy and exhausted by the end of the week. And then I repeat the cycle. Over. And. Over.
- I set high expectations…not just for me, but for other people too. And the closer I am to you – think significant other, best friend, family member, etc. – the higher my expectations are. No pressure, right? *Cue fake laughter*
- I feel down on myself. So I push people away. So I feel isolated. And then I feel even worse about myself. There’s nothing logical about feeling crummy and refusing to accept help from the people who could actually make a difference. And yet I keep doing it!
- I’m bad at “being responsible.” If I have an awesome new idea for my business, I’d rather jump right into the fun part of putting my idea into action than “waste time” following protocol and getting it approved by the other people involved.
- Artistic skills = 0. I’d draw you a stick figure to show just how bad my artistic skills are…but I’ll just let you use your imagination. No matter what you imagine, it’ll be waaaay prettier than reality!
- I use the AC much more than I would ever want to admit, especially since I talk all the time about how easy it is to recycle and reduce waste and be environmentally friendly.
- I freeze up when it really counts, even though everything always goes perfectly during the million times I rehearse exactly what I need to do. Case in point: my wedding. I legit froze riiiight in the middle of the “first dance” with my new-husband. Can you say, “Awkward”?!?
- I’m ungrateful. I’ll catch myself feeling super annoyed by the long line at my local co-op, totally forgetting how lucky I am to live near such an awesome store and have the money I need to buy fresh food.
- I’m indecisive. By the time I decide if I want to cook zoodles with marinara sauce or an almond butter stir fry, dinner could’ve already been on the table. It’s even worse with important decisions. I’m so uncomfortable closing ANY doors, it can take me FOREVER to actually take action on a new project or business plan.
- I really don’t care about sports. I want to. But I don’t, and this makes me feel like a typical “girlie girl,” which is even worse since I don’t like being a “typical” anything.
- I’m pretentious. I work soooo hard to have a healthy mind and body. I set aside extra time for exercise and food prep. And I say no to drinks with friends when I know spending that time meditating would do me more good. So I sometimes find myself asking people, “If I can, why can’t you? What’s wrong with your priorities?”
- I’m not funny. I’m like that awkward, totally out-of-touch Dad who tries to use jokes to connect to his kids, but his jokes are so bad, they only make him seem even moooore uncool.
- I go out of my way to put someone first. And then I get annoyed when they don’t reciprocate or I spend so much time helping them, I’m totally exhausted. I know people aren’t puppies and they don’t automatically shower you with love if you give them a walk…but it’d be nice, ya’ know?!?
- I’m forgetful. A daily convo of mine: “Where is my wallet now? I swore I just had it.”
My Top 5 Tips for Learning How to Love Yourself, Flaws and All
Now, I know what you might be thinking: “I’m glad you can be soooo honest and all, Caitlin, but if I made this kind of list about myself, I’d be crushed for weeks! How the heck can you actually love yourself if you can make this huge list of everything that you’re still doing wrong?!?!”
Well, guess what? Every single one of these comments isn’t just floating around in my brain on their own. They’re actually swimming in a GIANT sea of love.
And I intentionally choose to create that sea every single day. It would be easy to fall into my old habits and let all of these terrible, boring, self-critical things about myself get me down.
But they don’t (or, at least, not much) – and they don’t have to get you down either. Here are the five steps I use to deal with self-hate in a healthy way…and slowwwwly love myself, flaws and all:
1. Bow to the self-hatred itself.
I know, I know. We want to be queens, be more confident and feel as powerful and cool as Madonna, Katy Perry and Beyonce, combined! But you can’t learn how to love yourself without first “bowing” to self-hatred. That just means recognizing that those feelings have a purpose. They’re popping up because you’re trying to make yourself a better, stronger, more loving human. And these feelings can remind you of all the wonderful ways you can still learn and grow.
So instead of treating self-hatred like paralyzing criticism, think of it as motivation. It’s your inner fire alarm letting you know that something ain’t right with what you’re doing or how you’re acting. And that self-hatred can act as a guide for what part of your life – your impatience, your indecisiveness, your habit of online shopping when you’re buzzed on Friday nights, whatever – you can focus on improving.
After all, no one is born being good at everything. So there’s no shame in putting some effort into cultivating skills that don’t come as naturally to you.
2. Turn into Sherlock Holmes and discover where and how this icky quality emerged!
Now that you can approach your self-hatred with an open mind, it’s time to get into all those dirty details about why you have that less-than-awesome trait in the first place! And there are three common answers:
a) You learned it subconsciously.
What the heck does that mean? Basically, subconsciously learned negative traits are just habits we pick up from the people and things going on around us – without having annny idea we’re doing this in the first place!
Consider one of my own bad habits: chocolate bingeing. When I was really little, after my parents had a fight, I’d see my mom go straight to the freezer and eat an entire carton of chocolate ice cream, and my dad did the same thing after their divorce. So, from a really young age – waaaaay before I was consciously aware enough to choose my own habits, goals, etc – I thought, “Chocolate = happiness.” Combined with how addictive sugar already is, it is reallllly easy for me to turn to sweets when life got rough.
b) You didn’t know better ways to cope.
The truth is, life can throw some really shitty curveballs our way, and figuring out how to cope can be hard. So sometimes, we pick the “wrong” way to deal with those issues (like bingeing on chocolate after a bad fight…) just because we can’t think of any other option.
That’s what happened to me when I struggled with emotional eating for over 10 years. It made me gain a toooon of weight. Even though I lost it and now eat in a way that makes me and my body feel good, I still have a bunch of cellulite. And sometimes, that makes me hate how my body and my legs look.
c) You were busy going after something larger or better.
I know it sounds kinda weird, but you can even develop negative traits because you were uber focused on bettering yourself or your life! For example, my painfullllly bad small talk. I was always so much more focused on having meaningful, deep conversations with people, I never learned how to actually nail small talk.
How to Turn This Knowledge into Confidence and Self-Love
Once you know how and why the things you haaate about yourself actually exist, you can offer yourself compassion. I like to think of this as having love and hate sit at the same table. You can hate your cellulite…but also send love to your past self, who only knew how to use food to cope with shitty times in life. You can hate and want to improve your small talk while also loving how awesome you are at having deep conversations.
And if you need more help learning how to see your flaws without feeling paralyzed by your inner critic, my Self-Compassion Meditation is your new BFF. In this twenty-minute meditation, I’ll actively guide you through feeling safe, grounded and at peace with yourself. Plus, you’ll learn how to think about your thoughts (even the reallly self-hating ones) mindfully and remember what a badass you really are, flaws and all. Learn more by clicking here.
3. See the positive side of the traits you totalllly hate.
The next way I create my “sea of love”? I remind myself that every negative trait comes with at least one positive…and I can’t have one without the other. For instance, I tend to push people away, which can keep me from making the deep, meaningful relationships I really want. But that’s also made me learn to be suuuuper self-reliant and resilient. No matter what shit hits the fan, I know I have my own back and that I can get through it! And I wouldn’t want to give that up.
Now, think about one of your own “bad” traits. Does always running late for meetings mean that you’re good at thinking on your feet and jumping right into the action? Or maybe not being able to cook has made you be resourceful about saving money in other areas of your life? Discovering the positives behind some negative traits is trickier than with others. But just like a killer pair of red high heels buried in the back of your closet, you can find them if you look hard enough! And once you find them, they can make the heavy, negative feelings you have about certain traits feel a whooole lot lighter.
4. View the things you hate about yourself as a pathway for connection.
Here’s a fun fact: people feel vulnerable all the time about all sorts of things, and you can use this to bond and connect with people on that level. In fact, I bet you already have! Just think of the last time you sat down with a close friend and they admitted feeling self-conscious about how they looked or how well they were performing at work. What did you say? Probably something like, “I can tooootally relate.”
Even more importantly, though, forgiving yourself for things you find super unbearable can actually make you a way better BFF to everyone else. Why? It makes you more likely to forgive other people for doing “unbearable” things too. Now, you certainly shouldn’t be friends with people who mistreat you or take you for granted. However, being able to forgive and look past people’s faults can let you fix valuable relationships you really want to keep. (Like staying friends with your BFF from fifth grade, even though it drives you nuts how often she cancels plans at the last minute!)
5. Remember that progress is key to happiness…and you can’t make progress if you’re perfect!
Think about the last time you felt happy – and I mean, really happy. Maybe you just scored a HUGE promotion at work or said “Yes” to marrying the love of your life. Whatever event pops in your mind, I’m betting it had something to do with one simple word: progress. Because, ultimately, making progress toward whatever goals we have – whether it’s to lose weight or get into your dream school – is the foundation of happiness.
And without having things we still want to improve in ourselves, we’d have NO shot at that progress or that happiness!
What I Hope You Guys Now Know About Self-Hate and Self-Love
Now, I began this post by saying I was going to be super real. So, I’m not gonna lie and say that making that list of 26 things was fun or instantly empowering. It’s scary to be 100% honest about the ways you’re NOT doing things right. And it can hurt to admit how much more you still need to grow.
BUT…making this list didn’t make me devour whole pints of Ben & Jerry’s like it would have ten years ago. And I know it’s because I’ve learned how to view myself AND my flaws with love and compassion. Just like I’ve learned how to use self-hate as motivation and guidance for being an even better human.
So if you’ve been struggling with your own self-doubts and imperfections and feel like you have nooooo idea what to do, consider this post a reminder of two things. First, that you ain’t alone, that’s for damn sure! Second, that you can control how self-hate affects you. Even more importantly, you can learn how to view your “weaknesses” with love and how to love yourself, flaws and all!
I can’t wait to hear what your TRUE health and self-love story sounds like.
Which of the five steps I shared in this post about viewing your “weaknesses” with love would help you the most? Tell me in the comments!