Too often we fall into self-destruction. It can be an almost unconscious habit, a contract we made in our own minds to punish ourselves as a response to perceived illegitimacy. Standing in front of a mirror and picking and tearing apart every last inch of our bodies and of our person feels all too familiar for so many of us. Scrolling through Instagram and perpetually checking like counts, comparing our bodies to the bodies of Photoshopped and surgically augmented influencers, and constantly worrying about the way our social presence is perceived by others who are also glued to their screens.
I used to catch myself mentally noting the reasons why I fundamentally did not deserve happiness, or close relationships, or to feel beautiful in my own skin. I made lists of my flaws, which I believed somehow made me incapable of being loved.
One night I held in my hand a picture of myself from childhood. Then, I was a little girl with big blue eyes and perfect brown ringlets cascading around pudgy cheeks. I stared at the photograph for a moment and then I made myself write down in my journal everything I loved about that little girl.
I loved that she was sweet and beautiful. She was kind and funny. She could walk into a room and bat her eyelashes and everyone would stop to smile at her. I thought about how, in the years to come, people would tear her down and make her feel small. That little girl came to believe them and eventually she became her own biggest critic. She justified the mistreatment she received from others by finding fault in her own character.
I looked at this picture and began to cry. I knew this little girl captured in the photograph didn’t deserve the hateful way she was treated by herself and others. So, why when she grew into the person that stared back at me in the mirror did I believe she deserved those things either?
Understand that the child you once were still lives inside you. She can hear all of the hurtful words you think to yourself when you feel inadequate. The person you are today deserves as much grace and respect as the child that you grew from.
In order to fully heal and find self-worth, you must first acknowledge that the damage inflicted on your younger self needs to be deconstructed and addressed. The wounds you have accumulated throughout your life dictate the way you view yourself today. It is not enough to challenge the present struggles you face without getting to the root of where those feelings began. Look inward at your inner child and begin to mentally nurture the hurt that she feels and thank her for being strong enough to get you through it.