This morning I was asked: “why do you hate your body so much?”
This took me by surprise because I hadn’t really considered the idea that I hate my body, but this question caused me to analyse my behaviour. It occurred to me that at least once a day I rant about my body and its flaws, and quite often can’t bring myself to look at my own reflection in the mirror – or, if I do, I focus on one tiny thing and ignore the rest.
I actually spend more time during a day hating myself, and my body…than I do hating the abusers. It seems a bit backwards.
But do I hate my body, actually? Surely…I’m supposed to be proud of its achievements. Without its ability to heal fast I wouldn’t have survived. Thanks to fight or flight response the human body has an incredible ability to turn superhuman when needed. It carried my babies, despite the trauma happening at the time. Yes it has scars but surely these are battle scars…a symbol of what used to be, and to show me what life is now?
But I never see it like that, despite knowing that’s probably a reasonable way of looking at it. Instead I find every flaw and fault, and then focus so much on the flaw it becomes a huge issue, and so I end up feeling depressed as a result. Every week it’s something different: my stomach; the scars; my hair; my face; my jawline; wrinkles; stretch marks; tired eyes; hands; height; WEIGHT….the list goes on and on. If anyone ever compliments me I feel awkward and shy.
The interesting thing is that whilst in hospital the other patients who hated their bodies also happened to be survivors of abuse. I doubt this is a coincidence somehow. They also doubted their cognitive ability, also were convinced they were monsters and a burden, and also felt excessively guilty for one event where they may have made a mistake…rather than proud of the several times they achieved so much. Even more interestingly was that we were all able to help others see what they were worth, and say it with belief, despite hating ourselves so much. Other patients struggled with this too…but the patients who struggled the worse, by far, were those who had been abused.
And so I look back at my scars and consider the idea that the scars aren’t just on my skin. They are burnt right in my heart and mind, and still cause issues such as hating myself, and my body. I defend myself against an abuser and before they even have a chance to tell me how horrible I am, I tell myself I’m horrible. I wear a summer top and before there’s a chance any horrible person from my past can magically appear and tell me I’m fat, I just tell it myself.
So there it is – it’s a defence mechanism that once worked. In the past, if I’d already recognised what emotional abuse would be hurled at me, and I was feeling too tired to try and protest, I would tell it myself before they could. This meant their words were less painful.
It did unfortunately however mean that the wrong message was pushed into my mind. By an abuser is bad enough but when you’re having to constantly tell yourself how disgusting you are, as a form of protection, everything gets jumbled up.
This hasn’t left me, it seems. I spend so much of my life in a pit of self-hatred which in turn leads to depression. It’s very silly, and a block in the road to recovery…and surely it should be easy for me to switch off?
Not so. I hadn’t realised how instinctive the self-hatred had become. I see myself do it sometimes, but most of the time don’t even realise I’m attacking a part of my mind or body and being disgusted with myself.
So that’s why I hate my body. Because once upon a time to hate my body was a useful form of protection when defending myself felt too frightening or took too much precious energy. It’s something that saved me when in a dangerous world, but now I’m surrounded by friends and it’s not so useful…and instead means I get trapped into depression and self-hatred for no need.
So this, I think, is something I need to work on.
Also…there is of course the fact that abusers will almost certainly try to make the victims feel disgusting, ugly, worthless, horrible etc etc, in an attempt to disempower them and control them. So protection mechanism aside, the only reason I needed this form of protection was because of the emotional abuse in the first place… so it all stems from the pain and abuse they hurled at me.
I know I should be proud and grateful for both my body and mind, for getting me through absolute hell. This is logical. However, I am not. I hate my body and mind…but at least can now recognise at least a few reasons as to why, so can start working on them.