Why I Don’t Love Myself
This is a loaded question and frankly I don’t even know where to begin. Not loving myself is so much more than just being unhappy with the way I look, my low financial status, not being exceptionally talented with some God-given ability, or any other superficial trait. Although those contribute to the root of it all, I know they can be changed with good habits and some emotional elbow-grease. It’s hard to say exactly what the root cause is. I suppose the cause is that I haven’t moved passed some sort of trauma. I’ve often thought about what that trauma could be.
I think it’s deeply rooted in the trauma of my childhood. And then smaller instances that occurred all throughout my life. As a child I was often shamed for just being myself as my parents tried to mold and shape me into a heterosexual male with masculine tendencies. My father would scold me for running like a girl, for how I liked when my grandmother painted my nails, or for that time I put chapstick on in the same fashion my mother put on lipstick. Once, I clipped my own finger nails and made them pointy so I could pretend I had nails like my aunt; my mother chastised me for that, yelling at me in question, “YOU don’t do that, only GIRLS have nails like that, do you want to be a girl?!” To be honest I wasn’t sure at the time because in my eyes being a girl was the same thing as being a boy.
I was often treated differently than my sister even though, at the time, I wanted the things she had like her dolls and play house. I liked my toys too, of course. Toys designed for the stereotype of what it meant to be a little boy such as dinosaurs, planes and trains, baseball gear, and the like. But she got to have things I also wanted. And I never understood why it was “wrong” for me to have “girl” things. I wanted to feel pretty and dress up barbie dolls, too. My parents doted on her when we were kids. They came home with gifts for her but not for me. If she needed new clothes she got them but I was made to make my own last longer. I used to only ever get one pair of shoes a year or wouldn’t get new ones until I grew out of my worn down, holey, old pair. It wasn’t so much that I wanted more attention... Just the same kind of attention and without judgement.
When I was young my sister and father would talk over me incessantly. They never realized they interrupted me. I usually ate dinner in silence because even when I was asked a question, someone would speak over me. So I’d just shut up and eat my meal. I never really got to speak my mind or have an opinion. And for a long time I thought that that was normal and just how I was supposed to be treated.
I remember in kindergarten some fellow kids and I went to play a game of “House” where one of us was the mom, another the dad. Some of us were the “children” and Ricky played the dog as our “family” pet. I remember saying I wanted to play the mom role. I wanted to “make the kids lunch for school”. But the other kids told me I couldn’t because I was a boy. Even from the youngest age of my peers I was told no because my gender didn’t fit the profile. I never understood that and I still don’t.
From the sound of this all you may be wondering if I’m transgender. There’s nothing wrong with being transgender however I’m definitely not. I’ve explored that option for myself and I know, truly, that I am perfectly content with being a boy. But really what the above is getting at is how in those moments I was just being myself. Alongside my masculine traits I have a feminine and maternal demeanor. I think the reason I don’t love myself is because I was taught, inadvertently, that I’m not supposed to.
As I got older I remember the first time I learned what “faggot” meant. I learned in the cold and musty locker room of my sixth grade P.E. class that I had another name and it wasn’t associated with anything pleasant. I learned about it as I was already nervously changing in front of the other boys and forcing my gaze down at the ground, asking myself, “Why do I want to watch them? Why do I feel like this about the other guys?” Discovering that I was a faggot and learning that it was a negative thing to be one only furthered me to shut out who I am at my core. And I would continue to struggle with my sexual identity all throughout middle and high school and even most of my college years. A few indecent reminders from other students would keep me in check and force the issue of who I was attracted to back down my throat. Again, I wasn’t allowed to be myself and I believed them; believed them enough to hate how I felt and for being the way that I am.
I think when you’ve spent the majority of your life learning to disapprove who you are, you begin to question why you even exist. And since no one can answer that to any satiable extent, especially for themselves, you begin to find false truths in not deserving good things or even being alive anymore. Even after I finally accepted being gay as who I am, I struggled immensely to express myself. I still carry myself in the blockish manner a boy would (stereotypically) walk in. I still keep my nails trimmed and my hair crew-cut short. I still look for things in masculine colors and I still try to mask any evidence of my feminine side. I spent the first 22 years of my life drowning myself so that I could fit in and be accepted by the people I loved like my friends and family; using internalized homophobia as a tool to stay safe and hidden. I expect it will take me just as long, if not longer, to fully embrace who I am and finally allow myself the honor of loving myself. But I often wonder if the damage is irreversible or if those scarred and closed wounds can be reopened to mend properly for a final time. So, no, I don’t love myself. But I haven’t fully learned how to yet, either. And honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose coming out was a good first step. As of now I’m just looking for the next steppingstone to leap to.