Subtle Self- Loathing
It’s not a lie that I grew out of loathing certain flaws in myself. But it would be a lie to say that the after-effects of those habits of hatred may still affect me day to day.
Although the knee-jerk reaction to seeing my scarred face in the mirror isn’t loathing anymore, it’s something else. Something else more sneaky. Most of the time, I’m now accustomed to seeing myself and being neutral about my appearance. Sometimes I’ll be proud of myself. But I recently found out that although my heart followed my growth, my body hadn’t stopped moving through the actions of hatred.
So what happened? Well, I noticed something interesting the other day. Doing my makeup one morning, I joked to myself that I can get done 10x faster because I didn’t have to put makeup on the other side of my face. I kind of sat there for a while thinking about that statement. Well, why didn’t I?
Actions Lead To Habits Lead To Emotions Lead To…
“Well, because I always used to cover my hair, so I never thought to put anything there. Besides, I have no eyelashes there nor a smooth lid to put any eyeshadow nor eyeliner. No one would make fun of me for such a clear reason either.”
Yeah. Actually, that action of enabling self-loathing had somehow manifested into this sneaky habit of simply skipping the right side of my face altogether. My hands were used to touching my smooth left cheek. I would even pass on dabbing the right side with just a simple BB cream. It was like I was hardwired into forgetting that part even existed; my hands just avoided it altogether even if my eyes and heart didn’t. That’s when I really got to thinking about where this behavior even stemmed from.
Obviously, the real cause wasn’t because it was convenient, that I covered my face anyway, etc. So I asked myself why, searching for something relevant from my past to unearth this behavior.
The main thing to have when delving into the “why” is to have the self-restraint not to get sucked into the fine details. The more you fixate on everything that went wrong, the more you will actually fall further away from your solution. And sometimes there aren’t as many layers as you think there are. The objective facts are there, but it’s up to you to explore those feelings in tandem with the facts to arrive at the origin. And at the origin, you may be able to see your next plan of action to better yourself.
Pride and Prejudice
So I started my deep dive. Why did I still ignore my scars? Because…
- I grew into the habit of doing it. Why?
- I had pride in myself. Why?
- Even though I hid it, I wanted to hold on to some shred of control over my thoughts. Why?
- Losing control meant losing myself. Why?
- If I lost control over myself, I would be nothing. Why?
- The only thing I had going for me was my pride and personality, and I had to keep it. Why?
- I wanted to be someone. Why?
- I don’t want this scar to control the impact I could have on others. Why?
- I don’t want others to feel the same way I ever did. Why?
- I know that with my experience, kids and people with scars could understand their true beauty.
So ironically, the biggest reason for me not wanting to cover it up with makeup was a great deal of pride (and wanting to help others realize their own beauty).
Sometime In The Past
I thought back to a moment in my past, maybe a few months or year after my accident. After my burns had healed and some surgeries performed, one of the first things that people in the burn treatment center did was set me up with a makeup artist. Pamphlets littered some of the desks there, all splayed out with the headlines “BE YOURSELF AGAIN” or “GET A SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE” or “KEEP YOUR BEAUTY.” All advertised some thick “medical-grade” suite of cosmetics that could help the texture of burnt skin and make you look “normal” again.
The woman I met strutted over, had me sit down, and worked on my face. When she was done, she brought me over to a mirror. I hated it. The scars were only lightly visible underneath this thick slop, and perhaps I could have passed as “normal” at a glance. “See? You can hardly tell they’re there. Beautiful! I can see now how much you look like your parents.” But there was something inside me, something burning. Something that couldn’t stand to have the scar covered up even though I also despised it. I hated the makeup even more than I hated myself at 7 or 8 years old.
Looking at my thought process now and thinking about that moment back then, I came to the conclusion that the value I have in myself isn’t properly displayed to others. This whole “skipping my scars” mental block actually impeded my heart’s true yearning for wanting to help (and maybe even protect) those who are most susceptible to feeling sad about their looks.
Things We Dislike Are Sometimes Overlooked
I agree. And sometimes, that critical inner voice can be so passive, it can lead to some bad thinking habits that seem impossible to break.
Much like me completely disregarding my scars, I can see now how I have created “mental blocks.” They covered up anything that could potentially make me break down, like appearance, behavior, etc. I could rebound so fast from a bad feeling because I had a terrific habit of pretending it didn’t exist to save my sanity. So poof. Scar was gone. Surely, all my problems would go on and disappear along with me ignoring it, right?
If I recognized all these habits were real, I risked falling apart. It happened a couple of times when I fixated on these things for hours and couldn’t move an inch. Well now, years later, that couldn’t happen, I would think. I still have to be functioning. I have to do my work or I’ll be stuck here in bed, hating everything.
But when we don’t face experience, a big nasty cocktail of actions turning into these habits released itself as pent-up emotions. And lo, the cycle continued where I would cover up those emotions and turn around and get stressed out because I covered them. A spiral of pure passive self-loathing.
Not Covering Up Experience
Covering up experience can be emotional like that. And it can also be physical, like my scars. Or maybe like someone else who’s not feeling the best about themselves resorting to makeup or other ways of transforming themselves to lessen their hatred of the self.
Thinking about my past, I wondered just how terrible that is. To have a child think that “being yourself again” meant putting that clown makeup on. To have them think that being beautiful meant covering up their scars. That somehow, I “looked more like my parents” when I was playing dress up in an outer appearance that wasn’t mine.
Even now, there’s mixed reviews about this kind of thing. There are tons of people out there, virtue signaling, telling people who might be severely deformed, “Oooh, you’re so beautiful!” “Beautiful girlie!” “So. Freaking. Pretty!” And then there are people, even companies, or charities, who dedicate themselves to reconstructing these kids’ looks so that “they have a chance of living a normal life.”
Am I Normal?
What’s a normal life, anyway? One in which the person isn’t bullied for their looks? One in which they can look in the mirror and not feel hatred? Well, one thing is for certain, that hatred doesn’t go away in a snap, even for a kid. Those habits formed by kids even younger than I was when I had the car accident will not disappear just because they were “made pretty again.”
Truthfully, I have nothing against people deciding that fixing up kids’ deformities is a noble cause. There are a lot of factors that go into these things, and they’re all very positive. But there is an issue when the main focus of that cause is to somehow “restore beauty.” To “make them pretty or handsome again.” So that they can “live a normal life.” All without tending to the sensitive and delicate part of how trauma affects them mentally.
And hearing it from both sides, kids will get confused. “You’re beautiful just the way you are, but if you get this reconstructive surgery and use this makeup, you’ll be even more beautiful.” That’s pretty much what they’re hearing, and they don’t know which is true.
It gives children a mixed feeling on what beauty really means. I know that happened with me.
Deadly Repercussions To Mixed Feelings
This mixed bag of what beauty means to different people is a really touchy subject. After digging more into why my actions betrayed me, I decided that I really didn’t want to blame my past too much. Nor anyone who was more than happy to try and reconstruct my scars, cover them up, etc. I am very thankful to them.
I suppose when it really came down to it, I was not strong enough to be firm in my own values. One might argue, “You were a kid! You can’t expect a kid to be so resolute about such a complex topic.” Well, yeah. They’re very right. And that’s fair.
It took a long time for my heart to come up with those values. It took a longer time for my brain to follow suit with them. And now, it seems, it also will take a while for my body to stop going through the motions. That starts with recognizing and being (sometimes painfully) aware of the destruction I am doing to my health, mental and otherwise. It can begin with asking more questions about my values, and how I am truthfully following through with them.
Paying Attention To Your Flaws
It’s often scary to confront reality.
Accepting your flaws might mean breaking down this world you set up for yourself where you could protect yourself. It could spell disaster and you could end up thinking in circles instead of finding the truth. That’s a real risk, and one I fell victim to many times.
Some of my delves into “why” just resorted in me writing down every instance a behavior happened. I tried to find a correlation behind it. I’d make a log, complete with dates, and really take “breaking it down” to a new level of obsession. In the end, I ended up with notes that revealed nothing but observations. Those observations weren’t even used as a tool to help me at all.
Instead, they slowed down the process and I was walking parallel to where I was before. I never came to a conclusion. I figured that stopping the action should be the end of it. That focusing on changing the action would make everything okay. I say this often on my blog, but I mean it: It’s not always about refining the method, but rather improving the mindset.
So you can log down all your actions if you want. You can ask others about your actions to confirm your suspicions and note those down too. But if you don’t improve how you handle it when it comes (or maybe ask those people for advice, they might know more than you), you won’t get anywhere.
The more you deny your flaws, too, the more you are doomed to repeat bad habits. And continue down the path of passive (or non-passive) self-loathing.
As I continue to explore myself, I wonder how more of these dangerous habits have manifested through my actions. I also am proud to see that some of those habits have died. I no longer flinch when walking across streets, nor near cars, for example.
And now, I no longer will ignore the other side of my face. I may not be able to put eye makeup on, but my hands will not shy away from feeling its mountains and valleys. Once a strange land, it will become a welcoming homey landscape. It will glisten even brighter than my other ruddy cheek.
My hands will follow my heart. My heart will lead me to the next step. And my steps will be dictated by an awareness that only clarity of mind can give me.