The Scarlet Letter

My enemy said to me, ‘Love your enemy.’ And I obeyed him and loved myself” – Kahlil Gibran

It’s so painful and frightening when you don’t trust yourself. When you are your own greatest enemy. You know best how to hurt and torment yourself. You can play on your fears and weaknesses like no one else.

It’s devastating as a child to be betrayed by a parent. They were meant to protect you and as a vulnerable child, you’re life is in their hands. Similarly, we have  dominion over our own bodies and minds. When we betray the trust of our inner child-selves by abusing ourselves physically or emotionally it is truly disturbing. If we cannot trust our guardian-selves to protect us, who can we trust?

I have been so fascinated in my own destruction. Attempting day by day to crumble myself into dust. Punishing myself for being human, in new and exciting ways. I now have to forgive myself for my normal human foibles, but also, for torturing my innocent self: for being a monster. I know I am capable of such evil, as I have seen it exacted on myself. And what did I fucking do? What did I ever fucking do to deserve such malice?

I was just “not good enough”. I wasn’t bad, or cruel, or hateful…until I started to punish myself so unjustly. I have held myself to a standard I never imposed on anyone else. I’m a very forgiving and compassionate person. When I hear of a cold or abusive person I imagine that life has been hard for them; their parents were unloving, the system was unjust, their mind has turned against them. I feel for the bullies and the criminals of the world. They are acting out of fear and desperation. They must be loved and rehabilitated. But I myself have been beyond reprieve.

Now as I am starting to love myself and accept myself I wonder why it took me so long. Why was I so resistant? I had heard so many people speak of self-love being the beginning of recovery, but I could not let the filthy transgressor in my mind get away with what she had done. I had imposed a death sentence on myself I needed to see through to the end. But you can’t kill a part of yourself. Like a party of rock climbers tethered to each other, if one goes off the cliff they all follow. Or, fortunately, they pull her back to safety.

They say of anger that it’s like holding a burning stone with the intention of throwing it at your foe. When we’re angry with ourselves we get caught in an eternal game of hot potato and no one wins.

It feels like if we forgive ourselves and love ourselves, something bad will happen. I’ve caught myself thinking it was a mistake to believe in myself because I haven’t accomplished the things I wanted to, but it has cost me nothing to believe in myself and I’m so much happier because of it.

“We can’t hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love.” – Lori Deschene

Just as the punishment wrought out by the U.S. prison system does not reform criminals, hating yourself will not make you better, will not make you well. It is through love that we heal, and grow, and become our best selves.

drawing The Scarlet Letter by Camille Willis
The Scarlet Letter by Camille Willis
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