The Comfort of Self-Hate / Emily Ingram
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been staunchly independent. I refused to touch makeup until I was 16, spent late nights reading books from a hefty stash at the bottom of my bed, and would often pride myself at being called ‘weird’ or ‘quirky’ (that is, until I hit puberty and realised how deeply uncool all of these things made me).
But, before the headstrong arrogance of tween and teenagerdom, there was an a completely different me - a timid girl with a tendency to worry, cower, or overeat. This overt shyness was a direct consequence of life in an abusive household. my biological father, a terrifying, looming patriarch, was the sole author of this fear, along with an ugly hole in the bathroom door and the damp atmosphere that hung over our 4-bedroom home.
As far as I am aware, I was never physically harmed – my strong and admirable mother was the primary recipient of his attacks. As for my father, he was out of the country and (save the occasional phonecall) our lives by the time I was 6. Yet, to this day, I am still left with a few invisible scars: sudden noises make me jump right out of my skin, whilst uncomfortable instances of confrontation will never fail to send me hurtling back to the mindset of my 3-year-old self.
Until recently, I thought these were the only lasting side-effects of my hazily violent formative years. But, as I arrive at the first significant stage of adulthood – that is, my final year of university – I find myself struggling more than ever with my own identity. This is by no means a ‘coming-of-age’ realisation: as far as I’m aware, I am cisgender and comfortable with my sexuality, and whilst I struggle with a plethora of clinical mental health issues, I have an amazing support network around me.
The main issue is that I hate myself.
Not in the way you hate yourself after a night out, or when you can feel your period brewing. We’re talking Hatred, with a capital ‘h’. The real deal, baby.
This issue, for most rational people, is a rather perplexing one. After all, you are the best person you’ll ever meet – you like all the coolest music, films, art and literature, your quirks are endearing, and you have VERY good taste in soft furnishings.
So why is this such a significant trait for me? It seems to be rotting deep inside, inexplicably attached to the core of my being.
Personally, I feel that the issue lies entirely between Me and Me – the two Emilys. One is timid, anxious and incredibly depressed – she stays in bed and tries to avoid stepping out of her Netflix-fuelled comfort zone. The other, however, is far more adventurous. She’s fiery and passionate, eager to learn and experience new things, better herself and love with all her heart.
Caught between each of these identities is a half-arsed, dungaree-clad shell of a woman, who watches arty films and cries on her boyfriend a lot. Yet, I’m sure I speak for plenty of young people when I say that hating myself – what I look like, say or do – often comes completely naturally, as it is the only true constant in my ever-changing life.
Of course, the comforting blanket of low self-esteem is nothing to aspire to. In fact, according to a 2017 report from beauty giant Dove (pretty rich huh?), a whopping 61% of girls aged between 10 and 17 have issues of crippling low self-esteem, causing them to engage in behaviours like avoidance of social activities.
Simultaneously though, it’s an incredibly difficult thing to cast aside. Whilst over-eating, binge-watching and smoking have all left me worse for wear, my strong sense of aversion to liberating activities, such as the attendance of local political groups or a few trips to the gym, seems to stem from one overwhelming thought: ‘what’s the point? You’ll only fail and feel the same”.
Thus continues the disheartening hatred cycle.
In writing this, I hope to take one small step towards breaking free from self-hate. I’m turning off the washing machine of hatred, snatching my damp sense of self-worth from its gleaming drum, and hanging my many talents out to dry on the washing line of- well, whatever. You get the gist.
Words by: Emily Ingram (Male Gaze Editor)
Artwork by: Andrea Vega