The Sneaky Self-Hate Spiral

{{h/t on the title to Hyperbole and a Half}}

It usually happens right as I get ready to go to bed. I check my computer for any last minute messages. This is dumb, I know, though not because I usually receive a message that needs immediate tending. No, it’s stupid because it’s late, I’m tired, and generally feeling down about what I was able to get done during the day. The story ideas that were rejected, the emails that got no response, and the unshakable feeling that my career is on the fast track to nowhere.

This is generally coupled by social media updates from other writers who are getting props for their latest story, sharing about their latest feature, and so on.

The sneaky self-hate spiral usually goes something like this:

I’m guessing I’m going to get a spate of comments that say something like “But Carrie, I don’t think you are on the fast track to nowhere. I think you are totally awesomesauce.” Which is a) not why I’m posting this and b) these actually make me feel worse. Because I don’t get this disconnect between what I see and what others see. It’s a failure.

Like I said, my brain is a landmine. Tread carefully.

The fact is, I’ve always been this way. I never feel (fill-in-the-blank) enough. Smart enough. Accomplished enough. Talented enough. When in the midst of the ED, thin enough. I constantly feel like I have something to prove.

This isn’t one of those nice things to admit–that I can gnaw out my own liver in jealousy and self-hatred. But there you have it.

Earlier this year, I wrote a magazine article about EDs, and a sense of self that researchers call interoception. People with eating disorders are generally bad at this, which some scientists think might contribute to the body image distortions frequently seen in EDs. But this sense is more than just body image or hunger or pain. It’s crucial to a sense of self. It’s something that I have a lot of problems with.

I’ve often wanted people to tell me who I am. I have my likes and dislikes and I’m learning to be okay with my own peculiarities. That’s not as much what I’m talking about. What I mean is that I think I’m moderately smart because people tell me I’m smart. It doesn’t come from my own internal knowing of this fact. I enjoy writing, and I can tell that I don’t suck at it, but I don’t think I’m especially talented at it. Other people have told me that I am, and I believe that they think so, but it never would have actually occurred to me.

It’s why I fell in love with the scale. It was something I could KNOW. My weight was either up, down, or the same. I didn’t have to debate and wonder. I didn’t have to rely on what someone might tell me and their potential agenda in telling me this.

It’s also how I get stuck in the sneaky self-hate cycle. I don’t feel accomplished, so I assume that this must be the case. If I don’t have all of these external things telling me that my career is going okay, that I’m accomplishing stuff, then I don’t feel okay at the core of myself. I know the solution is to (duh) stop comparing myself with everyone. But it’s hard when you don’t have that internal sense of self and so you rely on your position relative to everyone else.

What I really need to find is off switch for my worrisome brain. Somehow I doubt that will happen.

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6 Responses to “The Sneaky Self-Hate Spiral”

  1. Do you see the contradiction you have posted here?

    1: You have expressed a need for external affirmation of your talents/accomplishments.

    2: You have effectively shut down your opportunity to receive external affirmation by telling your readers that such affirmation will make you feel worse.

    The only solution you have proposed is an impossible “off switch” for your brain. Hmmm.

    I’m not trying to be an asshole, but just to point out the contradiction. I wonder if you could find a way to ask for and receive what you need?

    In the meantime, I will give what I can, whether you want it or not, while trying to not step on your currently sensitive writer’s toes. So here is some affirmations not at all about your writing. They’re actually selfishly about me, b/c they’re things I enjoy about you, whether you enjoy them or not. :)

    A. Your hair color is awesome to look at.
    B. Your bad ***** attitude makes me happy and reminds me of Pink.
    C. You make me laugh w/your combination of bad ***** attitude and wit.
    D. You have been and continue to be a profoundly helpful and accurate source of information.

    I know you didn’t ask for this. But I’m a bad ***** too. I do what I want. Feel free to delete this comment if it pisses you off. >:D

  2. I get it.
    I do it hardcore too.
    We’ll both master stopping, but until then, shhhhhhh. (Pink sparkly ponies… see, you stopped for a second)

    (BTW, you were great @feast)
    Lizabeth

  3. I have found over the years that this is partly why I struggle so much during vacations and breaks from school. There is a void in the place where I am used to either: (1) receiving affirmations that I am not a moron, (2) working towards receiving those affirmations, (3) after having been told that I am more or less an idiot, then spastically trying to get back in the powers that be’s good graces. It is exhausting…
    But if this is a common feature of struggling with anorexia, then how can we move on from it? I know that this is addressed in your book, but I still have a hard time walking that fine line between giving up because it just is, and fighting because I realize it’s not all my fault.
    Thanks for your posts and fantastic information.

  4. I don’t have an ED and share many of the same feelings. It’s a hard way to live.

  5. Everything up there? Yes, 100 percent.

  6. Hi nice Post written by you guys. It is amazing and wonderful to visit your site. Thank a ton for such a nice post.

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