Anyperson didn’t like themselves. They knew they were horrible and stupid, and condemning, negative feelings of shame and hate would come over them whenever they thought they had done something wrong or idiotic. For a long time, they hadn’t really appreciated that these feelings were there in the background, but, deep down, they knew they were stupid, even when they were doing okay, or had succeeded in something. So much of their life was spent hiding this from people, trying to convince people that they were likeable, it was such hard work. But hard work that had been going on in the background of their life for so long, that they almost didn’t realise they were doing it.
For many years, Anyperson hadn’t known that they disliked themselves; they had successfully hidden it from themselves, if not from anybody else. But, gradually, as their life went on, and as they grew in faith, they came to see that this was the case. They knew themselves better, and could see how much time they spent trying to please people, and needing to be seen as great, because that was the opposite to how they really felt about themselves. To do something wonderful, where everybody was saying how brilliant they were would solve the problem; so went the underlying, unexamined logic – but, of course, it would do nothing of the kind. It wouldn’t change their feelings, and they would only need to be doing this more and more, to continually get that kind of ‘how wonderful you are’ response. Thankfully, Anyperson wasn’t in a position to get that response to any great extent, so it didn’t become a huge problem. But they did continually try to work to persuade people that they were likeable; also a waste of time, as people knew them anyway, would like or not like them for their own reasons, and there was probably little Anyperson could do about it. But they still tried. It was very hard work, and did make Anyperson rather self-centred. What is it I can do for you, to make you like me? Please confirm that you like me, that I matter!
But however much effort Anyperson put into this, it made no difference; because it wasn’t that other people did or did not like them, but that they did not like themselves. ‘Stupid’ they would call themselves; ‘you’re so horrible’. It was a verbal expression of the inner hate and shame they felt; anytime they did something that they thought stupid, or clumsy; that might upset or deter others, they would verbalise it to themselves. Did it help to express the shame? They didn’t know; it might have made the feelings worse, verbalising how they felt, and ensuring that they knew they were a waste of time. It was present underneath all they did, even when they were enjoying themselves, which they did. It wasn’t that their whole life was a misery; they had good times, an often-happy life. But this the undercurrent, and it frequently prevented them from taking risks and reaching out to others, because they knew they would mess up.
At some point, Anyperson realised that telling themselves that they were horrible probably wasn’t a good idea. They knew, at least on an intellectual level, that God loved them, and that nothing that God had made was completely bad – and that this included them. It can’t be wise to be continually telling themselves that they were horrible, even if it was when they had done something that they thought was particularly shameful. So, every time they caught themselves saying ‘you’re horrible’ to themselves they would stop and say three time ‘you are loved’. Whether it was this that changed things, or something else, Anyperson never knew. But the realisation came to them that just because they felt they were horrible, and just because they thought they were stupid, didn’t mean they actually were. Anyperson saw that they might be wrong about themselves; and understood, finally, after decades of life, that they didn’t have to believe what they thought about themselves. Basically, they saw that those feelings they felt about themselves weren’t necessarily the truth. They might be wrong about who they were; or, at least, they might not be entirely right. So, they stopped believing them; the feelings didn’t necessarily go away, and Anyperson knew it might be something that was always there. But, at the same time, it felt like the beginning of a journey, a journey that might lead somewhere new. Anyperson stopped giving those negative thoughts and feelings such power over themselves, because they no longer linked them up with ‘this is who I am’.
Anyperson knew, as well, how important the times in their life had been when they had someone to talk to about these issues, and how vital it could be to talk about them in a safe space. They were grateful to those who had helped them. They knew, too, how central their relationship with God had been, and how essential it was - that knowledge of God’s love, however little they might have understood it; that regular contact with their God, and that understanding that everyone has done wrong, all have messed up, and can come before God for forgiveness. It was there, ready and waiting, when they saw that their feelings about themselves might be a lie; they could accept that part of the strength of those feelings came from the knowledge that they were, in part, true. Sometimes they could do things that were horrible and – probably more frequently – they could be stupid. But that wasn’t the whole truth. Those times, those actions, those behaviours – they weren’t the whole truth about themselves, they weren’t even the most important truth, and they shouldn’t define who they were. Who they were, at heart, was a loved, forgiven child of God. God had forgiven them the times when they messed up; other people might have done as well. Now came the time for Anyperson to learn to forgive themselves.