I’ve been an advocate for people to love themselves for years now and yet I’ve had a concern levied at me by a couple of people on a number of occasions:
“You’re too hard on yourself.”
I heard them loud and clear, but I would always say to myself, “So what? It’s because I have high standards for myself that I’m able to learn so fast. I wish people were harder on themselves.” To be honest, I believed that some of the people who said this to me could actually use a dose of being hard on themselves.
And maybe I have a point, but unfortunately, I was unknowingly putting myself through an emotional and physical ringer.
I suffer from hives but I’ve had it under control for many years, until this year. All of a sudden, it’s back and a bit more aggressive. Typically, what I would do is just allow myself to feel the itch and it would go away. If I resist it, it will persist.
So when it came back with a vengeance, I just let myself feel itchy. But it wouldn’t go away. It felt like ants were biting me inside of my skin and I started to get pretty scared because my solution was no longer working.
If you know anything about autoimmune disorders, people will tell you one of two things. Either take an antihistamine or to watch what you eat, especially gluten.
I had taken the antihistamine route years ago and was increasing my dosage steadily. I knew what that meant. The day would come when I would scarf down a box of tablets for my skin to go back to normal. That wasn’t a solution. As for the diet, I tried, but I could tell that gluten was just exacerbating the issue; it wasn’t the cause. I’d be eating properly and stress could trigger an itch.
So I tried to figure out what the emotional or psychological cause of my hives were. And that search has seemingly borne good fruit.
“As with many life-altering events, an autoimmune illness is almost guaranteed to cause you to re-evaluate your priorities.” ― Joan Friedlander
It seems like my friends were right about me, after all. One in particular phrased it this way:
“You don’t ever defend yourself.”
What I realized is that an autoimmune disorder is one where the body attacks itself. In my case, my body makes itself painfully itchy and when I scratch my skin gets patchy. Psychologically, as Teal Swan puts it,
“Below all autoimmune disease is that the person’s strategy for staying safe in their childhood was to turn against themselves. This is self-hate to the extreme.”
Before I learnt this, if you asked me if I loved myself, I would be lying if I said no. But I couldn’t deny that I rarely ever defend myself. I questioned myself constantly and called it love. I didn’t want to be wrong and I didn’t want to be shunned. But I was employing the same “strategy” that I was using since childhood.
No wonder when people told me I was being hard on myself I dismissed it! Of course I would dismiss something that has been a part of my daily life probably at least since age four. Who wouldn’t?
The first thing I did was apologize to myself and to my body. I had been itching a lot the night I found out this truth and once I made the decision to defend how I felt, what I thought and what I wanted, the itches receded almost all at once.
I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that this crisis was yet another message from myself to myself. I was happy I found an answer. I was also happy that I could finally go to sleep!
But before I fell asleep, the second thing I did was feel remorse. I remembered the judgment I had for people who told me to stop being hard on myself and to start to defend myself more. I also remembered the judgment I had for people who just seemed so stubborn and set in their ways. Didn’t they want to get better??? I told them their problem, other people told them their problem, but it was going through one ear and out the other.
Now I cannot judge a soul. I totally get why this happens. The hardest things to change are your oldest patterns of coping with stressful situations.
I don’t want to suggest that I’m fully healed. I’m not. But the chronic itching is certainly gone. I’ve been ignoring myself for over twenty years, so I’m happy with any amount of healing.
I’m still shocked at how I missed such an obvious thing when it comes to self-love, but everyone has their blind spot. We just need to be mindful of this for ourselves and for others. Also, it’s good to remember that our bodies and life itself are communicating with us all the time. We just need to listen. Sometimes it seems when bad things happen life has it out for us, when in reality, it’s just the opposite.