“If you can’t love yourself, how can you love someone else?”

I always thought this was a selfish phrase, something you would say to people who constantly complain about their feelings. As if you can’t possibly love someone else because you hate the way you look in a mirror, think your creative endeavors are nothing more than something to pass the time, and that you’ll truly wind up alone with ten dogs because you’re just that undesirable.

I hate that phrase because other people are not you. They are not a makeup of how we grew up, how we’ve interacted with the world, and how harsh the world has said “fuck you” in response to how you asked for it to nurture you. Other people have different hair, different eyes, different passions that brighten the fire behind those eyes. They are a separate entity of sights, sounds, and feelings that we can love apart from ourselves. We can love them because they aren’t us; they aren’t the mess we believe we are.

But as I go through the motions of a severe lack of self-love, the phrase is more believable, less of a sermon self-confident people preach. How can I hate my brown hair but love someone else’s? How can I hate my brown eyes, often referred to by myself as the color of feces, and say I love someone else’s? How can I hate my creative endeavors when I love the projects of the creators who inspire me to keep going? If I hate myself then I’d have to hate everything in the world that’s the same as me.

More importantly, how can I live a truly good life if all I do is tell myself that there’s no beauty in who I am? How can I appreciate the world around me when I can’t bother to clean up the filth I feel inside me?

Some days are easier; some days I don’t think I look like I drooled all over myself while I slept at night. Some days I feel good about the way words flowed from my fingertips to the screen of a computer, and ride the high for its short-lived glory. Some days I feel like a boy might actually be flirting with me, even if he’s a solid 9 whereas I’m a soft 6 if I actually try to look good, that day.

And other days…

I don’t think anyone likes me at first. I always think they thought my hair looked carelessly placed, that I didn’t say enough when we introduced each other, that I might be too quiet and stand-off-ish and now they have that first impression forever in their mind and I’ll kick myself over and over because dammit, couldn’t I have just done better?

I always think I’m the exact opposite of what any guy wants in another guy, whether it’s for friends or for romance. “I probably seemed ‘too gay’ for that muscle-head so he probably won’t ever talk to me again” or, a regular on board of my train of thoughts, “damn, he’s hot. He probably won’t want me.” I avoid situations with men. I always think they’ll be harder on me than I am on myself. I guess I’ll never know for sure because I don’t allow myself to find out.

And as I write this extremely vulnerable collection of thoughts, I’ve deleted more sentences than I can count on two hands because “it’s not good enough.” Is it the writers’ curse? Were the sentences truly lacking in some skill? Or am I too much in my own self-doubt to think that any of what’s going in this mass of words is good enough? Whether it’s good or not, I’ll be terrified that at least one person will even think that this was a desperate cry for attention. I’ll still be scared that you think I’m whiny, that my struggle isn’t different than the other millions of people who deal with it, or that it just doesn’t matter.

I don’t know why I think this way, and I don’t know if knowing would even help. If I knew, I would regret not figuring it out sooner. If I knew, I don’t know that I’d have the confidence to fix it. If I knew, I’d find a reason to hate that I let myself get this far in life, knowing I could have gone farther without this weight slowing me down. Knowing won’t be a spark that burns the self-doubt away.

Loving yourself is just something that is. It’s just something you do. It feels like it’s something you’re somehow blessed with and if you’re not, then good luck finding it, because everyone knows where it is, but no one can tell you how to get there. They all have the map with the dotted lines made of vague encouragements leading to the fountain of enlightenment in being “worth it,” but you’re the only one who knows how to man the ship over this journey’s troubled waters. The hardest part about it all is just taking the anchor out and leaving the damn dock, but it’d be better to face the storm ahead than to linger under a cloud that only gets darker.

At least it comforts me to know that I’ve already set out to sea.

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