Self-loathing is the unshakable tormenting imaginary friend that every 20-something young adult tries hard to break a relationship with.
It’s that invisible whisper in your ear that reminds you why you’re not good enough and doesn’t let you sleep at night. It’s that transparent body that blocks you from moving forward and tells you that you might as well just go back to where you came from. It sometimes takes the form of a parent, a friend, or even a stranger who chuckles at your naivety and mocks you with a middle finger.
For myself, my self-loathing became more prominent my fall semester of my sophomore year. In everything I did — no matter if it was successful — there was an auspicious awareness that it was not good enough and would amount to nothing. No matter what I did this semester: present a speech before First Lady Michelle Obama, get promoted to News Editor, meet amazing writers, and among other things that I was lucky to take part in — I still came back to my dorm riddled with anxiety and stress over my apparent inability to produce anything worthy of being called, “good.”
Even self-loathing made me stop blogging after I posted the most successful blog post I ever had.
And like so many self infatuated young adults, I assumed it was just me that had this problem. It wasn’t until I was at a party when a friend of mine drunkenly confessed her feelings of inept when it came to herself, her work and her future. In my opinion, she was an extremely amazing artist (her undergrad major) and that it was silly to spend time hating herself when she was perhaps one of the few people I admired my age.
In contrast, I think of my friends who are confident in themselves but are ignorant to their lack of ability. Like most young adults, I have many friends who want to be authors, photographs, artists, actors; but are acutely unaware that the work they currently produce is lackluster.
Why do talented people feel like their contributions are below average, and why do untalented people feel like their contributions are “God’s gift to mankind?”
In a quote from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: Miss Maudie speaks about Atticus’ hidden shooting talent and says, “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”
While perpetual and severe self-loathing is never a good thing as it is detrimental to someone’s own psyche — an understanding of humility and one’s own lack of ability is a thing that a person can learn from. The person who believes they have a lot to learn will eventually outshine the person who believes they are superior and gifted.
In turn however — humility is a balancing act. Recently, I had an internship interview at a prominent newspaper in Iowa. I was 100% positive they weren’t even going to contact me for an interview. When I did get contacted for an interview, I was in immediate panic mode and was sure that I was going to do a terrible job and would be an unqualified candidate. My best friend’s father gave me the simple advice of acting like the paper would be lucky to have me, instead of the other way around. Through this simple façade of courage and vigor — I know that the interview went 10x better than it would have if I went in with a determination that I was unfit for the position.
But things like acting confident during an interview is obvious. It’s the balancing act of humility and courage that young adults need to sort through when applying for jobs/colleges, swimming through the dating scene or even living their everyday lives.
Most young adults in this generation lack assertiveness and confidence which is saddening. We lack the ability to feel strongly about something or voice our opinion for fear of offending someone. And then when we do stand up for ourselves or do something daring — we chastise ourselves for it immediately afterwards and follow up with, “but that’s just my own opinion” or “but I could definitely be wrong.”
At the same time, American society is individualistic and is focused on the sole person. Parents smother their children with overbearing compliments and comfort, and those children turn into young adults who fail to see themselves past the veil of, “Oh Johnny, you were the best pumpkin in the play out of all of them.”
So after rambling about the same thing over and over again — I leave you with this one belief that I’ve acquired.
I would rather do great things and self-loathe myself, rather than be mediocre and live in naive state of mind. I would rather be talented and not talk about it than be average and act boastful. I would rather believe other people are better than me, than proclaim myself as the best.
At the same time — there are certain things confident people have a better chance to get such as happiness, friends and certain things that require charisma such as a job interview or even a job offer.
So after today, I am going to try and learn how to live with my self-loathing imaginary friend, and take everything he says with a grain of salt.