I spent most of my youth in a self-loathing funk.
I was a teenage meatball, overweight and stoned and likable enough to other people, but never to myself. I wanted to be more, to feel better about myself. But I never let it happen because I didn't know how. Later, as a grown man playing in a pretty cool rock-n-roll band, touring the world and lving the kind of life most guys my age only ever dream of, I still struggled with finding reasons to dig the person I had become. It was torturous for both the people in my life who I really loved and cared about who had to deal with a man who wasn't ever certain of his value in their lives, and it was torturous for me, too, as I constantly found myself staring in the mirror at person I couldn't stand.
I felt trapped inside of someone else's body. I felt caged inside of someone else's life.
But lately all of that's changed for me. I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure that getting a divorce from the one woman in this world who made me want to wrestle wild mountain gorillas just to prove my love to her, made me realize that my mind was a farce. I was going around hating on myself for no reason other than the fact that I wanted someone else to lift me up, to make me feel special and valuable.
Spoiler alert: That's such bullshit. You can't expect or need other people to do that for you; you need to make that stuff happen all by yourself. So that's what I did. Alone for the first time in many years, I woke up one morning and simply said to myself, "The hell with all this hate." It was time for a change. It was time to f-ing fall in love with the one person who matters the most in my world: me.
Here's a few ways I learned to like myself. (And yes, I like myself so much now that I have a 17-foot tapestry of me riding on the heaving back of a jungle tiger hanging in my living room.)
1. Exercising regularly and without excuse
Maybe you exercise. Maybe you do it here and there, once or twice a week down at the gym, going through the motions, sweating all over yourself before heading home to a shitty dinner. I'm not trying to be a jerk; it's just the way things usually go and I get it.
Even though folks have been drilling this message into your thick skull since you were a 4th grade dork playing dodgeball, I'm going to say it again: Exercise will change your life if you want it to. After my marriage hit the skids a little over a year ago, I had a small epiphany. I realized my wife was eager to shed the sad, frumpy, fat guy I'd become during the last few years of our decade-long run together. I'd gone from a pretty fit, reasonably attractive guitar player in a band when she met me to a bloated ghost of my former self. And deep inside, I knew it. I was just too lazy and self-loathing to do a damn thing about it.
Then when we split, I turned it all around. I decided I was going to exercise my ass off, literally. And I did, even with a job and three young kids and all the crap that lets people convince themselves that they don't have the tme or energy to work out or run or swim or do anything physical short of taking out the damn trash. I looked on the Internet, found a bunch of workout things that seemed like they'd probably kill me if I tried them and I started doing them all the time, every day, no matter what.
I lost 50 pounds in a few months. I began to see results very quickly and I became addicted to those results, not just in a vain, physical way (though that certainly helped) but also because I began to feel like f*cking THOR in my mind. I've maintained that mindset as I continued my exercise routine at home, with nothing but a few 20-lb dumbells and my laptop for music. Most importantly: I never make excuses. Because a life without regular hard-hitting exercise is just half a life. Mentally, physically, emotionally, it changes everything for the better.
2. Not being afraid of being misunderstood
Stop being like everybody else. Stop thinking like a glue-sniffing sheep, like all the people you work with, or all the tools spouting off on your Facebook feed about how the president is a Socialist or how Kanye West is such a douchebag. They're not originals. Here's a little secret: they don't even really know what the hell they're saying most of time. They just get off on their membership in the world's largest sub-clan: The Morons.
It sucks to admit but the majority of humans alive on this planet are not using their minds. It's too much work. To explore alternative corners of reality in order to find hidden portals of positive thinking that lead to liking yourself better, forgetaboutit. That takes effort, desire, and a penchant for change. And people hate change. People, overall, are basically plankton, you know? They're mostly a thin film of pond vegetation, quite happy to copy other people and quite content to be pissed off at pretty much everything and anything.
Don't be that way. Read some new books. Investigate something cool that you never ever imagined investigating before. Find yourself a more humane and intruiging way of looking at this world we live in. And start thinking about how you can make your own life way better by becoming more Zen and mindful of the thoughts that zip behind your eyes every other second. Think about what you're thinking. I know that sounds far out, but that's because it is. It's far out to embark on a soul-searching mission to be better and more understanding and, as a result, to fall in love with yourself in all the right ways. Change your mindset. Take the time to learn how to alter the way you react to anger or jealousy or lust or fear. I read this book, which changed my life in more ways than I can tell you. But find your own thing; be your own guru. It's so badass to be an adult with a new set of eyes, I swear.
Don't be afraid of being misunderstood. Be afraid of not being misunderstood.
3. Fully expressing yourself without fear
Based on my own experience in love and life, too many people are afraid to express themslves to the people that matter most to them. Or even to people that could potentially matter to them were they to be informed, via personal expression, that they tickle your goddamn fancy.
There are a ton of reasons why so many people nowadays tend to bottle up their feelings and hold back the truest words they'll never say. It's easier that way. If we pour our hearts out to someone, we run the extreme risk of having it slammed back into our faces. Being bold and brave enough to look someone in the eye and tell them you care about them is scary; there's no doubt about it. But consider history for a second. Take a look at man's long and winding road of foolish/self-centered ways and then consider how many trillions of people have long since withered away and died without ever really speaking their hearts. They could have made amends. They could have rekindled fading love. They could have changed the course of their own life (and other lives) for the better, if they had just had the courage to speak up and not be afraid.
Learn to say "I love you." It seems so passe and obvious but I assure you, you don't say it enough to that one or two people who need to hear it from you. I know I don't. But I'm trying to. And guess what? Each time I say it, each time I walk the stupid plank and say, "Hey, I f*cking love you so much," it makes me feel bionic. It makes me feel invincible and unconquerable. Because telling someone something like that unleashes something in the universe. It may not always end how you want it too, but your vulnerabity will give you superpowers.