What worries me most about our generation is that we are very hooked on extremes. I am every bit as immersed in our weird psychology as the rest of us are: We are either complete and total successes, or utter failures. We are either in the perfect, Instagram-curated relationship, or we're going to die alone. We are either finding our purpose or spending our wasting our lives in squalor and mediocrity. There is no in between, only a highest high and a lowest low — and because we have these huge expectations for ourselves, and because we reduce ourselves to failures when we (spoiler alert) fail to meet them, we feel miserable when things don't go according to plan.
We're not ignorant to our own messed up ways. We acknowledge that we are trapped in these extremes, and that the happy, shiny lives we see on other people's social media are not truly reflections of their actual lives, and certainly not a measure we should hold ourselves to. I am glad that millennials have made such huge strides in importance of loving yourself in response to this, but I also fear that, in the same way we have overcorrected on a lot of things, we have also overcorrected on this. Because the truth is, you're not going to love yourself all the time. You're just not. You are human and you are fickle and your moods change like the tides. And perpetuating the idea that we have to love ourselves all the time has, in a way, only set us up for more shame in the moments when we inevitably fail to do so.
I'm not saying anyone should hate themselves. We should, on our most basic level, love ourselves — and I think most of us do, even in the moments when we think that we don't. But the same way we need to cut ourselves some slack on a lot of things, we need to cut ourselves some slack on the "loving yourself always" front. There are some compelling reasons why it's perfectly OK to not love yourself all of the time:
You Can Learn From What Triggers Your Feelings Of Self-Hatred
Self-hatred isn't actually borne out of hating yourself. Feelings of self-hatred come from triggers in your life that you are uncomfortable with — be it the uncertainty of your path, your satisfaction in a job, your confidence in a relationship, or any other facet of your life. If we are constantly suppressing the bad feelings we have for ourselves, we are also at risk of ignoring important warning signals. In a healthy body and mind, those feelings are there to tell you something that you might not be able to process on a conscious level just yet. Let yourself be open to that discomfort. Let yourself learn from whatever is triggering those feelings. There will be things that make you feel that way your whole life, that will hit you in different ways, but you'll never get past any of them if you don't acknowledge them in the first place.
The Moments When You Don't Love Yourself Can Motivate Meaningful Change
Once you identify the root of whatever is making you feel down on yourself — the real root of it, and not just what you assume the root is — you can make positive change in your life based on it. Take, for instance, issues with body image. I am a firm advocate for body positivity, in accepting ourselves the way we are, and not trying to abide by perpetuated and unachievable beauty "standards". But at the same time, we all have moments when we look in the mirror and hate what we see. But why? It's not as simple as saying you're dissatisfied with your body. That is an easy culprit to blame for our unhappiness because it is present and in front of us, so we think that it is — when really the unhappiness comes from lacking a sense of control over our lives, that has manifested in a way where we blame our bodies instead.
That's just one example; there are so many issues that crop up in our lives that are really just covering up bigger, seemingly scarier issues with ourselves that we can't as easily assign blame to, things that we don't want to acknowledge or think that we can't fix. When the "problem" goes away (i.e., you get your "dream job," or reach your "ideal body weight,"), the actual problem doesn't. So when you are fixated on a roadblock that you think is the cause of whatever is making you feel down on yourself, let yourself fully feel it, at least for a little while. Dig deep, and try to figure out what the actual, genuine problem is, so you can make the steps toward changing that instead of changing things that ultimately will have no effect on your overall happiness or how you feel about yourself.
Allowing Yourself To Hate Yourself Every Now And Then Helps You Love Yourself More
Think of it this way: there are people in your life that you love no matter what. Your family, your significant other, your best friends. And because you love them, you are able to challenge them, even fight them, without fear that they are going to dismiss you or walk away. Fighting is, in its own weird way, essential to communication in relationships (as long as you are doing it healthily). You learn from it and grow from it. It should be OK to fight with the people you love, because you should feel secure enough to know that, at the end of the day, you are still going to love each other.
Your relationship with yourself is very much the same way. It should be OK to fight with yourself, OK to be critical of your life and your choices, as long as you are examining them while knowing that, at the end of the day, you are able to forgive yourself and move on. If you treat the ups and downs you have with your own self the same way you treat the ups and downs you have in external relationships in your life, you understand that occasionally feeling down about yourself is perfectly normal, and essential if you're going to feel truly comfortable in your own skin.
Trying To Love Yourself All The Time Always Is Setting Yourself Up For Failure
We can't be any one thing all the time. We are diverse and ever-evolving, constantly taking new risks and facing new challenges. The circumstances in your life are going to shift all the time; the moment you feel comfortable in one place, it is going to change, and that is the beauty of life. We already set these ridiculously high standards for ourselves, and to some degree, that's great. We should always try our best. But at some point millennials took "shoot for the moon, you'll end up among the stars" and shifted it to "shoot for the moon, and get super bitter because the stars aren't what I thought my life would be, and instead of taking stock of what's awesome I'm going to glare at the moon and everyone on it". Stop shooting for that specific moon in the first place, guys; stop telling yourself you have to love yourself all the time, no matter what. Loosen your standards a bit. Let yourself fail gracefully, let yourself be angry about it, and don't beat yourself up if it takes a little while to get over it — but take that time. Feel those things. Otherwise the pressure of having to love yourself all the time will only backfire the way that all of our other unattainable standards have.
You are not a failure if you hate yourself every now and then. You are a human, and it is perfectly OK to act like one. The sooner we start acknowledging that, the sooner we can have balanced, healthy relationships with ourselves that can sustain ups and downs without losing our sense of self completely.