Below is a very hateful letter I recently received.
I don’t really know where to begin because I have a lot I could say. Let me just jump right in.
You honestly suck.
You think you’ve matured a lot over the years and sure, in some ways you probably have. But underneath all that so-called “progress,” you’re still the same shy, invisible girl you’ve always been. You’ve tried so hard to escape your past of insecurity, when in reality that insecurity’s been clinging to your back this whole time.
I see the confidence you try to exude when you’re around people but you’re not fooling anyone. It’s just a façade that time after time will always fall apart and crumble once you’re alone again. It’s just a matter of when. You can’t escape who you are.
You’re a little girl trapped inside an adult body. Which is funny because truthfully you still pass for the insecure middle schooler you were years ago, even now at age 24. Good luck trying to be a successful adult looking like you just got off a school bus.
About that head of yours. You think too deeply and you think too much, Sara. No one wants to be around someone like that. You want to believe your intellectual side is a blessing but it’s really a curse. You know it’s always going to be your downfall. You get lost in life’s complexities and get your mind stuck in dark places. Your head just isn’t safe. You’ll always be unstable.
You say you want to help others? Then help them by staying invisible. If you never try to help, you’ll never mess up anyone else’s life. You fear people seeing you anyway. Isn’t it terrifying to think about other people noticing you? To think about being seen? Which is a classic fear of someone who still has hardcore social anxiety. Face it: you’ll always be controlled by social anxiety. It’s who you are.
You’re a sorry excuse of an adult too, by the way. When you feel like actually growing up and working a real job, let the rest of us know. No one will really want you if you never start working like everyone else. That’s called laziness. Being a child. You’d be smart to start pulling your weight in society sometime.
Honestly, you’re lucky you’ve made it this far in your life. Because timid, anxiety-ridden little girls don’t survive long in the real world. They get crushed and don’t get back up. But it’s not like anyone needs you.
I think I’ve covered the most important things you need to be reminded of. And please don’t forget them.
Enjoy being permanently trapped in your own skin,
Yeah, you read it. The most hateful letter I’ve ever received was from myself. The cruelest and most degrading comments I ever hear about myself are always from me. And my greatest enemy, the one cheering me on to fail and reminding me of all the ways I fall short, is me.
I am the one who hates myself.
I am also the one who loves myself. And hopes for myself. And tries to believe in myself.
I am the one who asks for help tending to the bruises and cuts I inflicted on myself once the personal attacks are over.
I am the one in a constant battle to see myself for who I truly am, and not as the person the broken part of me wants to believe I am.
I was challenged this week to recognize what these episodes of self-hatred are: instances of putting back on the masks of my past. What are “masks of the past,” you ask? They are the emotional patterns you experience when faced with stress—the ways of thinking or behaving you revert to when your sense of identity is threatened.
The mask of my past, the emotional pattern that has marked my life, is the mask of insecurity. When I feel emotionally stressed or threatened, I am sometimes transported back in time to the version of me I was as a teen—an insecure girl crippled by social anxiety who felt unseen and unworthy.
So when I’m triggered by an experience, I don’t look in the mirror and see the capable, valuable person my friends, family, and coworkers see. I see the teenage girl who was terrified to have any kind of attention on her. She didn’t think she mattered.
And that version of me hated herself.
When that insecure part of me is switched on, the self-hatred starts to flow again. And that’s exactly what started happening recently when I was triggered by a frustrating decision—that is, until I stopped and looked at what was happening.
I caught myself putting on my old mask of insecurity again. In that moment I remembered that all the negative thoughts I started having about myself weren’t true, because my resurging insecurity wasn’t my identity.
It was just an emotional pattern from my past, a mask that had become so normal and easy for me to put on.
But you know what’s awesome? I know I don’t have to let that mask of insecurity be a normal part of my wardrobe anymore. I don’t have to choose to wear it.
And neither do you have to wear your former masks anymore. But in order to let your masks go, you’ve got to know what it is you’re dealing with so you can choose differently when you’re tempted to reach for those old masks.
So…what are your masks? To start, imagine sitting down to write a letter after having all your wrong buttons pushed. Feeling frustrated, stressed, and upset, what is it that comes pouring out of your pen onto on the page?
What is it you write when he lets you down again? When they make you feel forgotten again? When she slaps you with another accusation that you aren’t measuring up? When you feel buried under expectations you just can’t meet? When that habit comes back that you just can’t seem to get rid of?
What do you write in your letter? Then taken a step further, what does your letter reveal about your masks?
Looking back at my letter, I see INSECURITY written everywhere—even explicitly a few times. My letter reveals a mask of insecurity; what would your words reveal about the masks you wear? Below is a list of possible masks to help you narrow it down. Take note of any that jump out at you as you read them.
- Feeling the need to prove yourself
- Feeling like giving up
- Apathy or depression
There was a lot of negativity in the letter I wrote myself, and it would’ve been easy to soak in all that hatefulness. But what’s amazing about learning how to identify your masks is that you get to learn how to repurpose them into something better.
You can turn them into shields that block out hate attacks. You can hold your masks up to the light and remember the truth about your identity. You are not who you were, and you’re still journeying into who you’re going to be.
Today you have the opportunity to step into becoming new. So let’s walk into putting down our hateful pens, taking off our masks, and journeying deeper into becoming new together.