Breaking Through Self-Hatred

I remember the first time that I looked into the mirror and didn’t see myself, I saw a stranger. In a blink of an eye, my eyes became judgemental towards every part of my body: I didn’t like the way my hair fell on my face, or how skinny my legs looked, or that my belly was sticking out a bit, or that I had to wear braces. All of the sudden, the comments I had heard from bullies growing up, and the harsh comments made by some people that I love, during an argument – “for my own good” – became true. Self-hatred started consuming my life.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
– Harvey Fierstein

At that very moment, I believed those comments and became paralyzed. That’s when I know I had just become ill. Back then I didn’t know anything, but with time, I learned the hard way. I didn’t recognize myself anymore. My veins became so filled with a burning rush of embarrassment that all I wanted to do was hide. But how can one hide from oneself? And how can one ask for help if one wants to disappear? That’s how the road to self-destruction starts.

I was 12 years old. I remember exactly what I was wearing when this self-judgment took over my life: I had a bright orange 2-piece bathing suit on covered by a white t-shirt, my hair was down, and I was barefoot. My family and I were spending the weekend with some of my parents’ friends, outside of town, and from the bedroom where I stood in front of the mirror, in disgust with myself, I could hear the other kids play volleyball in the swimming pool, laughing, having fun, enjoying themselves, as the sound of water splashed. I remember thinking: “Why can’t I just be happy like them?”

I had gone through a traumatic event when I was 10, which led me to have a different childhood than most kids, but up until that point, I didn’t hate myself.  This self-judgment day changed everything. This was the first day of many, for many years: eighteen, to be exact.

 People like me who have gone through – or are going through –  a period of self-hatred, started this downward spiral long before they realize. It took me years of therapy to think, become self-aware, and open wounds so that I could figure this out. And when I finally did, I also remember this girl, who was 29 years old, crying her eyeballs out on the therapist’s office sofa. It was a cry of release as if I had just found the golden pot at the end of a rainbow.

When I went home that day, I decided to put on a 2-piece bathing suit and a white t-shirt. I looked at myself in the mirror again, eighteen years later. This time, instead of looking at myself, judging every imperfection that I could find, I looked into my eyes and saw a 12-year-old girl looking back at me. I could see the pain in her eyes, I could feel her confusion trying to be accepted by other people’s standards, I could hear the desperation in her tears, trying to be free from her own mind … a mind that was taking her body hostage for so long.

I finally broke-free from hatred and I melted. I couldn’t believe how badly I had felt towards myself for so long. That day was the first time that I was able to feel self-compassion and wanted to help myself towards a healthier me. I wanted to be healthy; I wanted to be happy because honestly, I didn’t even remember what that felt like.

This 29-year-old had gone through too much already. But now I understood that my life was the way it was because of the way I disrespected myself. How can anyone else in the world respect us if we don’t care about ourselves? If someone treats us badly we don’t even notice it, because we have been doing it for so long that we are too used to it to even care!

Only after I healed my mind, I was able to heal my body – and I was so sick!

I left people who mistreated me and surrounded myself only with loving positive people, I quit smoking, I journaled only good things, I started exercising and eating better, I accepted myself for the way I was and who I was! Only then I was able to heal the eating disorders that were eating my life away during the whole time that they lasted.

See, when you hate yourself so much, the bad things you do to yourself become your best friends, because they are helping you put yourself down. — Same thing happens when people get addicted to anything like alcohol, drugs, and even toxic relationships. That’s how people can end up with severe cases of depression.

No one is perfect. Instagram photos aren’t real life. It’s easy to smile at the camera and it’s easy to smile at people too. No one can see our pain but ourselves. Heck, not even my own family knew what I was going through!!  The point is:  if WE don’t ask for help, our pain will go unnoticed, especially if it’s about something that we feel ashamed of. And the longer we wait, the harder it is to dig ourselves out of the hole that we put ourselves in.

Let’s not forget that we are all human beings. Let’s not be quick to judge anyone; let’s be kind towards one another and be compassionate… We never know what someone is going through.

To break-through self-hatred, we need to find the source. We need to forgive ourselves for everything that we have put ourselves through along the years. Only then we will be able to find peace within ourselves and start a beautiful self-loving journey.

Today, I use the pain I felt from self-hatred to help people and to build trust. Many times, as I am coaching my clients and look in their eyes, I can see the 12-year-old version of me looking back at me again. All I want is to help those people find their way back to happiness, focusing on their health in a holistically way, kindly treating their minds, their bodies, and their souls.

The month of May is Mental Health Month.  1 in 4 of us will experience mental health issues. Let’s be there for one another!

All I want, today and every day, is for you to look at yourself in the mirror and find your best friend, your partner, your alibi. I want you to be proud of yourself. Be compassionate towards your life, your journey, and every experience that has brought you here today.

Let LOVE be a part of your reflection.

Tell me: when you look into the mirror, what do you see?

With Love, Light & Gratitude,

Gabi Brandao.

This is a picture of me from 2007, at a time of my life when I was struggling with clinical depression and E.D.’s. I never thought that I could get out of that dark place. Little did I know, I was walking towards the light; even though I couldn’t see it. Happiness was right in front of me the whole time.


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