In praise of self-love

If self-loathing no longer works as motivation, self-love is all that is left.

I should have gone into the office, but did not as I had a request for 850 words which I particularly wanted to write. I polished it, and have sent it off a day later. I don’t know if they will like it. Possibly it is too dark, possibly it gives needed shade to other contributions.

It was complete motivation. I could do nothing else. It was me being me.

The day before I was out canvassing for Labour. How should I call how I was? Over-excited, like a child without proper emotional regulation? High? Possibly just excited. I enjoyed it. Several women wanted strong female MPs, a good sign when we have a female candidate. Again, this was what I most wanted to do.

In both cases, I am doing something I feel may have a result I want. I give it my energy. It gives me instant joy, though also involving work. My motivation is instant and strong, excluding other activity.

What of reading? Here I see two motivations, not easily teased apart. I read to learn, to sample others’ understanding, to see clearly; or I read a book which fits the person I was told I ought to be, for the illusory safety of being what I am not. The latter inspires me from self-loathing. The former may be difficult and challenging. When hurt I withdraw and may not want such challenge.

I spend a lot of time licking my wounds. I have a lot of wounds to heal. This too is self-love; but I may not see that, and try to whip myself into action.

Then, may I take action for my growth? Could I go to the office seeing it is the best way I have at the moment to develop in a way which might let me support myself. I might heat my house- I can cuddle a hot water bottle for warmth, and I want to breathe warm air!

That is self-love looking at a long term project, uncertain of success. Yet only self-love will get me to the office, and not self-loathing, because only self-love can trust myself enough to believe the project has a chance of working.

I have whipped myself in fear for too long. Come on, you useless fuckwit! Do this, it is simple, even the most lazy useless worthless imbecile should have no difficulty! Then I don’t achieve perfection, and despair.

So I collapse in a heap and despise myself more. Yet, in these years withdrawn from the world I sometimes see good in myself, or wise others see it and communicate it to me.

Or I see myself and suddenly see it as good. I am soft. Self-loathing sees that as worthless, at best pitiable, self-love sees its beauty.

If I love myself I might see good qualities in myself, see myself as worthy of success and capable of achieving it. Like that writing. I have written something worthwhile.

In a spiritual exercise Richard Rohr writes, bring to mind a time when you were generous with someone, a time when you did something nice for someone else. When have I ever been generous, asks self-loathing. I spend myself, for my own self interest, seeking safety in the most stupid way.

In the CAB I wanted each person to feel better and be safer, with more money. Self-love sees my sympathy and my effort. It’s not absolutely pure altruism- I valued doing my job well, and getting them to trust me made them more willing to answer my questions, and I was paid for it, but rather than doing the minimum to get by I would seek to improve and do more.

The self-loathing and seeking illusory safety was part of that, and if I can see their value I might kiss them, see they have done their work, and let them go.

If I pause to consider, I have enough self-love and self-respect to take their place, and with practice may grow to trust.


I am passionate. I am carried along by conviction and determination. I do not know myself- I am trying to understand, by observation, and hampered by not trusting myself, so that it is easier to imagine some bad quality than anything positive. I like “passionate” but can see why some might not.

I am lying in bed this morning unable to gather the motivation to get up, imagining what I ought to do and not wanting to, and I can see myself as “depressed”- so anything energetic may seem unlikely. My passion has flickered or died under disapproval, including my own, as I see it as a bad thing. And, no. I like my passion. It is who I am, and this human being is worthwhile, valuable.

Usually, the word passionate means emotional, but the phrase “Passion of Christ” indicates its wider meaning: Jesus was captured, held by soldiers, and forced to carry a cross. That is, he did not choose any of his own actions, but was a passive object of the choices of others. Passion. Driven by something not fully controlled, often in the person themselves.

I go the whole hog. I am moved to these thoughts by my apology. I do not apologise saying “I am sorry you feel that way”, or “I regret any inconvenience”. I do not put in a “but”. There is a place for mitigation of fault, and the apology is not it. So I apologised, and thought, that is not the way many apologies are couched.

Or the Quaker custom of “stepping away from the table” (You don’t need to know what that means.) Others will step away from the table momentarily, if I step away from it I stay away from it until we move on.

I had realised that if I devote myself to something I give it my all. This extends beyond taking on a task, to anything I decide to do. It can upset or anger people, as when I wanted to do appeals at Newport, rather than just refer them on to someone else.

That’s it. I decide something is right, and I go for it. How I make that decision I don’t know, it just seems right then it completely is and no question is possible. I commit. It seems to be a subconscious choice, that I choose something. It is idiosyncratic, not following particular rules, morality or logic as far as I can see.

Passionate. It gets me into trouble. It perplexes me. To the conscious mind, making a separate calculation of my interests, it might seem troublesome. And it is me, being myself, doing what I choose to do. It is my inner light. I have strong convictions.

I am unmotivated, not wanting to do anything much, particularly, sitting at home. I do things with my whole heart when they are my choice, and when it seems they will have an effect, which may be a reason for not acting, for I cannot see my way clear to anything, I think, then realise that I pour this blog out, excavating my heart, telling things of myself which might appear bad. I am committed to it, at least. So I minimise what I do, minimise its importance to me and in general.

I do not know myself because I do not value myself. As I get to know myself I value myself more. Because I don’t know myself I cannot understand others’ motivations, though I can read their feelings.

I am passionate. This is beautiful.

Self-love III

I hold myself in contempt. Admitting that might free me from it. Possibly, it is because I am trans.

You know how it is. You work hard to make a man of yourself, trying to live up to an ideal. It is a good ideal, it just does not fit you. It is something to admire, and you hurt because you do not fit it. You do not consider your gifts, but instead compare yourself to the ideal, and find yourself wanting.

And, that contempt follows society’s views. Women should be a certain way, but that is less than men’s way, less than the go-getting, active, energetic male: it is supportive, decorative. Women should not be like men, not assertive (bossy) or leaders (aggressive). And I should not be like women should be, anyway.

So when I transitioned I still held myself in contempt. In the Quaker course Gifts and Discoveries we were to imagine ourselves as Legion, the man possessed by many devils (who were cast out into the pigs) looking into the eyes of Jesus, and I ran from the room and curled up into a ball. Beck put her hand on my back, and eventually I felt cared for and could uncurl, and express how that made me feel.

Admitting this is liberating. I am this person, that I hold in contempt. That contempt is not proportionate. I am this person, and have to look on this person, rather than averting my eyes from one who is contemptible; to see, and to love. My contempt stops me from seeing myself clearly- from my pain, I turn my eye.

I am not alone in contempt. Bonhoeffer wrote,
Who am I? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

I don’t know where he was with that. I have noted it before: I wrote 18 months ago, I have had utter contempt for myself, and curing that has taken all my intelligence, courage, and energy. I am closer to recovery than ever before. That contempt for myself has been my burden, and when I stagger under it, that becomes evidence to justify the contempt. It always feels like I go round and round the same stuff, again and again, yet each time I go higher or deeper.

I am this person whom I hold in contempt. The contempt is not justified- if someone expressed such contempt for these qualities in another person I would rebuke them. You cannot dismiss someone like that. So I am capable of seeing value in my own qualities in another, though this is also a Christian thing- do not judge others. We judge ourselves, as miserable sinners. There is no health in us.

I am this person. I must see what I most despise, and come to respect, value, love it. That way is liberation. I have been saying to myself, “I am the one whom I hold in contempt”, and finding it reassuring- I am that person, and I cease to deny it. I don’t need to assert, “I am not contemptible”, for that means deciding what “I” am, and my old sense of what is contemptible might get in the way- “I am not that”. Instead I think, “I am this”. So I don’t need to “free myself” from the contempt just yet, only sit with it. What will happen will be OK.


I like myself

It was nice. It was just really really nice.

I am sweet. I am loving, gentle, peaceful, generous, creative. I am the precision-engineered ball-bearings which keep the machine of human society purring along smoothly. I am highly intelligent, and this is wonderful. It is really beautiful to be me. I have great gifts, for my delight and the benefit of humanity.

I phoned the Samaritans with the purpose of being positive about myself and my situation. I would enumerate my reasons to be cheerful. Over an hour with Linda I did. Coming to self-acceptance and my current understanding has been difficult, and I have managed it because I am perceptive and creative. I have responded well to my situation. Linda observed that I am honest and passionate. That is true.

Out of work, it has been good to have the time to care for myself and to heal, and-

I deserve it.

I am worthy of this. It is not some imposition on society, but a positive good.

At the end of the call, I surprised myself by saying

I like myself.

I have not thought of it like that before. I am pleased. I wonder how many people can say that. Try it. Look in a mirror, and say that to yourself, and smile. See how it feels. Let me know, if you like, in the comments: let us celebrate one another. Thirty years ago, I saw the dentist’s wife for the first time, and my friend turned to me and said, “I love me. Who do you love?” in mockery and resentment of her self-assurance, which I might have thought arrogant. “I like me” is difficult- but it’s good if you can do it.

I phoned the Samaritans to psych myself up for applying for another job. I would be good for it, and it would be good for me. I have now emailed the employer’s contact. I was with my radical feminist friend on Wednesday night. I took off my wig to put on my cycle helmet, but we continued talking. “You have lovely male energy,” she said- and, given that she uses the word “male” in the peculiar radical feminist sense, I can take that as a compliment. West of Candleford, miles from anywhere, I had a puncture; I phoned a taxi which took me and the bicycle home, and next day took the wheel off, went to get a new tyre, and put the wheel back on. I am pleased with dealing with that problem. As he drove off, the taxi driver said, “Goodnight, sir,” but rather than thinking “Oh my God! He thinks I’m a man!” I thought, “What a nit.”

I googled “I like myself”, and find it is a picture book. A mother writes, My daughter thought the little girl was “funny”. I found her quite delightful, I could feel the happiness she exudes while reading this book. How lovely!

After all my self-doubt, this is an improvement. You can think well of yourself too.

Pretty trans woman

Self-respect III

Always we begin again…

There is a human being. I know it.

The way I have chosen to live with myself, to bear

I feel surrounded by threats of Death.

How to start this? The self-concept and the organismic self. Human beings have the bit of ourselves we deem acceptable, and we imagine we are that person. This means we deny real bits of ourselves, and imagine we are a particular way without being that way.

There is no “Low functioning me”. There is I, responding emotionally to what I perceive, and the emotion motivates action. Fear, anger, sadness, happiness, disgust, surprise, desire; attraction and aversion. Ideally, I am aware of all my emotions in a situation, which may appear to be in conflict.

Ideally I can visualise goals in the future, and have motivating feelings about those. Ideally I can contain disappointment, balanced with a sense of achievement. It feels as if I could have a rational part of me encouraging the emotional being, pointing out all the good in a situation-

managing this with Love

considering the animal, the emotional being, as a partner, friend, a pack-horse which does all the carrying so should be cared for.

It feels as if what should be the Encourager has been filled with resentment: yes, I know, no part of me is without emotion: my old unconscious emotions, anger resentment frustration and fear. Or Rage and Terror, at the world but principally at me for never being good enough.

I reprogramme myself. Bring it to consciousness, think it through, see all the positives, find my motivation and if my motivation is to stay inside watching TV and not come out that is OK too. That is a way I self-care. Self-care is important. I might find better ways of self-caring, but mine is better than alcohol. If I can value myself as I am, then I can self-care well.


That psychiatrist pointed out my coping strategy- “You compartmentalise”- and I went to work on it, thinking, “How I am Wrong?” And now I have an answer: it enables me to block off and judge particular emotions which disturb me, and stay with the ones which make me comfortable; and a way forward beyond reflexively compartmentalising: to sit with uncomfortable feelings, permitting them. For I cannot block them out completely.

But that “high functioning me” feeling good about myself, still gets self-respect from what I achieve, mainly, what I feel others will value, whether I am right about their judgment or not. I want self-respect from who I am. I want to respect that pack-horse, the emotional being feeling fear and sadness and wanting to Hide. It wants to survive in the best way it knows, and I can respect that: the survival instinct in animals is Strong.

The need for self-respect for what I achieve prevents me from achieving.


I feel surrounded by threats of Death.

The reason I presented male so long is that I thought I would die. I thought the monster would get me. Dr McGrath found me struggling to preserve a fragile sense of self and I still am, now by compartmentalising, by denying the parts of myself I fear or despise. Only the desire for survival is strong enough to make anyone cut off parts of ourselves.

If I can love myself I can love others, and if I could Love others and the institution I could do that job.

Monet, still life with apples and grapes

Welcome insanity

I need to tell you this. I don’t know how. I imagine uncomprehending laughter at the ridiculous trans.

There are things I could do, but there is nothing I have to do today. The forecast is heavy rain until late afternoon. I feel some lassitude and imagine I will spend a great deal of time watching TV.

By the way, I love Missy on Doctor Who. Not only has she changed sex, she dresses like a tranny. And she has that wonderful volcanic take no shit personality: “No, I have not turned guid“, she says, going Scottish and killing someone just to make her point.

It might be better to tidy my room, or sort my weekend- I can go dancing if X, so I would be well to check the possibility of X. It would be lovely to see B again. Instead, I want to dress up. I want to dress in a feminine fashion, though I will not be going out or seeing anyone. I want to manifest as utterly girly, simply for myself.

My enraged contempt at this desire stuns me. So it really is all about the clothes. It affirms the theory of autogynephilia: it is how the clothes make me feel, nothing more. It is not rational or sensible- though neither was transition, of course- to put on the heating rather than to put on a thicker sweater. Well, I don’t want to put on a sweater, I want to wear something pretty.

I overcome my enraged contempt, and do what I want. It makes no sense except that it is what I want.

I don’t rate my dress sense highly. That is why I said Missy dresses like a tranny- flamboyant but completely unfashionably, that cameo brooch at the neck was fashionable some time in the 90s. This long, soft skirt which I call “feminine”- well, Suzy passed the message on that I should show off my legs, and that is more fashionable, in leggings or short skirts. Well, this skirt is what I have. I don’t know what other clothes I would want.

It seems to me this is the only way I know how to pamper or affirm myself. All that resistance- it is stupid, pointless, ridiculous, imagining the raucous laughter of tout le monde- So now I am sitting, writing, and this is all I have done: I paced the floor, I made my decision, I showered and dressed, and it is lunch time. And I am exhausted by that work, such that this afternoon I will do little beyond watching telly or perhaps staring into space. Ruminating, thinking this over, noticing the truth of it.

(I’m NOT RUMINATING!!!! I thought this morning. I AM MAKING PROGRESS!! I DO THIS FOR ME!!!)

Hundreds of people come here from t-central, and some of them click several links in my menu, and none of them ever leaves a comment. Does this speak to you, at all? This is the only way I have to value myself, this is the only thing I know to do, purely for myself. I feel such delight and misery, pride and shame- that this is all I know, and that I am doing it.

Titian, Venus of Urbino

Of course I have been here before. I like to think I am making progress, but perhaps not. So I care for myself in some inchoate way, just in this moment, and delight in it, not doing anything which my inner rationalist would approve of. I sense the resistance. I am aware how much I fight myself. I seek to find patterns, it is the human thing to do, and perhaps there are none. And yet- right now I am doing what I want to do, rather than what makes sense, and I hope that is a good thing.

Mindfulness II

There are things I should do. The most important is walking in the sunshine; but first a phone call to the Samaritans. This time, she gave me an hour and I ended feeling satisfied of progress. I need to think about that job, but I called because I was crying over that.

I want to be Normal!
-What would normal look like?

A fair question. It has varied. At one time I would have been a solicitor in Edinburgh with a wife and two or three children: the eldest would have graduated by now. Now, I suppose I would have a job, which though it would have a share of drudgery, tedium and stress, would also have moments of pleasure, either in human contact or a feeling of having achieved something; a partner, so  I would not be so lonely, and a sufficient income.

The oil-seed rape is fading to green as the flowers turn to pods. It is still overwhelming as I walk though it, as some is neck-height and the path is through a slight decline.

Sunshine. Bird-song. Engine noise, not enough to bother me at any time.

Where a tiny stream drains over the path, some effort has been made to make it passable. Logs are dug in to make raised steps, and old planks go round the edge. Water is flowing though it has been dry; it would not be easy in a wet March.

Several times I stop to watch a bird fly overhead.

The borage is spreading. Is it overwhelming those nettles, or the other way about? No camera, of course, but here is a picture I took last year:

butterfly 4

That distinctive leaf. Sycamore? Oak, Google images tells me now, I am not good at identifying anything. Still, it has my attention.

At one time “normal” would have been a heavy mask, clasped to my face with tight steel bands, with bits of Real Me, or shadow, oozing out from behind- visible to everyone but me, subject to my desperate denial and feeling of utter inadequacy. From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit moves…

This ecosystem is 3.5 or 4 billion years old- I don’t keep up with the journals, I don’t know the latest understanding- and it has produced this wonderful creature, her soft, yielding femininity, her gentle kindness, her heart full of Love. It is so beautiful, even though oligarchical capitalism might be hard put to set a value on it.

Two or three years ago, the wardens built a den here out of willow cuttings. Well watered, the cuttings took root and their branches are woven together. The path suits someone under ten, but I enter, as I want the experience, once- I stand surrounded by the willow, leaning in but not quite domed over me.

A woman stands off the path, holding her black spaniel back. “Thank you,” I say, then notice the milky discs. “Oh! Its eyes-”

Yes, he’s blind, she confirms, smiling. She is a few years older than I. I love her loving care for her friend.

Oh! This awful life! Yet, no- it has wonderful moments, and is bearable for me. The main difficulty of it is my fears for the future, and my desires.

In part this is inspired by Louise. Her lovely account of some frustrations and tensions in, well, being normal- marrying and having children- and the way the family works together- brought a moment’s resentment, as so often I hate being queer. I do want to be normal. I would have blathered on about how my great-grandparents’ families have produced so few in the generation below me, as some sort of excuse, or rueful exercise on the way to Acceptance…

-childlessness is just one of my failures-

Going, I held my arms bent, above the rape-plants. Returning through that field, I relax them and let the plants brush them.

This creature is beautiful. This experience- yes, all of it- is beautiful.

Self-love II

I had a heart-felt sensation that I was beautiful. I felt suffused with Love. Always I want to have finished this spiritual growth lark. Then everything will be Well! So, is that it? And how normal is it to despise yourself, anyway?

Pretty normal. A friend told me how her husband, even after moving in with another woman, still treated her like a servant. It is amazing what you can get used to. Battered wives show great courage in escaping, as often their self-respect has been beaten out of them.

I block things out of conscious perception when they are too painful for me to acknowledge. These include my own characteristics about which I have been Shamed. Even though I have come to accept my femininity, my blocks are continually ready to leap up again, the paths through my neurons and dendrites are so well worn. It feels vulnerable to be open to noticing my own reactions, and the world around me, to inhabit the presence, mindfulness, awareness which I seek.

In my post Self-Love three and a half years ago, I identified self-love as the survival instinct, and said I had to let go the blocks. I have been doing that all the succeeding time.

I feel continually inadequate. Others think me intelligent, and I curse myself making connections so late.

I wish I had more energy. I feel so weak. As I write it is noon, and I should be at a meeting. I should have got the bus an hour ago, and I am not dressed yet. I would rather work this out, here, now. Typing gives me some understanding and some relief.

I have had utter contempt for myself, and curing that has taken all my intelligence, courage, and energy. I am closer to recovery than ever before. That contempt for myself has been my burden, and when I stagger under it, that becomes evidence to justify the contempt.

I want to spend time with H. I find her fascinating. We had discussed a trip to London together, and she wants to put it off. Again.

-You’re disappointed, she said. Yes. She noticed: because I am, very much; yet I did not, because I am hurt, and I suppress hurt below consciousness.

I am Abigail, and that is alright. I have borne my burden, swum against the current, cycled into the wind. I notice the burden, now: it seemed just normal, merely what was true. I see the characteristics to which my contempt blinded me, and value them. Awareness and awakening feels possible.

Boldini, profile of a young woman

Self-care III

What would self-care look like, with self-respect?

Essence Advance gave me self-respect. I am soft, gentle, peaceful and for the first time I see that as good. I have always sought out what I thought would benefit me, and guarded myself from harm as best I could, and now I know myself better, and so can care for myself better.

This morning I was moved to tears by Octavia Butler, Seed to Harvest, the story of Thomas. She crushes him, then despite his insults another feels empathy for him, and he responds, and acts nobly. From this example of empathy I learn empathy. After, I feel exhausted, turning it in my mind. Seeing that and loving it is all the work I want to do today.

So, goals. I hated work because I got in fights. I am now challenged to write my financial/ career goals for 2015, and am tempted to have none. Too difficult. I look back at work, and see almost all pain. Moulding that with Positive Thinking is just too difficult right now.

I am happy to carry on without work at the moment. Nothing George Osborne could say about this is worse than the words my inner critic has for me- coward, parasite, etc; and I know those words are not true, and they need not hurt me. And, perhaps I am unfit for employment: Butler writes of people sensitive to others’ thoughts, whose gifts plunge them into Hell, and I am sensitive to feeling. I imagine work with dread.

The goal with work is to respect and cherish my hurt self,
and to be open to possibility- anything that might come along that might fit.

Goals of having a job by the end of the year would miss the point, be not what I want, and be ignored, or be a weight to carry and another sense of failure.

Being open to possibility-
I have a way of blocking out my surroundings, and not noticing the people around me. Of course it is not only me, I see others hurrying by oblivious. This is another trait of self-protection, which possibly has become too strong a habit. So opening myself-


to possibility

is the goal. It is huge.

“Why don’t you look into publishing your poetry?”
Out came my no, immediately, before thought. Well, because I don’t think it is good enough, and because if I put it out for judgment it will be found wanting and I will be hurt. And it is too much work anyway.

What would be a first step?

Margaret Macdonald, Summer


A comment on the wonderful Zebra Sounds. “What would be different in my life if I had felt the love and support of my parents?”

I had highly conditional positive regard in childhood, and I complied with the conditions completely and absolutely. I do not know what Christie’s circumstances are, of course. But I think I have come out with very strong self-love, which has manifested itself in self-protection: I pretended to be a man, because I felt a need to protect myself.

At my best, it is “I want Life in all its fulness”- for me, and all I meet- and at its worst, it is a thrawn, wersh, amygdaline “I want to Survive”. I have twice seriously contemplated suicide, and learned from that how strong my desire to live is, whatever the situation, so that is immensely valuable. And- I find joy in helping people.

Christie wonders whether parental love could have enabled her to be more courageous and “embrace her soul’s desire”. I think I am courageous, and am showing courage now: but that parental fear and control gave me a great fear of the world, and the courage shows itself in facing the fear. This step has come after accepting and acknowledging the fear. I had a habit of collecting stories to increase my fear- look how badly the World treats transsexuals- and now I seek to see that it is all right really.

So much that I had always feared
has come to pass, and I’m still here.

I have a task today, in the particular situation in which I find myself: to let down my defences completely. Then, I can be in the moment and respond in the moment, unguardedly and spontaneously and, I hope, Well. I hope, too, that this letting go, which I have practiced a little and always found liberating and completely terrifying, will become my normal way of being. I hope, too, that this will enable me to see the people and World around me better, without my distorting lenses and blind spots overwhelming me quite so much.

I will let you know how I get on.