If You Just Loved Yourself, You Wouldn’t Want to Self-Harm

If You Just Loved Yourself, You Wouldn’t Want to Self-Harm

Last week I wrote about my urge to self-harm. I talked about how after many years, I still have the urge to self-harm but that I don’t actually follow-through and do it.

And one commenter left a comment to the effect of,

. . . surely if you loved and accepted yourself, you wouldn’t want to self-harm.

Yeah, that’s bullshit.

Or, more politely, that’s a myth. Just because I have the desire to self-harm doesn’t mean I don’t like, love or accept myself.

I Like, Love and Accept Myself Just Fine

I think I’m okay. I’m not, like, a walking messiah or anything, but I’m your average, ol’, flawed human being and I like/love/accept myself just fine. True, I couldn’t always have said that about myself. When I was younger, self-esteem was a big problem. However, I’ve had oodles of therapy since then and now I love and accept myself just fine.

[And, by the way, this doesn’t mean that bipolar depression doesn’t put thoughts of self-hatred into my head. It does. I just know that they’re false.]

Self-Harm isn’t about Self-Love

You may think that someone who self-harms doesn't love or accept themselves, but this isn't the case. Learn the truth about self-harm motivation.As I mentioned in the last article, self-harm is a coping strategy used to deal with inordinate amounts of pain. This has nothing to do with whether I love myself. My pain, my bipolar depression pain, comes from my brain and not any psychological construct, thank-you. It is a biological problem and one that has to be addressed from that standpoint. And my urge to self-harm has to do with an urge to stop the pain which is a completely reasonable, logical and human things to feel.

Now, I’m not saying that some people who self-harm don’t hate themselves – I have no doubt some do, but what I’m saying is that it certainly isn’t a prerequisite. Nor is it the case that simply because you don’t love or accept yourself you will self-harm. That one-to-one relationship just doesn’t exist.

Making Assumptions about Self-Harm

What I think really ticked me off about this comment was the fact that this commenter was making assumptions about my psychology based around one urge: self-harm. He was telling me how to “get better.” You can never do that – especially with self-harm. Entire books have been written about the complexities of self-harm and that’s because it’s a behavior that many people use in many different ways. Some people use it to feel whereas some people use it to numb. It’s the same behavior with exactly opposite results.

So I highly, highly, recommend against making assumptions about people who self-harm, particularly when you have a limited understanding the subject. Telling someone just, “to love themselves,” or “to accept themselves,” is a good way to tick him or her off. It certainly doesn’t help with the problem. If you want to help, I suggest you talk to the person who self-harms and listen when he or she speaks. Because people who self-harm understand their self-harm much better than you ever will.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

, , , , , ,


Join the conversation → Add yours
Get Your FREE EBook

Get Your FREE EBook

My newsletter contains mental health news and research, speaking engagements and more. By subscribing, you'll get access to a FREE eBook on coping skills.

Thank you for subscribing. Look for an email to complete your subscription.