Familiarity Breeds Contempt: A Guide to Self-Hatred

It’s a popular saying, one of those cultural cliches that get buried under all the other excessive information thrown out into the sea of social media and multiple news reports: Familiarity breeds contempt.

If you know something well, and you’ve experienced life in and around it, more often than not you’re more than aware of the downsides of being near it.

When I think of this, I always think of two specific instances: I think of how people grow up surrounded by culture or religion, and I think of myself.

One of the people I tend to follow a lot on stuff is Donald Miller. He’s not shy about telling it like how it’s been for him, and I appreciate the fact that he’s opened up and confessed to several, multiple-hour sessions of therapy and counseling on how to get a better life and how to work through life better.

I’ve been in a similar position.

When I was in high school, around 10th and 11th grade, I went to see a counselor. I didn’t like who I was, and I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I didn’t like a whole lot of people, either.

Over the last ten or more years, I’ve revisited this period in my life. I’ve ascertained for myself that while this period was one of the most emotional and mentally draining eras of my life, there are still things popping up in my life which I can trace back to this time and what I’ve learned from being depressed.

One of the things is how much I just didn’t like myself.

I didn’t like myself very much, probably because I had the occasional pimple, the messy hair, the awkward weight, I didn’t feel particularly pretty or funny or like people understood me or appreciated me. It’s a hard-knock life, being less than popular in high school.

Of course, through this, I found God all over again.

And this brings me back to familiarity.

I was too familiar with my flaws. Whether or not said flaws were “legitimate” is another question, of course – you can’t allow people to determine your worth, but you also can’t let yourself buy into it subconsciously. I knew down to the quarter pound how much weight I needed to lose, how much bigger my nose was than was acceptable, and how much I had to practice certain social mannerisms to get it just right (the girl-hug was particularly hard for me. I want to say this alone accounted for losing any popular cred, but I know that’s not true.)

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You can get so caught up in the details, it’s hard to see the bigger picture.

The truth was, I was seeing myself as I imagined others in my society did. Once I stepped back and started to see how God saw me, it was different. I decided I liked his opinion better.

I paid for this decision, sometimes a lot. My mother says I’m a lot braver than her for what happened in some of those cases. I’m not sure how much I believe her, but I’m grateful for it. I want to be brave, and it’s really so hard some days.

If you feel just not good enough, I encourage you to ask yourself which standards you’re using. Because if you’re using anyone else’s but God’s, you might miss out on the larger role you have in this life. God has a message for people who think they’re not good enough, too: Being Holy and living in a relationship with Jesus Christ is possible through praying for forgiveness and repentance of sins and believing in Him to save you from, among other things, yourself. He loves you and wants you to come home to Him. God offers the ongoing familiarity of surprise with His love. There’s no room for self-hatred when we can see it.

 

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