In order to love yourself, you have to face those parts of yourself that you actually hate. You have to make room for the love.

Baba Hari Dass told a friend of mine this a few weeks ago when she visited the Mount Madonna Center in Santa Cruz. As we ate fish tacos she shared about what it was like to speak with a silent monk dialoguing with her through a chalkboard. He asked her point blank “Why do you hate yourself?” His words shook something inside of her. She went to a garden, sat down, and had an inner conversation that was very healing.

Inspired, I decided to try it myself. I did a timed writing at Peets Coffee in Piedmont on “I hate myself because.” Four stenopad pages later, I had quite a list! I was pleasantly surprised to notice that even for my persistent complaints about myself, there was not much emotional charge. Reading the list full of ego-based evaluations, judgments, and interpretations based on the ideal of how I should be at all time, I laughed and felt free.

I hate myself because: I emailed Joanna Kel’s private love note to her hunky boyfriend around to my friends and it got sent around the whole school in 11th grade. I hate myself because I masturbate too much. I hate myself because I’m not rich and I have affluent “queen” tastes. I hate myself because I quit grad school, because I don’t have a master’s degree, because I didn’t call my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday in may, because I am depressed sometimes and I should really be happy all the time.

I mean, the ego helps us survive, but who really wants to live a life controlled by ‘shoulds?’

So it turns out that I like this practice. The more I give my ego a chance to speak and be heard, the more it gives me a break, softening its iron grip on my every decision. I am more able to celebrate the things I love about myself, without pushing any part of the mystery of me away.

Meditation: Take a few deep belly breaths. Take out pen and paper. Set the timer for 10 minutes and get going on: “I hate myself because.” Keep your pen moving and don’t cross anything out. See if you can let whatever comes up be there and be curious. Then read your writing outloud to yourself or another. Take some more deep breaths. And remember to be gentle with yourself!