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Self-harm is one of the most talked about issues in the teen community, and yet no one really talks about it. Why? Because it’s scary. Most people are afraid to talk about self-harm, especially those who have gone through it or are going through it. 

Photo Credit: Myleena Ebron
Photo Illustration & Editing Credit: Rachel Young

You Are Not the Devil You See in the Mirror

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Imagine, you’re in the bathroom staring at yourself in the mirror. You’re sobbing uncontrollably, and your fists are clenched. You growl at yourself the same words, “Stupid! Idiot! Bi*ch!” Then imagine taking your clenched fists and punching yourself. Imagine feeling so overwhelmed by your hatred that you just sink to the floor and sob. This is self-hatred and self-abuse. This is me. 

According to psychalive.org (published by a nonprofit nonprofit psychology organization) self-hatred is the underlying feeling that we are not good enough or not good for anything. It’s a feeling of intense anger, guilt, and worthlessness toward yourself, and it could occur from almost anything. 

Self-abuse can come in two forms. One, which is very common among teenagers, is physical self-harm — things like cutting yourself, beating or hitting yourself, eating disorders, or overdosing on medicine. It can be used as a punishment, to relieve stress or tension, to reduce loneliness, to alleviate anger, and, in my case, to reduce frustration at my social anxiety.

According to a 2018 New York Times article based on a study done by the American Journal of Public Health. up to 30 percent of teenage girls in some parts of the United States say they have intentionally injured themselves without aiming to commit suicide, researchers have found. About one in four adolescent girls deliberately harmed herself in the previous year, often by cutting or burning, compared to about one in 10 boys.”

The other form of self-abuse is verbal self-abuse. For instance, have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve made a mistake, minor or major, and you proceed to put yourself down mentally, or even go so far as to curse yourself out? This form of self-abuse is so common that most people don’t even see it as self-abuse. 

For a lot of us, it is normal. I haven’t gone through a single day in years without calling myself stupid, idiotic, or the like. As mentioned on psychalive.org, we who hate ourselves try and suppress these feelings, acting superior or narcissistic to others. We act as if we’re better, smarter, or prettier than everyone else in an attempt to prove to ourselves that we are. But it’s not real. For us it’s a lie. When we lie to ourselves in this way, it only makes us hate ourselves more, resulting in more self-abuse. Why? Because we let ourselves believe that we were great for a day.

How did we get here? We’re teens who have nothing to worry about, right? So why do we hate ourselves and want to hurt ourselves so much? Our lives are problem-free, right? Wrong. While it’s true that we don’t have to pay bills, go to work every day, or anything like that, we too are under a lot of pressure. Whether it’s school pressure, pressure from our peers or parents, and especially ourselves. 

According to the Pew Research Center, 61% of teens say they feel a lot of pressure to get good grades; 29% say they feel pressure to feel good, while another 28% feel pressure to fit in socially. From so much pressure, two things can bubble up. One is overwhelming stress from trying to live up to the things our parents expect of us or trying to be the person we think everyone wants us to be.  The other is anger at ourselves. We often feel weak and useless because it feels like nothing we ever do is right.

Most people might think that self-abuse is our way of solving problems, but according to KiddoGh0uls, Instagram influencer and creator of the Cancel Cutting project, it’s not.  The Cancel Cutting project is a project that seeks to decrease the amount of self-harm among teens and preteens by giving them tasks and assignments to refocus their harmful feelings into positive energy.

“I don’t think it’s about solving problems, I think it’s about not knowing how to solve problems,” says KiddoGh0uls. “You feel confined within your circumstance. It’s about the lack of control that drives people to, you know, cause nobody thinks self-harm is gonna solve their problems. No one thinks about finding an answer. It’s about not having the answers and just not knowing what to do in that confusion.”

Self-abuse and self-hatred can be addicting. It can be terrifying, like actually terrifying, to think about life without self-hatred. It’s scary to think about what we would do with ourselves if we didn’t self hate and abuse ourselves. Because of that, because of the fear of just being “ourselves,” it can be hard to move away from our abusive behavior. It’s what we’re most comfortable with. It’s what we know best, so it’s hard to get rid of it. 

“It goes back to what I was saying earlier, just about being in that certain point of your life when everything is just out of your control,” said KiddoGhouls. “How are they supposed to know who to go and who to turn to when they’re only doing this because there’s such a lack of understanding in everything that’s going on. There’s so much stacked against these kids that a lot of them don’t have the tools to properly communicate what’s going on in their head cause they don’t know themselves. They don’t understand why they’re doing it a lot of the time, so they can’t bring it to someone else and say “Here’s what’s happening. It’s just a lot of confusion and misunderstanding within your own struggle.”

It can be scary, but sometimes we have to learn to step out of our comfort zone, especially if our comfort zones are harmful to ourselves. 

Self-abuse may seem like the easiest solution to deal with problems, but it’s only a temporary solution that leaves you feeling more alone and empty than before. And it’s not an easy habit to get rid of. Of course, you could just practice self-love and self-care and everything would be fine, but it’s not always that easy. It’s often hard not to feel stressed out if practicing self-love doesn’t work the first time.

Self-love is such a fetishized idea in our generation. Everyone makes it sound so easy, but when you’ve hated yourself for so long and so much, it gets frustrating when you don’t see the quick results that everyone talks about.  It gets frustrating when we’re not able to heal the way we want to. Self-love is definitely a necessity, but only when you’re ready. It’s okay if it doesn’t happen immediately. What matters is you’re trying to make it happen at all. It’s okay to take baby steps. (Read this article at mindbodygreen.com for eight helpful tips on how to stop self-loathing.)

Self-harm is one of the most talked-about issues in the teen community, and yet no one talks about it. Why? Because it’s scary. Most people are afraid to talk about it, especially those that have gone through it or are going through it. It can be scary to challenge yourself and speak up about self-abuse or self-hatred, for some of us it’s hard simply to explain it. But you have to be brave, for yourself. Because at the end of the day, the only person that can save you is you. 

For those that want to help someone you know who experiences self-abuse and self-loathing, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a step back. Trying to get that person to open up about what’s going on in their head puts a lot of pressure on them. Just let them know you’re there for them, that you’re supporting them, and eventually they’ll come to you. The best thing you can do for them is to be patient. Sometimes we want to do things on our own.

It’s not always easy to ask for help. I, as well as loads of other teens, find it hard to or even refuse to ask for help. A lot of times we believe that we’re not allowed to ask for help because it’s nobody else’s problem or it’s “not that serious.” (Go to healthyplace.com for some tips and tricks on how to stop self-abusing yourself and change the way you handle your negative thoughts and feelings.)

Two things to remember are: one, no one is going to hate you for the way you feel. Two, not everyone is going to be able to help you. Don’t be discouraged by this. The worst thing you can do is not ask for help because one person didn’t know what to say or do. There’s always someone who can help you. A story written by a teen on mental health advocacy website alustforlife.com reiterates this, saying:

“At the end of the day, this is an illness, not a choice. This does not define me just like my scars do not define me, but how I deal with it does. You can be the strongest person in the world but nobody can get through this hell alone. If you are struggling people talk to someone you trust and get the help you need and deserve.” 

There’s always a better way to cope. We don’t deserve to be ridiculed. We deserve help.

Rachel Young is an amateur teen writer. She loves reading, music and online shopping. She has been home-schooled all her life.

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