I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t need a guide. I already hate myself.” But look. If you’re going to get serious about being a writer (or any kind of artist), this amateur stuff isn’t going to cut it anymore. You can’t just haphazardly criticize yourself and hope for the worst. Happiness will find a way to creep in, and who ever heard of a happy artist?
If you want to achieve truly professional-grade self-loathing, you’re going to need a plan. Luckily, I’m here to help. I’ve identified seven key actions you can take right now to dramatically and permanently decrease your self-esteem.
1. Blame yourself for failures, but give yourself no credit for successes. No, it’s not rational, but you’ve got to learn to give up on rationality. Why, just imagine if you congratulated yourself for the days you do write as much as you berated yourself for the days you don’t. Think how much precious self-hatred would seep away! I tell you, it’s a total non-starter.
2. Attribute all failures to internal, not external, causes. A rational person realizes that many of the bad things that happen to them are not their own fault. Say you’re late to work because of road construction. Normally you’d blame the construction, right? Learn to twist that around. Blame yourself for not having left earlier. It’s important to do this consistently. Again, letting go of rational thought is key.
3. Confuse self-improvement with self-destruction. Of course, rational people do criticize themselves for failures. The voice of your conscience is supposed to push you to better yourself. That’s healthy. But this voice of improvement can actually be an ally in your struggle to bring yourself down. With practice, you can actually attribute all your poisonous, pointless internal nagging to your own conscience, which simultaneously lends credibility to the nagging and makes the real conscience less credible. It sounds tricky, but it’s easier than you think. Give it a try!
4. Dislike yourself more than others dislike you. Suppose you inadvertently say something hurtful, and someone gets offended. You apologize, life moves on. That person will probably forget all about it in five minutes. Can you imagine if you forgave yourself that quickly? It’s crucial to be your own worst enemy, because frequently, other people just don’t have the time or resources to hate you the way you deserve.
5. Worry, don’t think. You’ve probably noticed a theme so far: thinking is bad. The more you honestly and rationally evaluate your life, the less genuine self-destruction is possible. But it’s tough to give up thinking cold turkey; we’re just too used to it. Instead, substitute worrying for thinking. It uses mental energy and it feels sort of like real critical evaluation, so with luck, your brain won’t know the difference. But you can be sure you’ll feel the effects.
6. If you must think, think in terms of absolutes. Let’s say two or three people criticize you today. If you leave it at that – “two or three people criticized me” – it’s not very menacing. Turn it into something more potent: “Everyone hates me.” Exaggerate both the scope and the degree of the problem. Be careful, though, not to turn this the other way. Imagine if you started to think, “Everyone likes me.” Disaster! Remember, thinking isn’t so bad, as long as it’s not rational thinking.
7. Don’t get enough sleep. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, nothing undermines rational thought like a lack of sleep. By the way, this one’s probably the easiest rule of all. Follow #5 diligently, and #7 will happen on its own!
Of course, you weren’t born yesterday. You probably knew about some of these techniques already, and maybe you’ve even discovered some extra tricks of your own. Share your expertise! How do you drown the voice of confidence in your own daily life?