(We'll get to what you do find in just a moment.)
On the other hand, self-hatred is strongly discouraged within Torah literature as it is just plain wrong and incorrect.
Here is the Torah’s take on self-image:
- Your soul itself is holy.
- Your soul belongs to Hashem and was given to you straight from Hashem.
- Your good points are imprinted within your soul by Hashem. (Therefore, you can’t take credit for them, but you can be thankful for and rejoice over them.)
- Your flaws were added by Hashem as removable “rust” or a “coating” (called klippah in Torah literature) because the process of repairing these flaws (i.e. removing that klippah) is good for your soul’s rectification, and the work you do in this area increases the wonderfulness of your ultimate Eternity in your Afterlife.
(May you live in robust health until 120!)
So what is there to hate?
- Your soul, which is holy and pure, and comes from a holy Abode?
- Or Hashem, Whom it is absolutely forbidden to hate and Whom we are commanded to love with all our heart?
Don't hate yourself. Self-hatred is based on self-deception.
However, if you believe that you are basically decent person, but that you just have some flaws to tackle (which is the truth), then you are probably a pretty nice person to be around and your head is probably a nice place to be too.
Andrea and Nora
Andrea vaguely noticed Nora pulling a suitcase into the cafeteria of her baal teshuvah seminary. Public announcements were being made and that’s what Andrea was paying attention to.
Later, Andrea and Nora ended up becoming friends and Nora said, “You know, when I first arrived it was so weird. I show up from America lugging this big suitcase, I’m totally new and disoriented…and no one says a word to me! No one even seemed to notice!”
Suddenly, the image of Nora standing there with her suitcase popped into Andrea’s head, causing Andrea a sting of recognition: She was one of those people who hadn’t noticed the new girl, just off the plane and in a foreign environment.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Andrea. “I think I was one of those people. It’s just that people are coming and going all the time, and there was a crowd and the public announcements, it just didn’t seem like something to notice. But you’re right, people should be more sensitive and welcoming.”
Nora laughed and said, “Yeah, I know that with such a transitory population, it’s easy not to notice. I realized that later when I saw how nice everybody actually was.” With a giggle, she added, “But I just think that there should be some warning, like maybe on the application, that this could happen!”
As Andrea smiled, Nora said, “How did you feel when you first arrived?”
“I didn’t arrive like you,” said Andrea. “I had a friend here, and she brought me over to her room and immediately introduced me to her dorm mates. That’s probably why I didn’t realize that new arrivals actually need more attention.”
From then on, Andrea resolved to pay more attention if someone was new, and especially if the new girl seemed lost or overwhelmed.
- sees herself as basically decent
- does NOT feel that a flaw indicates that she is innately loathsome and undeserving of any respect or love, she sees other people’s flaws the same way: as mere blips that we all have.
She sees them as basically good people who didn’t realize they were doing something wrong or insensitive. And in most cases, that's the truth.
It also enables Andrea to do teshuvah because while she feels a pang at seeing her flaws, she doesn’t feel like they’re a condemnation of her very being.
So even though Andrea has the same blind-spots we all have, she doesn’t fear her flaws as much as a self-hater does.
The Key to Self-Improvement is Self-Azamra!
Rebbe Nachman insists that you find at least one good point in yourself.
("Azamra" means "I will sing" and comes from the word "zemer," which Malbim defines as thanking and praising Hashem for His personal Supervision and miracles; it's a higher level of song than “shir” and adds to “shir.”)
Basically, if you feel that you are redeemable despite your flaws (and you are), then you will feel that others are redeemable despite their flaws too.
And...if you feel that you are redeemable no matter what you've done, then you will be open to seeing your flaws and doing teshuvah.
Therefore, a person with innately more or more serious flaws but who perceives himself as redeemable can end up becoming a very good and rectified person.
But a person with innately fewer or trifling flaws who perceives himself as irredeemable and loathsome (even if that perception is unconscious and he gives lip service to the idea that anyone can do teshuvah) will end up becoming a very nasty and harsh person...even though he started off at a naturally higher level than the person with more and deeper flaws.
(Although if he at any point suddenly decided to see himself as redeemable and realize that his klippah is from Hashem, then he start turning himself around pretty quickly.)
Anyway, the decision is up to each of us.
May we all recognize the holy and precious potential within us.