Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, known as the Chofetz Chaim, spent a lifetime lecturing on the dangers of lashon hara (loshon hora, as he would have pronounced it), malicious language (in a somewhat broader sense than the English word ‘gossip’). He was once traveling by train to lecture somewhere and struck up a conversation with the person opposite him. The fellow traveller clearly didn’t recognise him, as he said he was going to see the Chofetz Chaim lecture and waxed lyrical about his piety and scholarship. This embarrassed the Chofetz Chaim, who didn’t reveal his true identity, but started to say that he thought the Chofetz Chaim was not so wise or pious, only for the man to slap him in the face.
After the lecture the man obviously realized who he had slapped and came trembling to apologize. The Chofetz Chaim said he had nothing to apologize for: “For years I have been preaching that one should not speak lashon hara about others, but you have taught me something new, that one should not speak lashon hara about oneself!”
I think I have been speaking lashon hara about myself a lot recently. I have accused myself of all kinds of things here and in my head. I feel deeply embarrassed about what I wrote yesterday, which at least four people saw before I edited the post. Apart from airing communal dirty linen in public, I more or less accused myself of terrible things that I have not done, using the flimsy justification of, “If I had the opportunity to do it, then I might do it” without any real evidence to support that. It is very easy to convince myself that I could do terrible things if I had the opportunity. If I say, “I could become a murderer under certain circumstances” it is almost impossible to put that statement to the test, as the circumstances in question are usually unlikely to arise.
I certainly do keep up an often critical monologue in my head much of the time, calling myself stupid and berating myself for mistakes, while never praising myself for achievements. It is no wonder that I assume that no one would want to be my friend and that I tend to run away from people who try to befriend me before they discover what (I think) I am ‘really’ like, nor is it a wonder that women are not interested in me romantically.
I don’t know how to change this. I’ve tried repeating praise or positive affirmations, but find they don’t really help and are hard to remember to do anyway. The negative remarks are always easier to repeat. I don’t like myself very much and sometimes I wonder how well I really know myself. I sometimes think perhaps I’m not as bad a person as I think I am (if that makes sense). At any rate, a couple of people seem to like me, albeit mostly online, where they don’t actually know me. I think I’m more my real self online, so maybe it’s encouraging that people seem to like me there, although I’m probably most my real self when I’m alone in my head and that’s when I really hate myself.
Today I’m beating myself up about various things I feel I did wrong, from snapping at my parents to not handing in a key I saw on the pavement because I was worried I would miss my train (and had no idea where anyone would look for it anyway) to making some rather sweeping comment in a blog comment about antisemitism which I now wish I had phrased differently. I ought to eat something as I’m hungry and tired and have a headache and a mild cold and am facing a stressful day tomorrow at work, having social anxiety and having to deal with dozens, maybe even hundreds of strangers in an environment that I’m still not completely comfortable in, with limited training for these exceptional tasks that aren’t in my regular job description… I also need to try and write a batch of emails this evening to deal with transfering my membership from one shul to another… at the moment I want to just curl up and sleep.