The Glamour of Self-Destruction

I love the crisp sharpness of January mornings. The air quivers with anticipation but also shines with the soft gleam of reflection. Today, I want to share a little epiphany I had recently – and it’s not a pretty one. 

In these pages I try to foster a community of strong independent women. All women, that is, because we all have the potential to be both. But while I write about female empowerment and bettering yourself by travelling the world, I’m far from being an expert at life. Today, I want to share one of my dark little secrets – I’m in a good place right now, but I know I could revert back at any point and think it’s time we talked about it.

I may have thousands of social media followers, but I also have thousands of faux pas and self-inflicted disasters under my belt… or at least more than many people rack up in a lifetime. Why? It took me a long time to figure out, but it’s actually fairly simple. Like a moth is drawn to the light, I am drawn toward darkness. I crave self-destruction.

I always thought of myself as a fairly tame teenager. I never ran away from home or even slipped out without permission. Sure, I was rude at times and I went out for beers with my friends after school – but who didn’t do foolish things at fifteen, hoping the allure of the forbidden would rub off on them? But looking back, I can see that all these little acts of rebellion were wooden planks which later came together to form the shaky ladder into the dark corners of my heart I have been climbing ever since.

the glamour of self-destruction

It all sounds very dramatic, melodramatic even. Self-destruction. Darkness. These are ominous words with uncertain meanings. It isn’t as bad as it sounds – sadly I think this affliction is fairly common, especially among the young generation. There is something incredibly glamorous about losing yourself, losing your heart, falling into the deepest abyss of pain and shattering like an empty crystal vase.

Songs, movies, popular culture – they have all given us troubled heroes and heroines, so beautiful it hurts and so hurt it’s beautiful. Marilyn Monroe. Kurt Cobain. Princess Diana. Hunter S. Thompson. Amy Winehouse. Strong but fragile. Admired but heartbroken.

What unites them is creativity, brilliance, fame and deep sorrow. Whether suffering from depression – a dangerous beast I, too, occasionally have to battle – or substance addiction, they were all profoundly sad. And somehow, in our young restless minds, many of us confuse these two aspects of their image – we believe that their brilliance was a result of their pain. We muddle the two together until all we are left with is the belief that self-destruction breeds beauty.

glamour of self-destruction

I can only speak for myself, but I have been down this mental rabbit hole many times. To me danger is magnetic and, as I understand it, has many forms. It can be an irresponsible alcohol-fuelled weekend with teased hair and pitch black eyeshadow or that person that will never be good for you. If I see someone with morals jagged enough that they could scar my heart, I want nothing more than to let them. It’s not because I don’t believe I deserve the best – it’s because I believe that is the best. I savour the pain, as if it enriched my life and made it more interesting, more worth living.

And frankly I’m still not convinced it doesn’t. Sometimes I feel like emotional torment makes me more creative, makes me better at doing what I love the most. Sometimes I feel like I need suffering in my life to keep producing creative content and writing in a way that is easy on the ears, eyes and hearts. This is a short passage I put together in a dark period of mental turmoil a few months ago:

“Pain propels my prose to unprecedented heights. I can put pen to paper with a smile on my face, but nothing makes it glide as smoothly as that smile dissipating.

Regret, rejection, ruthlessness – these are the unlikely friends in need who guide my hand as I force it to paint the inside of my mind onto blank pages. They gather the words I normally struggle to recall and silently arrange them into neat metaphors, cleaning up the edges of my clumsy sketches.

I thought tonight would be unproductive, because things were going so well. I wanted tonight to be unproductive. Happiness is like a rainbow coloured goblet of honeyed liquor, it lulls you into blissful oblivion with each sweet droplet. Until it runs out or breaks, which usually happens sooner than one might expect. Want my advice? Drink it just as it is poured instead of saving it for later as by the time you are ready it will be no more.

Of all my misunderstood talents, one will never cease to amaze me. My capacity for self-destruction. Why must my throat be clutched by suffering’s torturous claws to give voice to the song within? Pain should breed pain, not beauty – but I have found it to do both.

The crux of the matter forces me to glorify emotional torment. I love that which kills me with such intensity that I wonder how I am still alive. Do I chance upon pain or administer it, subconsciously but steadily, like a somnambulist walking through life with open unseeing eyes, moving but unmoved?

In its absence, I sometimes romanticise pain. I even long for its deafening roar to pluck me out of lethargy whenever I get lost in an abyss of darkness. I design scenarios aimed at reopening my scars and searing them with fire. Stubbly tinder and blazing infernos. I can either burn up or shine brighter than the flames engulfing my mind. Which it will be, I cannot say.”

glamour of self-destruction

Reading that passage makes me feel a million things, but the main one is anger. Why is danger so appealing to me? Why do I willingly expose myself to pain? What is wrong with me? But the truth is, I’m one of many people going through something similar. Society has made irresponsibility, be it fiscal or emotional, sexier than it should be. Maybe it’s a phase. Maybe I – we all – will grow out of it. But each time I toss my heart onto the familiar rusty knife and then twist it to deepen the wound, I become less sure of it.

Kicking this habit is one of my bigger goals for 2015. This year I want to become better, more responsible, to work on my commitment issues and to get my life in order. This year I want to stop glamorising self-destruction and concentrate on self-improvement. I’m done needlessly making myself into a martyr and making choices that hurt me in the long run.

Maybe I’ll even stop flirting with danger and actually give my heart a chance to pick the nice guy, both metaphorically and literally. Because let’s be honest – why deck yourself out in pearly strands of tears when you can help heal the world with your laughter?

Do you think we glamorise pain as a society? Can you relate to any of the feelings I describe here? What is your big new years resolution?

All these photos of me were taken once upon a time by the talented Evgeny Rezunenko!

  • Bente Vold Klausen

    Sad to hear about your struggles and as you certainly know they are part of life. As a woman past 60 I do have some experience! For most of us it do get better eventually. To day we talk so much about problems and I get the feeling some times that we are worshipping pain and melancoly as well as creativity. I do beleive that having lived a life for good and bad is nessecary for creativity, but you also need peace in mind to be creative. Keep up your good work and I hope 2015 will be a perfect year for you.

  • Christopher Salinas

    I don’t think pain is glamorised. Movies and music capture a big audience so we adopt those habits. Over the years I have felt more creative after lapse with depression. All those pit falls have placed me in this time and place and I too want to make 2015 the year of self improvement as well. Looking back, I see my story as a phase because without it we wouldn’t be having these discussions with ourselves.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Oh Sabina, I can relate on some level. Instead of making physical choices that hurt me, I believe in words that hurt me. I seem to always wallow in an ocean of self-deprecation. I have plenty of positive voices around me but it’s like I’d rather believe my sad version of the truth or something. Sometimes, I’m more creative in that state of mind and I churn out my best writing, and sometimes it just completely shuts me down and I can’t even make myself try. My resolution for the new year is to be kinder to myself too.

    But going through these periods and then self realization and growth will make us stronger people. I hope 2015 treats you well! And I think you’re an extremely talented writer, for what it’s worth. 🙂

  • This is a nice piece, Sabina. Appreciate the openness and vulnerability – and the creative angst. I think what I’ve learned from talking to so many creatives about their decisions is that travel can be the best vessel for novelty, and novelty is happiness. That said, it only lasts if you can find an outlet for mutual affection. I think we’re more likely to give our own hearts a chance if we keep seeing ourselves helping others, whether it’s the right guy or an audience of readers.

  • Sky Fisher

    I’d love to pretend this didn’t relate to me at all but the truth is I’ve been on this path lately. It’s like I’ve been telling myself that if I self-destruct and go through these horrible moments, I will have more to write about. I will be more raw and sophisticated to have experienced pain and honestly, sometimes I do think art is better when created through pain. But it’s also a nasty habit and really, life will throw us enough pain so why bother creating it ourselves?

  • What a beautifully written article and good for you for putting that out there. That takes some serious courage. I think as travelers we all love flirting with disaster, danger, destruction, etc. Recognizing it is the hardest part. Keep up the good work! PS – Can’t wait until we can have a reunion! xoxo

  • Definitely understand this feeling. One of my goals this year is to get better with follow-through and commitment on my projects and in life in general. I think it’s one of the major driving forces of a lot of travelers. Sometimes it’s so much easier to just move somewhere new and start over instead of dealing with problems head-on and working your way through them. Best of luck to you this year!

  • William Harmon

    God, I love this post. You are a beautiful writer, but mostly you are a beautiful soul. Broken and perfect. And a powerful voice for women (and men). I, myself, have been an endless nomad on this earth, running from demons for a lot more years than you. But I could never express so eloquently what it’s about. Love ya, darlin’. Nothing but love for you and best wishes for happiness and peace in 2015 and beyond.

  • You’re so fashionable 🙂

  • Beautifully written post, and so rare to find such honesty in blogging, so thanks for sharing something so personal. I don’t know if destruction is glamourised, as such, but I do think that the ‘beauty from ashes’ story is more compelling than the ‘look how happy I am’ story. If you’re going through something hard, you’ll seek art that you can identify with. When you’re happy you don’t feel the need to identify so much, because you’re content. But I do believe that art can also come from a place of contentment, happiness and self-fulfilment, and I really hope you find that this year!

  • I think you make some excellent points, Sabina! I’ve definitely spent a good chunk of my life kind of glamorizing feeling sad, lost and like I didn’t fit in anywhere and it took me a long time to move away from that kind of mindset and towards a more positive outlook on life. I think I just made me feel cool and special to think of myself as a lost soul, when in reality it was really just an excuse not to deal with my problems. But the funny thing is: Now – even though I still have a good amount of issues and problems – that I have embraced positive living for a while, I most of the time don’t even understand why I used to behave this way. In retrospective I really was just standing in my own way. Anyways, sorry for rambling, but I can just totally relate to the way you’re feeling. And I’m wishing you the best to kick this habit in 2015! 🙂