“I hate myself.”
The words come fast to you.
You feel you’re wrong, dirty, or disgusting.
If you’re in a relationship, you feel you don’t deserve for your partner to treat you well and may put up with abuse. Or if you’re single, you’d like to meet someone but are not sure you deserve it.
You know you need to love yourself more, but have no idea where to start.
Feelings of sadness overwhelm you. It’s not easy when you’re so filled with self-loathing that you hate your appearance, mannerisms, and personality.
Most of the time, you don’t understand why someone would want to date you or even be your friend.
Hating yourself is a horrible and complicated situation.
Most likely, you’ve been feeling like this for some time now.
Can I be blunt?
Turning things round might not be smooth, but there are several ways you can make a start. Feelings of self-hatred can be complicated and have many different sources, but they are possible to overcome.
Don’t give up. Many people have been in the same place as you. Despite feeling they had no options, they learnt new perspectives that enabled them to move past their stuck point. Those new perspectives are what I want to show you below. Keep reading until you find the answers you need.
Understand the reasons why you say “I hate myself.”
There may be many reasons you’re not happy with yourself right now, but often there are some common themes. Here are three of them:
Step 1: Accept that No One Gets You
Loneliness is common.
There are usually two reasons you might feel lonely. First, society seems to suggest that if we’re not in a relationship, then there is something wrong with us--and that we are to blame. So if an attachment has failed or if we can’t meet a romantic partner we tend to find fault with ourselves.
Second, even when we’re in a relationship or with family and friends around us, we can feel lonely. The sense of feeling alone can stem from not being able to communicate to others the things that are important to us. We feel misunderstood like ‘no one gets us.’
Society is prejudiced against those who live alone. Despite what popular media or social influencers might suggest, all the evidence shows that people who live alone are equally as happy as those in relationships.
Accept that there will always be parts of us that remain elusive to others. By all means, work to improve your communication with others, but come to terms with the fact that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be completely understood.
Step 2: Stop Regretting the Past
Many people struggle with their pasts.
You could have a troubled childhood or a failed relationship, or blame yourself for other things that have gone wrong. The fact you lost your job, for example. You wish that life could be different and you always regret some of the things you’ve said and done.
Yet everyone makes mistakes, and you’re too hard on yourself. Hindsight is a fantastic thing, and it’s easy to look back and believe you could have done something differently. But dwelling on the past often does more harm than good. Sometimes it’s better to let the past go.
The more energy you have tied up with the past, the less you’ll have available for the present and future. Recognise that what's done is done and you cannot change it. You don’t have to forgive yourself, but you do need to stop focusing on mistakes made, horrific events, and how life didn’t turn out how you wanted it to be.
Step 3: Don’t Let Others Bring You Down
Perhaps the people around you are bringing you down.
You may feel trapped in a situation you can’t escape, like a failing relationship or an unsatisfying job. You blame yourself for getting into this position in the first place. Toxic people drain your energy daily, and you suffer so much criticism you come to believe it is true.
It’s worse if you’re a sensitive person. Some people have thicker skins and can’t see how cruel they are being. Because society emphasises money-making at the expense of other skills, the more narcissistic types tend to do well. Then they use their positions of power to make you feel worse.
Many workplace managers succeed because of their ruthlessness, and they can also be subtle or not so subtle office bullies. They talk up to their superiors but down to you, leaving you feeling worthless and overlooked.
Don’t let others’ nasty attitudes make you feel bad. You have enough on your plate to deal with. Get out of any toxic relationships you can. Dump all those who bring you down. Try to grow a thick skin and tolerate those you can’t get rid of. You deserve better.
Challenge Your Critical Voice
Critical inner voices are widespread. Understanding and perceiving these voices and then challenging them is hard. The first step is noticing.
Step 4: Accept that You’re Positively Different
The most common self-critical thought that you may have is that you are different from other people. Not in a positive sense, but a negative one. Your critical inner voice is like an internal coach, commenting on your life, always making you feel inferior.
“You’ll never amount to anyone.” “No one likes me.” “He doesn’t love me.” “I am worthless.” Do you recognise these types of comments? We all have an inner critical voice. Most likely you’re so used to it that you don’t notice that it's there.
Accept that you are different from others but don’t listen to the voices in your head that tell you it’s because you’re weak or inferior. You’re different because you’re sincere, kind and thoughtful - after all, you’re reading this post. You’re positively different, and that’s a great thing.
Step 5: Recognize Your Voices from the Past
“I hate myself” is a typical inner voice.
Like most people, you’ll have others too, like “I’m a failure.” Or, “I’m not very clever.” Often these originate in your early life experience. At some point, our caretakers or other influential people in our lives directed harmful views towards us. Over time we came to believe they were real.
It’s not that you had “bad parents.” They were struggling with things too and didn’t realise that what they were saying or doing could be damaging. Try to notice any inner critical thoughts you may have. Are there any similarities with the messages you got as a child?
You may find it useful to keep a journal of your inner critical thoughts, making notes about who you think is the originator of these voices. Which parent, teacher or friend’s messages have you absorbed?
Step 6: Learn to Take a Different Perspective
To stop hating yourself, you need to challenge your negative thoughts.
Once you have insight into the sources of these inner critical thoughts - parents, uncles, siblings etc. - then you can begin to challenge them. You can answer back to attacks with a more compassionate and realistic view. Fighting back isn’t easy. Even noticing your thoughts can be hard.
To challenge your inner critical voice, you have to see it as one viewpoint and not the truth. And the more you can recognise that these viewpoints might come from the past, the more you can begin to separate yourself from them.
Try writing out your automatic, programmed voice and then write out a new alternative thought about the same thing.
Look Out for Faulty Thought Patterns
It’s easy to get into the habit of believing the way you think is correct. Yet all of us have biases in our thinking that creep in overtime. The next few steps deal with these prejudices.
Step 7: Accept that We All Have Biases
You could have other negative thought patterns besides your critical inner voice.
You might catastrophize, which is the tendency to think the worst is always going to happen. This is a repeated pattern of thoughts that many people have, but it’s not always correct.
It’s essential to notice triggers too. Often specific people or situations trigger thought patterns. The thought “I am a failure” may only arise when you meet your boss, for example.
Here are some common biases:
- Catastrophizing – thinking the worst always happens, rather than recognise that sometimes bad things happen, but sometimes good things do too.
- All or Nothing – believing you are “never good enough” or “always fail”, rather than seeing that you are sometimes good enough and only occasionally fail.
- Unrealistic Standards – believing that you should do things perfectly rather than accept that mistakes are typical and no one is perfect.
- Ignoring the Positive – filtering out good and reassuring thoughts and only listening to the negative ones.
- Jumping to Conclusions – not weighing up the facts before you make up your mind. For example, believing your partner will leave you because they are in a bad mood.
Reflect on whether any of these thought patterns operate in your life. What are the triggers? Biases are normal and natural it would be unusual if you don't have any.
Step 8: Break Destructive Spirals
Biases in your thoughts aren’t all bad; they can help you make rapid decisions. Catastrophizing, for example, allows you to imagine and prepare for a worst-case scenario such as a presentation going drastically wrong.
But you can often get trapped in destructive ways of thinking. You don’t notice your crazy thoughts, so you think that the worst will happen. Because of this, you become anxious and depressed, and this leads things to get worse.
Then because you can’t sleep well, have panic attacks, or feel anxious or feel depressed, you have more negative thoughts. Psychologists call this a negativity spiral. The way to break it is to recognise your faulty thought patterns and challenge them.
For example, is it true that bad things always happen to you, or can you recall some times when things have gone your way?
Or maybe your boss often praises you, but you choose not to hear it, always thinking you’re not good enough.
The key is to always look for the facts. Write them down if it helps. What evidence do you have for the belief you hold? If there is no evidence, then it might not be accurate.
Take a Lesson from Spirituality
Spirituality offers a similar perspective to the psychological ones we have discussed above. Spiritual outlooks see thought as the enemy.
Step 9: Learn Why You’re Different from an Animal
All humans have mental images of themselves.
The key to understanding your self-hatred from a spiritual perspective is that self-hatred stems from a mental image you have created about yourself. Animals don’t develop mental images and so never feel self-hatred.
To dissolve your self-hatred, you need to get rid of the mind-made mental image: the image that you are “bad”, “wrong”, or somehow defective.
Remember, this is an image you have created. It is not real. Try to imagine being an animal without any mental picture at all. Without this mental picture, how differently would you behave?
Step 10: Get in Touch With A Deeper You
Spirituality focuses on the concept of an observing self.
Some call it consciousness or presence.
The idea is that your observing mind is the part of the brain that is not thought. Some people call this ‘meta-awareness,’ the awareness of sentences and images that make up the content of our mind.
Your observing mind does not change and does not grow old. It’s always there. When we observe our thoughts, we can step back and realise we are not our thoughts.
Once you learn to step back and examine your thoughts as an observer, you’ll stop identifying with them. You’ll stop accepting them as accurate.
Meditation is a common way spiritual people relax and experience their observing minds. Meditation is a way to practice the habit of observing that we can use at any time.
Take a moment to sit. Can you see your thoughts floating through your mind? Can you see that they’re separate from you?
Step 11: Defeat Your Ego
The ego is thought, and thought is always comparing.
You compare the mental image you have created to other people. In this comparison, you are always inferior. Even though this does not benefit you, over time, you have learnt to accept this mental image as truth. You live with the mental image even though it is corrosive and blames you and causes a lot of pain and suffering.
You would never live with a person who is always criticising or always blaming you. Yet you put up with treating yourself this way. The ego wants you to believe your mental image is real, but it is not. It’s a construct. You don’t need to accept it as accurate.
No More “I Hate Myself”
When you hate yourself, you settle for less than you deserve. You hurt other people as you withdraw. If you smoke or drink alcohol, you harm your body. And you destroy your life by always believing the worst about yourself.
Turning things around isn’t easy, but it is possible,
Go through this post and see which bits resonate with you the most. Can you relate to any parts? Does any of it seem correct for you?
If so, what actions can you take now?
If you can take any action, then do.
You deserve better, so don’t settle for second best.
You’ve got a lot to give the world. Stop holding yourself back starting today.
- Verily: https://verilymag.com/2019/02/how-shame-self-loathing-is-a-bad-motivation-to-improve-2019
- INC: https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/how-to-accept-yourself-your-life-your-reality.html
- Nature: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-018-0198-1
- Hal: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00918803/document