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You don’t like the person who stares back at you when you look in the mirror.
You’d go so far as to say you hate that person.
And before you read any further, tell yourself that as of this moment in time, it’s okay to feel that way.
Too many people will tell you that you’re wrong to hate yourself…
…that you have so much to live for.
…that you are a beautiful person.
…that you can be whatever you want to be.
And other such well-meaning statements or comments.
The problem is: this is not how you feel right now.
And while there is some truth in each of those statements, it’s not something you are able to accept or believe.
By telling you that you are wrong to hate yourself, these people are missing the point entirely.
And, if anything, they might be making you feel worse.
After all, nobody likes to have their feelings invalidated. Nobody wants to be told that they are wrong for feeling the way they feel.
So as you read through this article, remember this one thing:
If, at this precise moment, you hate yourself, own that feeling. Don’t allow other people to trivialize your feeling. And don’t allow your own mind to trivialize your feeling.
Your feeling is real.
Your feeling is hard.
Your feeling is something that you know better than anyone else – even those who may have suffered (or are still suffering) in a similar way.
Now, let’s continue.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the more common reasons why you may be experiencing feelings of self-hatred.
We’ll look at the ways that this might manifest in your life and the self-reinforcing behaviors that result.
And we’ll discuss some potential avenues for what to do if you hate yourself, in terms of unpacking those emotions and overcoming them.
Let’s first ask why…
Why Do I Hate Myself?
When you reach a point of self-loathing in your life, it can be hard to figure out how you got there.
Perhaps you have felt this way for as long as you can remember. Or maybe it’s something that has grown over time.
But where did it come from, this feeling of self-hatred?
It’s important to note that the following points should only be taken as possible reasons why you think about yourself in the ways that you do.
You might find some answers here or you might not.
If something you read does feel relevant to your situation, it may bring you some form of relief.
But please be aware that there is also the risk that it might trigger further unhealthy feelings.
If this should happen, please stop reading and seek direct help from a qualified therapist or counselor at your earliest opportunity. They will be able to provide support in a safe and caring environment.
If you are in crisis and believe you may pose a risk to yourself, please stop reading and contact the crisis lifeline on 1-800-273-8255.
How You Think About Yourself Is Highly Critical
You may hate yourself because you criticize every aspect of yourself.
Perhaps this sounds obvious to you. Of course you criticize yourself – you hate yourself.
But what came first: the hate or the criticism?
As you read the rest of this article, you’ll see why this question is so important. Because not all criticism comes from within.
You may hate the way you look or the fact that you think you’re boring or stupid or any number of other things…
…but there’s a good chance that at least some of this criticism began as an external influence in your life.
In other words, another person said negative things about you and to you.
But we’ll return to that later on. For now, let’s stick with the point that you are, right here and now, highly critical of yourself.
This is because the way you think about yourself as a person is misaligned with reality.
In psychology, the term self-concept is used to include all the ways that you think about yourself: your self-image, your self-esteem, and your ideal self (the person you wish you could be).
These 3 things all interact with each other, and in your case, they may negatively reinforce one another.
Perhaps you think you’re ugly (negative self-image) which makes you feel unlovable (self-esteem), and you wish you could be more attractive (your ideal self).
But every time you wish you could be more attractive, you feed the idea that you are ugly and the resulting feelings of being unlovable.
Eventually, you are no longer able to see the honest reality of your situation because this negative feedback loop has shifted your opinion of yourself to the very far end of every spectrum.
“I’m unattractive” becomes “I’m so ugly that nobody will ever want to be with me.”
“I’m not the smartest” becomes “I’m so stupid that nobody would ever hire me.”
“I’m shy and reserved” becomes “I’m so boring that nobody wants to hang out with me.”
“I’ve not achieved what I wanted” becomes “I’m such a failure in every way.”
Yes, there will be people who are – from a stereotypical point of view – more attractive that you.
Yes, there will be people who are – on an academic level – smarter than you.
Yes, there will be people who are more outgoing and more adventurous than you.
And, yes, there will be people who are – from a lifestyle and wealth perspective – more successful than you.
This probably is your reality. Yet you see things as far worse than that. You don’t see any redeeming features in yourself whatsoever.
So you hate yourself because you don’t see anything worth liking.
Remember this as you continue reading. Everything comes back to how you see yourself.
You Had An Unhealthy Upbringing
What do we mean by an ‘unhealthy’ upbringing?
Primarily, this refers to parents or guardians who were unable to provide the caring and supportive environment that a young person thrives in.
A person’s self-concept is largely formed during their childhood years.
If you were raised in a situation where people’s attitudes and behaviors toward you were negative or even abusive, it is likely to be an important reason why you have feelings of self-hatred now.
If you had a parent or parents who often expressed their disappointment in you, for example, you may have developed perfectionist tendencies.
This might lead to you never feeling content with what you achieve or have. You may see yourself as a failure and eventually come to hate yourself for it.
A parent who repeatedly rejected your desire for attention may have directly led to your feelings of being unworthy of love.
A parent who regularly reminded you of your weight or some other aspect of your appearance is a likely cause of such insecurities you now hold.
A parent who was controlling and dictated what you did might have left you feeling helpless and unable to look after yourself.
We put so much importance on the way our parents treat us. They are, after all, the people we look up to when we’re younger. They are the ones we expect to care for us.
When they fail to treat us in a healthy and loving way, it can sow the seeds of future self-hatred.
You Were Bullied (Or Are Being Bullied)
Bullying is essentially an attack on a person’s self-concept. A bully identifies a self-defined weakness and then keeps chipping away at it again and again.
A bully’s physical violence may cause us pain, and their words may leave unseen scars too.
Being bullied as a child can have a long-lasting effect on a person’s mental well-being.
It can go unnoticed or unreported for a long time, which leaves the victim in a situation where they often accept the views or opinions of the bully as valid and correct because no one tells them otherwise.
This comes right back to your self-concept and how an episode of bullying can change it.
Even after the bullies have gone or given up, their words and their actions will remain in your mind, undermining your self-belief, confidence, and sense of self-worth.
Of course, bullying is not confined to the playground. It can happen at work, in friendships (if you can call them friends), in romantic relationships, and amongst family members.
There is no age limit on bullying and its effects are no less devastating in adulthood.
If you were bullied – or if you are being bullied – it may help explain why you feel like hating yourself.
You Experienced A Traumatic Event Of Another Kind
Life can sometimes put us in the way of terrible events that leave us changed.
These events may be fleeting, but they can cause us to question everything we thought we are, were, or might be in the future.
Car accidents, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, physically or sexually violent attacks, sudden bereavement, and the loss of work are just some examples.
Perhaps the scars are solely emotional, or maybe there are physical implications too.
Either way, the turmoil caused by such events can be deep and lasting.
Suddenly, you are no longer the person you thought you were. Your self-concept is smashed to pieces and you don’t like what you now see in the mirror.
You may end up asking questions such as “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?”
And even the search for answers can lead you down a dark path toward self-hatred.
You Did Something You Now Regret
We all do things that we later come to regret, but if you have done something which you now view with a level of shame and disgust, it can make you hate yourself.
Were you unfaithful to your partner?
Did you physically or emotionally abuse another person?
Did you lie or steal or cheat in some way?
Whatever you did, if the thought of it now repulses you, it’s highly likely to leave you hating yourself.
How Self-Hatred Affects You And Your Life
In this section, we’ll explore a number of ways in which hating yourself impacts your mental health, how you behave, and the choices that you make.
We’ll pay special attention to how those things reinforce your feelings and cause your self-esteem and self-worth to spiral downward.
Read this section carefully and ask yourself whether they are true in your life. This will help you in the final section about stopping these feelings of self-hatred.
Your Self-Talk Is Very Negative
When you dislike the person you are, it is reflected in how you speak to yourself and about yourself.
“I hate myself” is, itself, an example of negative self-talk. Any thought that attacks a part of you or all of you is a result of your self-hatred.
“I have awful skin.”
“I have nothing interesting to say.”
Just watch your thoughts for any statement that starts with “I” or “I’m” and which is followed by something negative.
Or these thoughts might also take the form of wholly defeatist statements such as:
“What’s the point?”
“It’ll only end badly if I try.”
These types of thoughts are self-reinforcing. In other words, the more you think them, the more you believe them, and the more likely you are to think them again.
It’s a vicious cycle of destructive overthinking.
You Engage In Self-Destructive Behavior
When you hate yourself, it’s very likely that your actions will reflect this feeling.
You will behave in ways that serve to harm your physical or mental well-being or sabotage your life prospects in another way.
Perhaps you self-harm or numb the pain with alcohol or drugs.
Maybe you eat too much or too little.
You might try to lock yourself away from the outside world and minimize any social contact whatsoever.
Or you could neglect to look after yourself in some other way.
Yet while these behaviors may provide temporary comfort and relief, they only cause you to hate yourself more in the long run.
You Choose Friends Or Partners Who Mistreat You
When you have low self-worth, you become prone to picking people to be in your life who are not kind to you.
Whether it’s the friends you hang out with or the partner you enter into a relationship with, these people are likely to treat you poorly.
They may take advantage of you, bully you, verbally or physically abuse you, take you for granted, or act in other unhealthy and unhelpful ways toward you.
Every time you are confronted with such behavior, you tell yourself that you deserve it (more negative self-talk). You don’t stand up for yourself and you don’t feel like you have the power to change how they act.
When people treat you so badly, it only serves to confirm the view you already have in your mind – namely the “I hate myself” thought and feeling.
You Feel Anxious About Making Any Life Choices
Self-hatred is very often accompanied by low self-confidence. This leaves you feeling anxious whenever you are faced with a decision that may affect your life.
Even small decisions that won’t have any great lasting effect can leave you feeling fearful.
You have a toxic relationship with failure because any failure only serves to reinforce how useless and worthless you think you are.
You worry about disappointing others and not living up to their expectations of you.
And if you have a perfectionist mindset, no choice you make is ever likely to satisfy you because you will always wonder how you might have done better.
You may even feel paralyzed by the choice in front of you, unable to make a decision. This also makes you feel worse about yourself because you believe it shows just how pathetic and incapable you are.
You Don’t Believe Positive Statements Made About You
When you hold feelings of hatred toward yourself, it becomes almost impossible to accept anything positive that someone might say to or about you.
You believe that when other people praise you, recognize something good that you’ve done, compliment you, or are just nice to you in some way, that they are being dishonest or insincere.
After all, how can they really mean these things when you know, deep down, how useless and undeserving you are?
Maybe you think that they pity you and are simply trying to make you feel better.
Or maybe you believe that this is a form of manipulation to get you to do something for them.
Either way, you don’t believe what they say and this confirms to you that you are not worth genuine kindness or praise.
You Feel Unable To Follow Your Dreams
If you do still have any dreams, you feel completely incapable of chasing them and making them a reality.
You doubt your abilities. You doubt your commitment. You doubt your willpower. You doubt everything that you would need to fulfil the goals you have in life.
And neither do you believe that you deserve to have these dreams come true. In your mind, that sort of thing is reserved for people who are ‘better’ than you.
Yet, by not following your dreams, you risk strengthening your feelings of self-loathing.
Every time a dream fades, you see a future that is more and more bleak.
When your future looks bleak in your eyes, you turn your thoughts inward and you blame yourself.
You criticize yourself for not trying harder. You get angry at yourself for giving up.
This all fuels your feelings of self-hatred and the cycle starts again.
You Feel Like You Don’t Belong
When you don’t like yourself, you don’t see how anyone else could like you either.
In fact, even if you do have friends, you feel disconnected from them and from your family in some way.
In your mind, you don’t belong anywhere.
But when you feel like an outcast, the only conclusion you are likely to reach is that there is something ‘wrong’ with you.
And so you believe this thought and your self-concept morphs once more toward this unloved and unlovable figure.
How To Stop Hating Yourself
We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping to change your mindset and overcome your self-hate.
In this section, we’ll discuss some of the things that you might do to help move your mindset away from self-hatred and toward self-acceptance.
As you’ll soon realize, each point relates to one of the behaviors from the previous section.
While we do not go into great detail with each point, the information is aimed to give you a starting point from which you can explore further.
But first, four quick notes:
Firstly, uncovering the root cause(s) of your feelings is not always as straightforward as you’d think.
While exploring your past and examining the possible causes can prove helpful, there is a lot more that a trained therapist or counselor might be able to do.
They know the kinds of questions to ask and the most effective mental paths to guide you down in order to identify when, where, and how these feelings first took root in your mind.
And they might be able to diagnose depression or other mental health issues that need to be addressed at the same time.
So speak to your doctor and tell them how you are feeling. They should then refer you to one of these mental health professionals for further treatment.
Secondly, changing a behavior is not likely to come easy and nor will it come quickly. That’s why we recommend focusing on one or maybe two things at a time and no more.
If you spread yourself too thin and try to implement all of the advice below at once, you’ll find it more difficult to succeed in each.
Once you feel like you are making good progress in one area, you might then attempt to address another.
Thirdly, you are not the only person who currently hates themselves. And many people have hated themselves in the past, but no longer feel that way.
It can feel like you’re alone at times because you may not talk about your feelings with anybody, but you can see by looking at many online forums, message boards, or website comment sections that there are other people who feel a similar way.
This alone can bring you some comfort because it can help you to realize that what you are feeling is not uncommon and also because some messages will come from people who have overcome their feelings.
Or consider these statistics. The World Health Organization report that roughly 5% of the adult population across the world suffer from depression, and one of the common symptoms of depression is low self-esteem which can manifest as feelings of self-hatred.
Among 15 to 29-year-olds, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death. While a survey of U.S. high school students in 2019 revealed that in the 12 months prior to the survey, 1 in 6 had reported making a suicide plan.
What’s more, depression is not the only mental health condition that may lead to thoughts and feelings of hating yourself. So, as small a crumb of comfort as it may be, you are not alone in this.
Fourthly, not all of the points below will directly apply to you. So don’t assume that you have to follow them all.
You might not have any self-destructive behaviors. You may be actively engaged in following your dreams or career. You may have a loving family and set of friends around you.
Hating yourself comes in a variety of forms and can happen to anyone.
1. Shift Your Negative Self-Talk
If you can break the pattern of negative self-talk, you can slowly begin to change the way you feel about yourself.
As difficult as it may be, if you can challenge each negative thought that arises and give it a neutral or positive spin, you will eventually find that this becomes second nature.
So if the thought, “I’m not good at anything” comes into your mind, challenge it with the thought, “There are many things I could improve upon, but I am better than most people at…” and then fill in the blank.
If you think, “I’m fat and ugly,” challenge this with, “I could lead a healthier lifestyle, but I have nice hair.”
Your new statements should be realistic – there is little value in lying to yourself or being overly optimistic.
If there really are things about you that you don’t like, your thoughts should recognize the changes that could be made, not the current state that you hate so much.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be a very effective form of therapy that can help you address and alter your negative self-talk.
2. Address Any Self-Destructive Behaviors
If you can stop doing anything that you know is ultimately harmful to you, then you will stop berating yourself for doing those things.
It is highly likely that this is where you will need the assistance of a doctor or other health professional.
Things like addictions or self-harm are not easy to stop by yourself and it may be that some form of medication will really help in your attempts.
3. Perform An Audit Of Your Inner Circle
The people you spend the most time around will have a huge influence on how you feel about yourself.
If you have friends, family members, work colleagues, or other regular acquaintances who treat you poorly, it is worth asking how you might limit the time you spend with them or remove them from your life entirely.
By not being exposed to these people, you will have fewer reasons to be mean to yourself.
4. Ask For Help Making Decisions
If you feel anxious whenever you are faced with a choice in life, and especially if you feel unable to make it, try asking a trusted friend or family member for help.
You might feel quite vulnerable and awkward asking someone for help, but if they are someone who treats you well and genuinely cares about you, you’ll probably be surprised at how willing they are to lend a hand.
And when you have the guidance of another person, decisions can feel more manageable and less intimidating.
If you don’t have someone in your life who you feel you can trust or speak to, there are many charities and organizations of all kinds that might be able to help.
5. Take All Positive Comments Seriously
You may find it difficult to believe someone when they say something nice to you, but make every effort to see these comments as genuine.
One way to achieve this is to ask the person why they are saying that to you. Try not to sound defensive or untrusting when you ask, but reply with something such as:
“Thank you, that’s very kind. But what did I do to deserve such nice words?”
This gives them the chance to go into more detail about what you may have done, or why they think you look nice, or whatever the compliment was.
You then have more information to judge rationally and critically.
You may, at times, still come to the conclusion that someone was just being nice, but you will also encounter instances where the evidence really does point toward you having deserved the praise or recognition.
6. Take Small Steps Toward A Dream Or Goal
A great way to feel more positively toward yourself is to achieve something that matters to you.
At the present moment in time, you may not feel able to reach your goals or dreams, so don’t even think about that for now.
Instead, take something tiny that you might be able to do today that will eventually contribute to that goal or dream.
Let’s say your dream is to open your own bakery. That’s a far off end point, yes, but it doesn’t stop you from sitting down and brainstorming names for your bakery.
You’ll probably really enjoy this small task and if you find a name that you like, you’ll feel a sense of achievement and it will make the dream more real.
Whatever your goal is, just try to take a tiny piece of it at a time and celebrate when you’ve taken each step.
Achievements of any size contribute to a sense of personal growth which help challenge the negative thoughts you are having about yourself. And by trying to take forward steps toward a goal on a regular basis, you build up a momentum which can lead to long term positive change in yourself and your thinking.
7. Find A Tribe Of ‘Your People’
The way to combat feeling like you don’t belong anywhere is to find at least one or two people with whom you really do share something in common.
This could be something you share physically, such as a body shape or disability.
It could be something you really enjoy doing, such as a hobby or pastime.
Or it could be a dream you both have, such as wanting to start your own businesses.
You may not know these people yet, so it’s your task to find out where they might be and get to know them.
Or you may know them casually, but not yet call them a friend – in which case, your job is to find ways to interact with them more.
8. Practice Self-compassion
Compassion tends to be thought of as something you feel for other people when they are experiencing hardship. But by approaching yourself in the same way, you can begin to disrupt the thought patterns that lead to self-hatred.
It won’t be easy, and you will have to make a conscious effort to incorporate self-compassion into your daily life, but, over time, it can make a significant difference to how you feel about yourself.
What does it actually involve? Well, some of the main things include:
- Recognizing that making a mistake does not reflect badly on you as a person. Mistakes are simply a part of being human.
- Challenging the thoughts and feelings of inadequacy as discussed above.
- Encouraging yourself to forge and maintain social connections rather than isolating yourself due to a misguided belief that no one would want to be friends with you or spend time with you.
- Being able to process negative emotions rather than turning away from them or ruminating on them.
- Recognizing and valuing your own right to happiness and the pursuit of that happiness.
9. Practice Self-care.
When you don’t like yourself all that much, it is easy to allow self-care to fall by the wayside. Why should you bother to look after yourself when you don’t believe you are worth looking after?
But there is a two-way link here that can either help or hinder you in your efforts to overcome your self-hatred. You see, by not taking care of yourself, you reinforce the belief that you are not worthy of looking or feeling good. On the other hand, if you can find ways to practice self-care, it communicates to yourself that you are worth being taken care of.
In other words, by doing things to take care of yourself, you will feel better about yourself and these two things can create a virtuous upward spiral.
What does this look like? In brief, it means eating well, getting regular exercise, getting enough restful sleep, maintaining good hygiene, maintain a clean and tidy environment, identifying and changing habits which are not healthy in the short term or long term, meditation and mindfulness, and getting out into nature, among other things.
You’ll soon notice the difference in how you feel about yourself if you can find it within yourself to treat yourself with kindness and care.
10. Avoid Social Comparison
One cause of self-hatred that is easy to overlook is the comparisons we make between ourselves and others. Every time you look longingly at the life of someone else, that envy erodes any positive feelings you may have about your own existence.
Social media is a major source of these comparisons. You get a realtime stream of other people’s updates which, let’s face it, are overwhelmingly positive. Very few people post about their problems or failures which makes it seem like you are the only one who faces these things. This causes black-and-white thinking in the sense that it appears as though “everyone is doing well except me.” Which is not true, of course.
If you have low self-esteem to begin with, social media and making social comparisons in general, leads you to focus far more on the negatives of your life (or perceived negatives), and to overlook all the positive things you have to be grateful for.
So, every time you open up your favorite social app, you are likely to face images and videos that act as triggers for your own thoughts of self-loathing. Repeat this many times on a daily basis and it can take a heavy toll on your mental health.
So, it might be best to take a breather from social media, or even consider quitting the platforms that make you feel bad about yourself. At the very least, you should unfollow people and pages whose posts regularly provoke unkind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.
A Final Thought
In this article we’ve done three things: we’ve explored the potential causes for your feelings, we’ve talked about how these feelings can be self-reinforcing, and we’ve looked at some ways you can stop feeling them.
“I hate myself” is a thought that crosses many people’s minds. Your struggle is real, but it is one that you can be victorious over.
One key message is that you don’t have to struggle alone. There are people and organizations who can help you face down your feelings.
So, as much as this article is designed to help educate you, we would advise you to speak directly to someone wherever possible.
Just be wary of well-wishers who may inadvertently diminish your feelings.
Still not sure what to do when you hate yourself? Talking to someone can really help you to address and fix this issue. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
A therapist is often the best person you can talk to. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can guide you and help you to explore the many layers there are bound to be to your self-hatred.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Online therapy is actually a good option for many people. It’s more convenient than in-person therapy and is more affordable in a lot of cases. And you get access to the same level of qualified and experienced professional.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
- WHO Depression Factsheet – fetched 07/10/2022
- Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2009-2019 – fetched 07/10/2022