How we cling to self-hate, self-loathing and tools to overcome it.
“You suck.” “You can’t do anything right.” “You’re not good enough.” "No body wants you."
These are things you never want to hear, but when it's you that is the critic, how do you get away from it?
We all go through self loathing at some point; more or less to some degree. For some, it’s rare and infrequent, and for others, it’s so constant that it gets in the way of reaching goals, socializing, building and maintaining relationships, and pretty much every other aspect of life.
While you are most definitely amazing, sometimes self-loathing might linger in the shadows and not be as obvious as you’d think. Sure there are the obvious things like literally hating yourself and always being hard on yourself, but these less obvious signs can point to self-loathing too:
Being a people pleaser
Constantly apologizing for every little thing (maybe over and over again)
Setting expectations too low
Motivating yourself with tough love
Using harsh self-talk
Mostly focusing on what can/does go wrong and on the negative
Turning feelings into facts (i.e., “I feel like a failure” turns into “I am a failure”)
Making all or nothing statements (i.e., If I mess up this project, I’ll lose my job and never move up in my career)
If any of these signs sound familiar, it’s okay, you’re not alone and here’s how you can turn self-loathing into self-compassion:
1. Pay attention to your triggers
The first step to addressing any problem is understanding its root.
You’ve heard it a million times, but journaling can really help here. Try sitting down at the end of the day and walk through your day mentally. Try to jot down some notes about:
what you did
how you felt during different activities
who you were with throughout the day
If you don’t process best by writing, you can also simply reflect for a few moments on the events of the day.
Regardless of how you go about unpacking your day, try to keep an eye out for any common threads or patterns that might help you identify what triggers your negative thoughts.
Once you’ve identified some of your triggers, you can work on coming up with ways to avoid or minimize them. There are some triggers you might not be able to avoid, so it’s helpful to learn the tools to work through them.
2. Practice positive self-talk
Self-hatred often comes in a moment when you don’t have compassion for yourself. If you have a period where you’re feeling good, try to write out a list of what you love about yourself.
If you can’t think of anything, don’t panic. Love is a strong emotion that’s hard to feel toward yourself at a low point. If it’s easier, try to think of things you simply like or don’t hate about yourself.
Maybe you take excellent care of your pet or always send a thank you note to others.
Keep this list where you’ll see it every day. When the self-hatred thoughts come, stop, take a breath, and think of the things from your list.
Practice compassion with yourself, and you’ll start feeling better.
3. Practice Gratitude
Another thing I rave about only because it's worked wonders for me, and there's a chance it could work for you too. Plus there are so many benefits associated with practicing gratitude, and one of them is that it can increase self-esteem.
Even if it might not feel like it at the moment, you have so much to be grateful for. Focusing on those positive things instead of what you hate about yourself is an easy switch that can make a big difference.
I would like to challenge you to journal (you can even use your phone) to list two things (or more) you are grateful for EVERY SINGLE DAY in the month of December. Set a side 30 seconds either before bed or during your morning coffee to add to your list. It can be the same things or different every day; it's your list.
4. Reframe your negative thoughts
Reframing is a technique that can be used to address negative thoughts and self-hatred. It’s usually done by simply shifting your thoughts to a slightly different perspective.
It might involve thinking upsides of a bad situation or considering a frustration in a new light. However if you decide to try it, reframing is about training your brain to find and focus on the positive.
For example, instead of saying, “I’m so bad at work presentations,” you could reframe the statement to, “I don’t feel like I did well in my presentation today.”
Yes, it’s a small change. But you’re taking an all-or-nothing statement and reframing it as a single instance.
This helps the negativity not feel so overwhelming or permanent. After all, messing up one work presentation is only one instance - and it means you can do better next time.
5. Give to Others
Self-loathing is often a result of not finding enough value in yourself, and giving to others is a great way to feel more valuable. Plus there is actual research to back this up; giving to others reduces stress and negative feelings, boosts self-esteem, and more.
So when you’re feeling negatively about yourself, do something for someone else.
The simplest acts of kindness can make us feel so much better about ourselves and put some love out into the world too. This is a win-win for everyone.
6. Spend time with people who make you happy
Self-hatred can make you want to isolate. You might feel like you don’t deserve to be around your friends or family. Or you might feel like no one even wants to be around you.
While withdrawing from social situations may seem like the best action according to our negative self-talk, studies have shown this isn’t such a good idea.
Connecting with others is a huge part of our mental well-being because social interaction helps us to feel better about ourselves. It creates an environment in which we feel valued and cared for.
The best way to combat these negative thoughts is to spend time with our loved ones, whether that’s a friend, family member, or partner. Go for a coffee, see a movie, or simply visit while taking a walk together.
Social interaction can help you feel recharged and valued.
Don’t have anyone to reach out to? Consider connecting to others online, find like minded people who share the same interests and start a conversation. What would you do if someone on the other side of the world reached out to you?
7. Change the Things You Can
Zen masters from all over the world have been telling us for ages that peace and happiness come from within. And while I think that holds a lot of truth, I also believe that we can be a product of our environments.
If you find yourself self-loathing because you are in a place that doesn’t align with you, or are surrounded by negative people, or are in a job that doesn’t give you what you need, then it’s time to make a change.
I know this is one of the hardest things to do, but often the best things in life are the most challenging and scariest.
Make a list of the things in your life that you aren’t happy about, identify what you can change, and make small moves toward those changes every single day.
Maybe you can’t move, or avoid certain people, or switch your job right away, but you can start.
If you don’t love where you live, start saving up and researching places you can move to. In the meantime, try to find a space near where you live that you enjoy, whether it’s a park or a coffee shop and spend more time there. You can also try redecorating your home and turning it into your favorite place.
If there are negative people in your life that you can’t avoid, then try to at least break up your time with them or maybe try to talk to them about their behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable.
If your job makes you feel like you’re stuck, look for more. Take that course that will help you land a better job. Dedicate just 30 minutes a day to applying for other jobs.
You Are Good Enough: The Key to Stop Self Loathing
A big trigger of self-loathing is a perfectionist mindset. This might mean needing to always perform perfectly at work, or it can be wanting to be the perfect person who never gets angry or stressed out or critical.
But that’s just not human nature.
Sometimes good enough is all you need, and you are always good enough.