When it’s extreme, a lack of self-worth can be a type of pain few people understand. Self-hate can be complicated and difficult to navigate on your own. Some studies have even shown it to be a prominent predictor of suicidal ideation. If you’re at a place where you think I hate myself, the one thing you should know that’s more important than anything else is: your life doesn’t have to be like this.
While it’s true that some self-doubt is natural, and maybe even a little bit healthy, being in a near-constant state of self-loathing is definitely not good for anyone. However, there’s good news. You can change self-hatred and it’s worth it, too. Having healthy relationships with others begins with recognizing your own value first.
Here, we’re looking at what happens when self-hate becomes unhealthy, what can cause it, what it can do to your life, and how you can overcome it with strategies and online therapy.
Signs That Your Self-Loathing Is Not Healthy
Virtually everyone has thoughts of self-doubt or self-hatred at one time or another. In a way, having a bit of self-awareness can be a good thing. It means we’re realistic about our own shortcomings. This awareness can contribute to our ability to feel compassion toward others.
Self-critique is an important part of growth and maturity, too — realizing that you have room to grow and evolve can be a vital asset. Recognizing the line between healthy self-awareness and self-hate is important, especially if you find that thoughts like I hate myself are beginning to dominate your thinking.
There are a few things to be aware of that can help you determine if what you’re feeling is healthy, or if something deeper might be going on.
Signs of self-hatred:
- Your thoughts stop you from reaching your goals or functioning optimally in your life.
- You can’t talk yourself out of your distressing thoughts.
- You have very low self-esteem and you feel like you’re not enough.
- You’re always focusing on the negatives, even when good things happen.
- Your self-hating thoughts seem to come into your head without permission.
- You experience heightened feelings of worthlessness, depression, or just have a general ‘darkness’ tied to your thoughts.
- You express your feelings as facts — you think: I am so stupid, rather than I feel so stupid.
- You have a hard time accepting compliments.
- You regularly make all-or-nothing statements that make you feel like your life is just one ultimatum after another.
- You constantly seek the approval of others to feel validated.
If any of the above describes what you’ve been going through or feeling lately, it might be time to figure out how you can learn to cope better. Because the truth is, thoughts like I hate myself really are just that — thoughts. They aren’t hard facts about who you are. The problem is that if they begin to take over, you might start to believe them. So if you can’t separate negative thoughts from reality, your self-loathing has become serious enough for you to take note. The good news, however, is that your thoughts are not true, and you don’t have to live believing they are.
Causes for Self-Hatred
There are many reasons why you may engage in self-hatred. Anything from a negative inner critic, traumatic experiences from your past, bad relationships, bullying, and more can be a cause of self-hatred. Even environmental triggers can contribute to a deep lack of self-worth. Most importantly, mental health conditions may also be playing a role in how you feel about yourself.
Negative inner critic
Your inner critic could be the root cause of why you constantly think I hate myself. The more we listen to our inner voice, the more powerful it can become.
Very traumatic events, like physical, mental, or verbal attacks, a serious car accident, or a significant loss in your life, can result in a deep-seated feeling of why me? When these feelings change to regret, responsibility, or shame about what happened, you might start seeing blatant symptoms of self-hatred.
If your household was made up of adults who were extremely critical of you, low self-esteem may have been formed around your experience. There are other reasons your self-worth might have been harmed during childhood as well — particularly if you were in a volatile or stressful household, had parents who were tense or fought a lot, or if you were often in situations where you were nervous. Children who were abused or neglected can develop a negative inner voice in adulthood.
Being bullied — either at school, work, or in a relationship — can have a long-lasting negative impact on how you view yourself. Replaying the words or actions of a bully over and over in your mind can be a sign that you may need help. You can (and should work to) overcome the abuse you experienced, because it might be resulting in your low self-esteem.
Environmental triggers can take you back to a previous bad experience. Sometimes this can trigger an emotional reaction that’s out of proportion with what’s currently going on. If you find this happening regularly, it might be a sign that your self-hatred, stemming from the original situation, is part of the issue.
Difficult relationships can also trigger a response that creates a negative inner voice, even in adulthood. We often think of bad relationships as being romantic in nature, but in truth, even a difficult work relationship or friendship could potentially create negative self
–talk that’s difficult to break the cycle of. If we’re told we are something often enough, it becomes easier to believe.
Mental health conditions
A mental health condition like major depressive disorder (MDD) or an anxiety disorder can both contribute to feelings of self-hatred. Depression can cause intense feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and other feelings you might internalize, eventually making you feel as if you’re not good enough.
The Harmful Effects of Self-Hatred
Self-hatred can have serious consequences in the long run. The longer you experience it, the more intense the effects can be. When we continuously reinforce the idea that we’re not good or worthy enough, the outcome can be potentially dire. People who experience self-hatred often:
- Begin acting in self-destructive behavior, like eating too much or not enough, isolating themselves, and more
- Get into relationships (sometimes subconsciously) with toxic people
- Find it difficult to make decisions on their own
- Begin to obsessively worry about potential future problems
- Hold themselves back or don’t try to go after goals
- Have a depressing view of the future
- Don’t have the self-confidence to try new things
- Begin to sabotage relationships
- Struggle with increasing low self-esteem
- Start engaging in perfectionist tendencies
- Find it impossible to believe good things about themselves
- Doubt their abilities
- Feel like an outcast
- Start abusing substances
11 Ways to Combat Self-Loathing Thoughts
Fortunately, there are ways for you to combat your self-loathing tendencies. First, know that there are degrees of self-hatred and low self-esteem. You may just experience self-loathing thoughts and feelings intermittently. On the other hand, it may become a constant reality that’s hard to get a handle on. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, if your self-worth is affecting your life, now is the time to address it.
You deserve to feel better and to experience self-love, compassion, and confidence. It may be hard for you to believe right now — especially if you’ve lived with low self-esteem for a long time — but it absolutely is possible to feel good about yourself. Through work, you can make those I hate myself thoughts become a thing of the past.
Some ways you can release yourself from self-hatred can include:
1. Seeing a therapist
Exploring the origins of your self-hatred can be extremely difficult. For many of us, doing so under the care of a licensed mental health professional is vital. A good therapist can help you uncover the root causes of your low self-esteem.
Perhaps even more importantly, they can help you come up with a plan to cope and heal. It can be hard to take the first step and start therapy, especially if you deal with self-hatred and shame in the first place. But try to remember that therapists have heard it all. They won’t judge you for your feelings.
If you’re entering therapy for the first time, you may want to reach out to several therapists before deciding on who you’ll see. Go with your gut on this: if a therapist makes you feel safe and comfortable, they’re probably a good fit. If the idea of venturing out to meet a therapist face-to-face stresses you out, maybe you should consider an online therapist. Talkspace therapists are trained to help with self-esteem issues and will meet you where you are, at your convenience.
Sometimes moving our thoughts from inside our head onto a different medium is just what we need to release them, so they don’t have quite as much power.
Journaling doesn’t mean you need to be an amazing writer, either. You don’t even have to write in complete sentences! Taking even 5 minutes a day to “spill” your thoughts out on the page can be therapeutic and give you a little perspective.
For someone with dark, racing thoughts, the idea of meditating may sound far from relaxing. However, contrary to popular belief, meditation doesn’t require you to shut down your thoughts. Rather, it asks you to simply notice them.
Becoming more mindful about your thoughts, and then making a conscious choice about how you’ll react to them — whether you ignore them, acknowledge them, or simply breathe through them — is an excellent way to combat negative thoughts and negative feelings.
4. Reflecting on the origins of your thoughts
No one is born thinking negative things about themselves. Usually, if you reflect, you’ll see that thoughts like I hate myself may have come from people in your childhood (caretakers, teachers, or other authority figures) who consistently put you down.
Hearing things like you’re worthless, or you’ll never achieve anything, or no one likes you, can have a profound life-long impact on your self-esteem. When you’re able to see that these ideas don’t truly come from you, you can take away some of their power. This can help you see that your harmful thoughts are not truths, and that you don’t have to listen to them anymore.
5. Practicing self-compassion
Showing yourself compassion and practicing positive self talk can be surprisingly effective if you’re trying to overcome self-hatred. These tricks can all have a significantly positive effect:
- Try to find the good in things you’ve accomplished
- Acknowledge when you’re engaging in all-or-nothing thinking
- Try to be conscious about seeing things in a different light
6. Identifying your triggers (and then paying attention to them)
Understanding what’s causing you to self-hate is really the first thing you can do to overcome it. As the saying goes, the first step in overcoming a problem is admitting that there is a problem in the first place.
Pay attention to what tends to set you off — What were you doing? How were you feeling? Who were you with? All of these can help you focus on trying to avoid, or at least minimize, triggers that have a negative impact on your life.
7. Reframing your negative thoughts
It may sound very simple, and like it couldn’t possibly work. However, the truth is, reframing negative thoughts can do wonders for your self-esteem.
Reframing is actually a very effective technique used in therapy that can help address your self-hatred and negative thoughts. It works by shifting how you think to even a slightly different perspective. Over time, reframing from negative thinking can eventually retrain your brain to react in a new, more positive way.
8. Challenging your negative thoughts
Challenging your own negative thought patterns can change the internal dialogue you’re hearing. Try having a conversation where you ask yourself why? every time you think I hate myself. This can give you the opportunity to challenge those negative thought patterns you’ve created. Telling yourself that’s not true, or asking yourself who told you that? can both be effective.
9. Talking back to your inner critic
When you start to hear the negative things you tell yourself, sometimes it can help to stand up to that inner critic. First, consider if what you’re thinking is realistic or if you’re experiencing thought distortions that are contributing to your self-hate. Just like standing up to a bully, standing up to your inner critic can be empowering.
10. Practicing self-care
Practicing self-care might be easier than you’re thinking. You can focus on taking care of yourself by:
- Eating healthy
- Getting enough sleep
- Working out
- Paying attention to how much social media and screen time you’re getting each day
These are all ways to engage in self-care and can help improve both your mental and physical health. The end result? You feel better.
11. Surrounding yourself with positive people
Going through the process of understanding your feelings of self-loathing might allow you to see how certain people in your life have contributed to your negative thoughts. This may be an uncomfortable realization, but the silver lining is realizing that you have a choice in the matter.
You can choose to surround yourself with people who lift you up, value you, and inspire you to be your best self. Having these people in your life — and learning to be that sort of person for others — can combat the negativity so you can lead a full, happy life.
Understanding where self-hatred is coming from is the first step to overcoming it. Practicing self-love, noticing your negative feelings and thoughts, and speaking to a therapist or a friend are just a few more ways to combat thoughts of self-hatred.
- Turnell, Adrienne I. et al. “The Self-Hate Scale: Development And Validation Of A Brief Measure And Its Relationship To Suicidal Ideation”. Journal Of Affective Disorders, vol 245, no. 15, 2021, pp. 779-787., doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2018.11.047. Accessed 30 Sept 2021.