Self-Loathing Meaning, 4 Causes & How To Stop The Cycle Of Self Hatred

Self-loathing meaning – according to the dictionary definition, it is a feeling of intense dislike for oneself. It can also be referred to as self-hatred.

Self-loathing is the thought that we are just not good, intelligent, funny, wealthy enough, etc. It begins when our inner critic is too loud.

Self-loathing is when the little devil on our shoulder overpowers everything else we might believe about ourselves and our abilities and tells us that we are just not worthy.

It says we aren’t good enough because we don’t have the same accomplishments as our neighbors or that we constantly embarrass ourselves despite trying our best to challenge those thoughts every day.

When we feel ashamed of every decision we make or every uneventful thing that happens to us, it can lead to a life of feeling negative about our self-worth.

Causes of self-loathing/self hatred

So, what causes self-hate?

Sometimes it starts when we are younger.

When parents have things they feel inadequate about, they usually take those feelings out on their children. If they have unresolved trauma, they will most likely have adverse reactions to their children during parenting.

If a parent is angry toward their child often, the child may pick up on that anger and assume they have done something to deserve this kind of treatment. Therefore, self-loathing is born.

It’s an emotion that is developed when we begin to think that everything that happens to us is somehow our fault, rather than trying to recognize other factors at work.

We assume that we need to set a certain standard for ourselves to avoid feelings of inadequacy, which is one of the most common causes of self-loathing, unrealistic expectations.

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1. Unrealistic expectations

It’s normal to want to belong or be accepted by a group.

But our mind can trick us into believing we have to meet a certain standard to be accepted by anyone, and these standards are normally highly unattainable by anyone. This form of self-hatred can be detrimental to our self-worth.

Once we realize we cannot meet these personal expectations, that inner critic comes back out to remind us that they knew we weren’t capable, that we’ve never been worthy of being accepted, etc.

This chain of events can cause us to feel shame and guilt while developing a sense of fear that we will never reach the standards set by ourselves, let alone others.

Related: Why Do I hate Myself? What Causes Self-Hatred and How to Deal With It

2. Trauma

Often, those who have trouble with self-loathing have traumatic pasts that can lead them to think the world is unsafe.

This behavior can trigger their inner critic into constantly relaying that everything that happened to them is somehow their fault.

Experiences of trauma can also release other negative emotions-shame, sadness, and anxiety- that pile up and make the person feel inferior.

3. Attempting to please others

Again, the inner critic comes into play here.

It’s typical behavior to get the “approval” of others to feel related to them and be accepted into a group. We feel that if we are just perfect, no one will ever reject us.

It’s this unattainable goal of being perfect that sets us back and begins the cycle of self-hatred.

Disappointment is a hard pill to swallow, and this often comes back as “What did I do wrong?” rather than accepting that not everyone will accept us as easily as some people will.

Related: Why Do I Feel Like Everyone Hates Me? and How Do I Cope With it?

4. Perfectionist syndrome

Unrealistic expectations and attempting to please others can also lead to perfectionism.

Healthy perfectionism drives us to accomplish our goals and be successful.

Harmful perfectionism begins the cycle of self-hate and causes us to feel shame and guilt when we do not meet our expectations for ourselves.

Usually, these expectations are unusually high and cause us to seek the absence of failure to avoid judgment from others.

Perfectionists don’t appreciate their accomplishments because nothing is good enough for them, and they are overly critical of their own mistakes.

The truth is, we all will fail at something.

Letting go of the comparison mindset, where we have to achieve a certain standard according to others, is an essential step in conquering perfectionist syndrome.

Related: How to Stop Being a Perfectionist: Definition, Causes and Solutions

How to stop the cycle of self-loathing

We can attempt to stop the cycle of self-loathing by recognizing our triggers. We can combat them by implementing helpful techniques that redirect our thoughts and reframe how we feel about ourselves and our mistakes.

Try taking these steps to build the path to more positive thinking.

Silence your inner critic

Your self-hatred may make your inner critic seem unrelenting.

With its negative viewpoint looming around the corner of every action you take, it can become overwhelming, exhausting, and isolating.

Try to distinguish your own personal feelings from those of others. Has anyone given you a concrete reason to feel this way? If they haven’t, it’s likely your inner critic talking.  

Related: Watch Your Thoughts: Why it is Important and Practical Tips to Change

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Rebuild your relationship with yourself

An excellent way to combat feelings of self-hatred is to rebuild your relationship with yourself.

This means figuring out the positive things about yourself, your life, and your accomplishments that should be celebrated.

For example, even if you aren’t at the top of the totem pole within your professional field, you just got a promotion a few months ago and that’s worth celebrating. Don’t think of it as a reason to put yourself down because you struggle to see it as an accomplishment.

Again, you can think of this from an outside perspective.

Would you want a friend or family member thinking they are worthless or that their accomplishments-even the small ones-don’t deserve recognition or praise?

If you struggle with self-loathing, try to make it a daily habit to think about how you’d want someone close to you to treat themselves and then try doing that for yourself.

Related: How to Have a Self-Care Day in 7 Simple Steps: Make a Plan Today

Practice self-forgiveness

Self-hatred often stems from moments of embarrassment or negative encounters from the past. Maybe a traumatic event happened that we find difficult to forgive ourselves for.

Instead, we should see each of our mistakes as a learning experience. We grow into our sense of self each time we experience something, it helps us figure out who we are and what we are capable of within different situations.

Free yourself from the thought that every time you mess up, you are an absolute failure. This will, in time, help to silence that inner critic and help you learn to look at your mistakes as an opportunity to grow.

Try to stay in the present and focus your emotions on how far you’ve come.

Related: Self-Care Sunday: 28 Best Tips for Focusing on Yourself

Seek professional help

Sometimes our inner critic is too strong to try and silence by ourselves.

It’s perfectly okay to seek the support of others, especially when we are struggling with self-hatred or intense feelings of inadequacy.

If needed, you can find a good professional to talk to, whether it be a minister, a counselor, or a psychiatrist.

They can help find ways to reverse the hate you may feel towards yourself and better your thought process for long-lasting mental health.

The Bottom Line

Self-hatred, or self-loathing, is common among people who have low self-esteem.

Self-hate can feel like listening to the words of your worst enemy after every decision you make: “I knew you couldn’t do it.” “Can’t you do anything right?” “Why would anyone want to be around a failure?”

In reality, these thoughts come from a series of traumatic events, that can start when we are younger, that ultimately change our perception of ourselves and our accomplishments. It’s important to remember that we cannot compare ourselves to others, nor can we expect to be perfect. We are only human.

If you find yourself struggling with self-hatred, try recognizing your triggers and attempting to redirect your thoughts when they start to go south. Otherwise, you can seek professional help from a counselor or therapist who can offer you their opinion on addressing the negative light in which we might view ourselves.

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