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 self critical thoughts are too loud.

Self-loathing is when the little devil on our shoulder overpowers everything else we may 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 poor self image and a life of negativity.

Causes of self-loathing or self hatred

So, what causes self-hate?

Sometimes it starts when we are younger.

When parents feel inadequate, they usually take those feelings out on their children. If they have unresolved trauma, they will most likely pass on their hurt feelings 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 are borne out of the constant feeling that one needs to do better, be better than the other person.

Self-Loathing Meaning

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 usually too high to be attained by anyone. This form of self-hatred can be detrimental to our self-worth.

Once we realize we cannot meet these personal expectations, that critical inner voice comes back out to remind us that they knew we aren’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.

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.

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. They find it hard to accept compliments and tend to deflect the praises given to them.

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.

How to stop the cycle of self-loathing

We can attempt to stop the cycle of self-loathing by recognizing our triggers. We can overcome self loathing 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 and combat self loathing.

1. Silence your inner critic

Your self-hatred may make your inner critic seem unrelenting. The critical voice within you introduces feelings of self doubt, making you feel bad and inadequate.

Learn to recognize self hating patterns and try to reframe your thinking.

With negative thoughts looming around the corner of every action you take, it can become overwhelming, exhausting, and isolating. Worse, such self hating patterns can lead to self harm.

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.  

self-loathing meaning

2. Rebuild your relationship with yourself

Exercise self love and learn to look at yourself in a positive light.

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 daily life, and your accomplishments that should be celebrated. You may even engage in positive self talk or by saying self-affirming quotes at the start of your day.

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 close 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.

3. 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.

Practice self compassion and focus your emotions on how far you’ve come.

4. Seek professional help

Sometimes our self loathing thoughts are too strong to try and silence by ourselves. It can lead to psychological distress and mental disorders such as anxiety or even depression.

It’s perfectly okay to spend time and seek the support of others, whether an old friend or trusted relative, especially when we are struggling with self-hatred or intense feelings of inadequacy.

If needed, you can find a competent 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, address self loathing symptoms, and help you with your thought process to improve self esteem and 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.

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 mental health professional such as a counselor or therapist who can offer you their opinion on identifying self loathing patterns addressing the negative light in which we may view ourselves.

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