“Why do I hate myself?” – Do you find yourself wishing you were somebody else? Do you wish that you were drastically different from how you are? Or do you wish that you didn’t exist at all? Do you close yourself off from people because you believe they won’t like you anyway? Are your days filled with thoughts of self-loathing? If so, it sounds like you’re experiencing a lot of self-hatred.
If you hate yourself, understand that everything can change. You don’t have to become someone else, you don’t have to change your personality, and you definitely don’t have to stop existing to stop hating yourself.
Shifting our feelings and beliefs away from self-hatred and towards a more compassionate, loving, and nurturing self-view takes practice, but it is entirely possible.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at self-hatred. We’ll explore the most common causes of self-hatred and offer some practical, evidence-based tips and advice to help you shift your focus away from self-hatred and toward self-compassion, love, and self-kindness.
What causes self-hatred?
Some people hate themselves because they learned to do so in childhood. Some people hate themselves because they struggle with mental health issues that make them internalize their negative emotions. Some people hate themselves because they compare themselves to gender or appearance-based stereotypes and realize they will never meet those unrealistic standards.
Whatever the reason, hating yourself has no place in your life. No good comes from self-hatred. Even when it comes with guilt and seems appropriate, it’s far more beneficial for you and those around you to treat yourself with compassion rather than self-hatred.
When people are treated poorly over and over again, they develop low self-esteem. Being treated with disrespect, humiliation, and as though you are unworthy and unlovable instills in the mind that those things are true.
For example, if a young child constantly hears from a caregiver or other family members that they are ‘useless’ or ‘stupid,’ they begin to accept that as the truth. Young children, in particular, are highly susceptible to a negative self-view when others treat them poorly. This is because they do not yet have the capacity or emotional maturity to separate other’s opinions and behaviors from the truth, especially those of authority in their lives, such as caregivers, whom they typically hold in high regard and see as infallible.
A child who is conditioned to believe that they are unworthy will develop their self-image around what they learn about themselves from others. The more others disrespect them or speak down to them, the more they treat themselves that way. If you’re constantly criticized, put down, or told that you are ‘less than,’ it’s challenging, if not impossible, to feel good about yourself naturally.
Though the criticism from others may cease as the child gets older, they will still carry the memory with them through to their adult lives and suffer from chronic low self-esteem as a result.
Unresolved family issues
Growing up in an unhealthy family dynamic impacts a person’s mental health and can leave a lot of residual emotional pain. Family-based emotional wounds are a common prerequisite for feelings of self-hate throughout the lifespan.
Our self-image begins to develop when we are young children. So, any unhealthy, confusing, or frightening experiences in the family home, as well as a lack of adequate emotional and psychological support in such cases, can impact self-esteem, self-worth, and one’s entire worldview. They can create an abundance of negative thoughts that stay with a person even when they leave the family home and try to live independently.
Unresolved issues in one’s family of origin can leave a person reeling with insecurities and self-doubt, both of which are ingredients for self-hatred. Many mental health issues stem from disruptions to the family dynamic.
Living with an abusive partner causes a person to hate themselves. As part of the abuse, the abusive partner might convince the other that they are worthless, stupid, or unlovable. Note that abuse does not just refer to physical violence. It can also come in the form of verbal abuse, where a person constantly talks down to another, insults them, and makes them feel terrible about themselves.
People who suffer from abuse and domestic violence at the hands of a partner might develop self-hatred for a couple of reasons. One reason is that they believe all of the insults and horrible things that their partner tells them, which then becomes unhealthy and toxic self-talk. They might falsely believe that they deserve to be treated as such by their partner because the abusive partner has rationalized their behavior to convince the other that it’s their fault.
The other reason is that they criticize and berate themselves for staying in the relationship, even when there are risks to leaving, such as harming oneself or one’s children.
Bullying at school, work, or in the home
Whether in school, at home, or in the workplace, people who have been bullied often start to hate themselves. The words or actions of the bully begin to feel true or appropriate. The rational mind tries to make sense of why they are being picked on or verbally abused and may conclude that it’s happening because it’s deserved.
Of course, it’s not deserved. Bullies act the way they do to achieve a sense of power, which in reality, they lack. Putting others down is a means of making themselves superior and is by no means a reflection of your worth or validity as a person.
Still, in the throes of being bullied, it’s hard to view things objectively. Some bullies are extremely clever and can make you feel bad by attacking the things you already perceive as flaws within yourself.
When we think of bullies, we often think of school and children, but bullying can happen anywhere, by anyone. It can happen in the workplace at the hands of a mean coworker, or it could happen in the home from a narcissistic parent.
Distorted self-image or body image
Some people struggle with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental health condition in which one experiences a distorted body image. They focus heavily on perceived flaws in their appearance, which may not even be noticeable to others. Typical areas of focus include one’s skin, nose, weight, or muscle tone. A distorted body image can make a person feel less worthy than others of love and affection and lead to deep-seated feelings of self-hatred.
People with BDD often look at others around them who they consider beautiful, perfect, or attractive and negatively compare themselves. They also tend to compare themselves to airbrushed images of supermodels, ignoring the fact that these photos are heavily edited and that people don’t really look like that.
The more they compare with others, and the more ‘flaws’ they find in their appearance, the more they begin to feel hate and contempt for their body and themselves.
Trauma, particularly trauma that occurs in childhood (known as adverse childhood experiences), can leave a lasting impact on a person’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and overall self-view. Many trauma survivors tend to blame themselves for their traumatic experiences.
A child who was abused or neglected may blame themselves because they preserve the idea that their abuser, in cases where the abuser was a family member, is inherently incapable of any wrongdoing.
The self-blame and intrusive thoughts and memories that follow trauma can make a person deeply hate themselves. It’s important that those who live with unresolved trauma speak to a mental health professional as soon as possible.
The self-hatred and harsh inner voice associated with unresolved trauma pose a significant health risk, so it’s important to seek professional help and support as soon as possible.
Anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression are some of the most common mental health conditions worldwide. Depression affects over 13 million globally, according to the World Health Organization. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety annually.
Both depression and anxiety can cause feelings of self-hatred and self-loathing. The more severe the condition, the more intense the experience of despair, hopelessness, and contempt for oneself.
As people overcome their depression or anxiety, they also tend to have less negative self-thoughts and harsh self-criticism. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of psychotherapeutic and pharmacological treatment options available for these conditions.
Guilt and shame
Some people struggle to let go of past mistakes. Perhaps you hurt someone in the past or let down someone you love. Whatever it was, you must forgive yourself. When we hold onto our mistakes and continue to berate ourselves for them, they create stress in the body and mind. They eat away at us and make us feel like we’re unworthy of happiness.
You may or may not have been forgiven by the person you hurt or let down, but the most important thing is that you forgive yourself. If you don’t forgive yourself, you’re likely to experience a lot of self-hatred, which doesn’t benefit anyone and doesn’t change the past.
Consequences of self-hatred
If the concept of self-hatred isn’t already enough to make you want to change your beliefs, perspective, attitude, and feelings about yourself, consider the longer-term consequences of hating yourself.
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Anticipating failure
- Engagement in unhealthy coping behaviors, such as alcohol or drug abuse
- Personal neglect
- Difficulty making decisions
- Inability to take compliments
- Inability to receive love and affection from others
- Doubt about your skills and abilities
- A bleak outlook of the future
- Feeling like you don’t belong
If you continue to live in a pattern of self-loathing and negative self-talk, your beliefs will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’ll criticize yourself for not being happy and engaged with others and the world around you, but the main reason you’re not doing those things is that your self-hatred is getting in the way.
Fortunately, there are actionable steps you can take to hate yourself less and start improving the quality of your life.
How do I stop hating myself?
If you’re wondering ‘why do I hate myself’ and want to stop, you’ll be glad to know that it’s entirely possible to stop hating yourself. Try at least one (or all!) of the following tips and advice to improve your relationship with yourself and, as a result, the quality of your life.
Instead of being harsh on yourself, talking to yourself with mean or nasty comments, or engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, social withdrawal, or self-harm, try to practice self-care. Self-care is spoken about a lot in online media, but it’s important to note that it’s not all bubble baths and spa days. Self-care is about prioritizing your physical and mental health above all else.
It’s about setting boundaries around things that make you feel worse about yourself. It’s about reading articles to educate yourself and why you hate yourself so much and vowing to do all that you can to make the changes necessary to achieve a better quality of life.
Challenge your negative thoughts
“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…” – Cheri Huber.
Listen to the way you talk to yourself and ask if a friend or loved one would speak to you that way. The likely answer is they wouldn’t dare. Why, then, would you talk to yourself that way?
Challenge your negative thoughts by asking if there is any evidence behind them. Consider if they’re worth entertaining or if it would be better to let them go and replace them with a more positive, appreciative, and grateful outlook.
Speak to a therapist
A therapist can help you challenge your negative thoughts and feelings of self-loathing. Many people who hate themselves find relief using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), evidence-based psychotherapy that addresses the cognitive triangle – the interconnected relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
A CBT-trained therapist can help you address the root causes of your negative self-view, identify how those thoughts influence your feelings, and how those feelings drive coping behaviors. Eventually, you will gain an objective view of the cycle of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that perpetuate your self-hatred.
In place of those negative thoughts, a trained therapist can help you shift your focus toward a more positive self-view with emotional resilience exercises, techniques for greater distress tolerance, and more helpful ways to talk to yourself.
If your hatred stems from past traumatic experiences or substance addiction, you may benefit from joining therapeutic support groups.
Open up friends
Your friends may be able to do an awful lot more for your worthiness and validity than you can right now. Don’t be afraid to open up to those you are close to and feel safe enough to be vulnerable. While a friend can’t fix your issues for you, they may be able to offer some helpful advice and may share similar feelings about themselves.
“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.” – John Joseph Powell.
Lots of people hold a negative view of themselves. When you share your fears and worries with others who understand, it can take a load off your chest.
The Bottom Line
The first step toward feeling better is to believe that you are good enough. It would help if you believed that you don’t need to search for validation outside of yourself.
Your mental health should always be your utmost priority. You need to look after it so that you can stop hating yourself. According to Carl Rogers, an American psychologist, we are all inclined to tend toward positive growth in what he refers to as the actualizing tendency.
If you’re wondering why you hate yourself, then it’s worth examining what’s standing in the way of your love and compassion. What did you learn about yourself that may have been maladaptive or stunted your personal growth?
Is there something in the way you learned to survive, where hating yourself or constantly putting yourself down served some function? Our most natural state is love, so if you’re in hate, take a closer look at what’s going on in your life.
Examine your past and your present, and try with all your might to break down the walls that stand in the way of your unconditional self-love. Know that you don’t need to hate yourself anymore.