I hate myself is a distressing yet common thought people can encounter in their lives. We may experience feelings of self-hatred when life presents disappointments, such as receiving a rejection letter or when feeling unlucky in love after a bad date.
Self-hatred can arise from low self-esteem, which is understood as an attitude we have towards ourselves comprised of our beliefs and values. This attitude can become distorted by negative thinking, plunging our sense of self-esteem to low levels.
Feelings of self-hatred become problematic when we begin experiencing negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves regularly. This may feel like we are living with an inner bully, constantly judging and criticising our actions, thoughts, and appearance until we are left feeling worthless or like a failure.
While self-hatred and low self-esteem are not mental health issues in themselves, extreme levels of poor self-esteem are often linked to conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Self-hatred can arise when we experience low self-esteem. Our self-esteem is influenced by our core beliefs; ideas about ourselves and the world around us that develop from childhood. We may not fully understand or question these core beliefs until we reach adulthood. Low self-esteem can then be triggered by difficulties or challenges faced as an adult, building on our core beliefs.
For individuals with low self-esteem, core beliefs can be largely negative. They may include beliefs such as: “I am unlovable”, “I should have done better at school,” “I will never achieve anything so why bother?”
Life experiences can have a significant effect on our levels of self-esteem and may act as triggers for periods of low self-esteem later in life. Such experiences may include: being bullied, being abused as a child, unhealthy relationships, mental health issues, traumatic incidents, anxious care givers, and social or cultural pressures.
Common signs of low self-esteem can include: constant negative thinking, perfectionism, overanalysing personal actions and social situations, defensive behaviour, mistrust of yourself and others, fear of criticism, fear of risk, anxiety, catastrophizing, and adopting a victim mentality.
While there is no quick way to overcome feelings of self-hatred, committing to improving your self-esteem can help you make excellent progress towards a renewed sense of self-worth and a new sense of value within yourself.
Individuals can build up their self-esteem using many tools and techniques, such as:
Psychotherapy can help improve self-esteem by allowing us to identify our core beliefs and recognised when these beliefs become rooted and closely connected with how we view ourselves. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a particularly useful form of talking therapy that can help individuals experiencing low self-esteem and self-hatred recognise the effects of negative thinking on our choices and actions.
Identify negative thinking
Most unhelpful thoughts rooted in low self-esteem and self-hatred begin with “I am” or “I should.” Learn to identify the difference between your regular thinking and negative thinking, countering negative thoughts with questions like: “Am I dealing with a fact or an opinion?”, “Do I have evidence against this thought?”
Focus on your strengths
Make a list of your talents, strengths, and positive qualities, asking a loved on to assist you in picking some out if you are finding it difficult. Keep your list to look back on when you experience a negative thought spiral or need an extra motivational push. Consider scheduling in time for more activities or hobbies that you are good at.
Take time to value yourself and embrace self respect. Wear clothes that make you feel confident and look after your physical health through healthy eating, regular exercise, and an established sleep routine.
Adopt a new perspective
If you feel low about a situation or life challenge that did not go well, put yourself in the shoes of another person and view events from a different perspective. What would your best friend have done in that situation? Would your mother be as judgemental as you are being towards yourself?
Establish boundaries with others and prioritise your own wellbeing by learning to say “no.”
Set realistic goals
Identify some challenging yet realistic goals to work towards at your own pace. Break each goal into manageable steps to help you steadily work towards achieving them.
Prioritise positive relationships
Spend more time with loved ones who respect and appreciate you to help you feel more positive about yourself.
Though you may feel that sharing your true thoughts and feelings can lead to arguments, communicating in a helpful manner can help you to feel empowered in your choices.