I hate myself, you think to yourself after making one of the many mistakes you’ve made in your life. You’ve spent years beating yourself up with constant self-hatred, hoping that your hatred will clean you up into the person you want to become. But it doesn’t; it just continues keeping you down. And so you start hating yourself more because you’re not living up to that perfect person you’re trying to be. The bad news is you’re not going to be perfect, no matter how much you try. The good news is that you don’t have to hate yourself for being flawed. In this article, we’re going to share 13 ways to help you stop your constant self-hatred so you can enjoy life as an extraordinarily flawed, imperfect human being.
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Why Do I Hate Myself?
Believe it or not, it’s pretty unlikely that you hate yourself. Most of the time, the thoughts of self-hatred burrowing in our minds don’t come from ourselves at all. Do you know who they come from? Friends, family members, strangers, teachers, doctors, coworkers, bosses, neighbors, and more. People tend to repeat in their minds the negative things people have said to them before.
But that’s not the weird part, sometimes something someone made an off-hand remark about ten years ago is still replaying in our minds. The inner critic held on to that negative thought for so long, you don’t even remember that you aren’t the source of where that thought came from.
Sometimes you think, “I hate myself” because someone you haven’t even spoken to in decades once said something that made you feel insecure. You might’ve eventually realized that this is a toxic person and cut them out of your life. Yet, for some reason, that negativity is circling on repeat in your mind.
Can I Love Someone If I Hate Myself?
Of course, you can love someone if you hate yourself. It’s harder to love someone if you don’t love yourself, but it’s not impossible. Most people who think, “I hate myself,” are their own worst critics. They experience shame and guilt for past mistakes they made that had catastrophic consequences. And rather than working through these feelings by finding a therapist who can help them cope, they feel stuck in their self-hatred.
On some level, everyone hates aspects of themselves. However, you can show love and kindness in all of your interactions. Your self-hatred might cause you to love people more than other people because you don’t want anyone else to feel as bad as you do. So instead, you overcompensate. You’ll go out of your way to tell people you love them. You’ll highlight your favorite qualities people have. You might praise people constantly. Starting a family and instilling love, compassion, and security in your children and spouse is something you can still do.
People who think, “I hate myself,” typically don’t practice self-compassion exercises, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be compassionate with others.
13 Ways to Stop Your Constant Self-Hatred
1. Practice Self-Compassion
When you’re constantly telling yourself, “I hate myself,” it’s time to practice self-compassion. You might try out a meditation for self-compassion or loving-kindness meditation which helps you learn how to love and accept those closest to you, strangers, and yourself. Each day, you could write a list of things you love about yourself that you did that day, such as making people laugh. Look around and think about the things you have in life that you’re grateful for; this could include your good health, perfect vision, can afford food, and more. And at the end of the day, when you feel tired or alone, take some time to hug yourself, take a longer shower, use kind words towards yourself, or practice other forms of self-care.
2. Practice Meditation for Self
Practicing meditation is a helpful way to stop your self-hatred. A guided meditation teaches you how to watch thoughts flow in and out of your mind without clinging onto them and making them part of your identity. Meditation isn’t about feeling overwhelmed and forced to hear all the thoughts; it’s about realizing that you don’t actually control them and that they always float away if you don’t entertain them. A good guided meditation you can practice is a meditation for self-love. By practicing this meditation for only ten minutes a day, every day, you can slowly build up your self-love and reverse the I hate myself record replaying in your brain.
3. Look for Fact-Based Evidence
When people are filled with self-hatred, most of their “evidence” comes from feelings. For instance, you might say, “I think people don’t like me” or “I’m a bad person.” However, when you dig deep, you realize there’s no factual evidence to prove this. If you were asked to name one of your friends and family members you talk to the most, you’d probably realize there are people in that group who do like you– or even love you very much. And if someone were to ask you why you think you’re a terrible person, you would explain a mistake you made one time. However, you might have some bias going on because you fail to recognize all the good things you’ve done too. You’re only looking at the bad. So, challenge yourself to look for proof that the opposite is true when you feel like you hate yourself.
4. Avoid Extreme Thinking
Extreme thinking is commonplace for people struggling with mental illness, trauma, or even self-hatred. An example of extreme thinking is “everyone hates me,” when this is not true. Out of 7 billion people in the world, not everyone hates you. Another example would be “It’s my fault that this negative event happened” this is an example of extreme thinking and bias. There are always other people involved in a situation that triggers a ripple effect. Another powerful word often used in extreme thinking is “should.” For instance, I should’ve known better. However, if you had known better, you would’ve reacted differently, so you didn’t know better. Sometimes, something happens to us, and we reflect on it years later with hindsight bias. However, the “should” thinking holds you back, causing you to beat yourself up for years with self-hatred.
5. Try Right Brain Activities
When you find that your negative thoughts are taking over, it simply means your left brain is more active. Your left brain is responsible for language, which is what makes thinking possible. So, instead, try developing your right brain more. Right brain activities include meditation, drawing, playing an instrument, volunteering at an organization, planning or hosting an event with family members or friends, dancing, acting, painting, and so forth. Ultimately, being more social, performing, being mindful, or practicing art are great examples of activating the right brain to limit your “I hate myself” thinking.
6. Cut Out Toxic People
Toxic people often cause you to hate yourself more. Toxic people are usually people under extreme stress, trauma, or tough times that end up projecting their pain onto everyone around them. They’re not necessarily bad people; they may even be good when their mental health goes well. However, when they’re in pain, they tend to cause others around them more pain too. So, when you start thinking, “I hate myself,” look at the people around you who might be causing you to feel that way. You might need to break up with someone, such as a partner, friend, or family member, to help you get back on track.
7. Journal Your ABCs
Most people journal their thoughts but not their way out. And as a result, journaling becomes a way to spread your negativity in more places. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, there’s a model called ABC invented by Dr. Albert Ellis. Every time a negative thought comes into your head, write down the ABCs.
A: Activating event (What caused you to think this)
B: Belief (What is the thought in your head)
C: Consequence (What do you feel after thinking this thought)
A: “Today, Amanda got promoted after six months at the company; I’ve never been promoted after four years.”
B: “I’m not good enough to get promoted.” (Also, notice the extreme language here. Beliefs are often black and white thinking).
C: “I feel sad and angry at myself and leadership.”
8. Replace Your Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts constantly arise when you’re filled with self-hatred. People who think “I hate myself” typically aren’t thinking happy thoughts. Challenge yourself to replace negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts that are further grounded in reality. So, if someone tells you, “you’re terrible at math,” you don’t automatically believe that you’re bad at math. Instead, you might realize, “I can get better at math through practice.” Or if someone tells you, “You’re playing the note on the violin wrong.” You don’t automatically think, “I give up. I’m not cut out to be a violinist.” Instead, you respond, “Can you show me what I’ve been doing wrong so I can get better?”
9. Find A Therapist
If your self-hatred destroys your mental health due to a negative inner critic, it’s time to find a therapist. A therapist will go through some of the exercises above with you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common therapy for people struggling to change how they think. The reality is life is neither good nor bad, but our thinking causes us to perceive the world in a specific way. Having a therapist object to some of your thoughts or ask for evidence on specific thoughts is a crucial step in learning how to change your outlook on life. You can also look online for resources or books on cognitive-behavioral therapy and try the exercises on your own for free.
10. Do A Good Deed A Day
The thought “I hate myself” is pretty extreme. So, to go to the other extreme of “I love myself,” you’ll need to take extreme actions. One thing you can do to inch closer into self-love instead of self-hatred is to do an act of kindness every day. Doing a good deed daily is a great way to change the behavior that causes you so much pain. Your daily good deed could include sending people birthday messages daily, sending cards detailing your favorite thing about that person, helping a friend out with a problem when they come to you for advice, helping your partner around the house with chores, and more. You can even do grand gestures every quarter by hosting a fundraiser or a massive surprise for a random stranger.
11. Forgive Yourself
If you regularly hate yourself, it’s time to forgive yourself. A guided meditation for forgiveness can help you learn how to forgive yourself for the pain you’ve brought into your life. If you beat yourself up for the mistakes you’ve made, the people you’ve hung out with, the pain you’ve caused others, or the trauma you’ve experienced, it’s time to accept that it’s in the past and move into the present. You can’t spend your whole life re-living pain in your thoughts because that’s not living. Shifting your thinking to the present moment can allow you to live with inner peace.
12. Tell People Your Triggers
The world is filled with people wearing masks. The kinds of masks that hide your true identity. The world would be a better place if people were more honest about what causes them pain. If, instead of projecting our pain onto other people, we told people what our pain was explicitly, people would approach us differently. As a result, we would change how we feel about ourselves and would stop the self-hatred.
Telling someone, “When you tell me I suck at writing, I feel like giving up on it even though I love doing it. The thought of “I’m not good enough” replays on my mind repeatedly, even though I’m trying my best. And eventually I start hating myself because I feel frustrated” will ultimately make the person realize how their words impact you and ultimately open them up. Being direct about your pain can change the nature of your relationship with others who trigger you.
13. Avoid the Comparison Game
It’s impossible to think “I hate myself” without comparing ourselves to others. Often, we hate ourselves in comparison to people who we believe are better than us. Stop comparing yourself to others. People have different skills, passions, paths that they experience throughout their lives. What’s meant for you will be for you. What’s meant for someone else will be for them. Neither is better or worse than what you experience. Unfortunately, even top performers compare themselves to better performers. It’s a never-ending battle to wanting to feel like the best. And once you become the best, you feel like you can’t maintain it. Ultimately, comparison and the ego climb lead you to feel worthless. So to stop the self-hatred, don’t compare yourself to others.
Hating yourself doesn’t uplift you in any way. Ultimately, we believe “I hate myself” because someone once put the thought into your head that you weren’t good enough. To stop the self-hatred, you’ll need to practice meditation, stop the comparison game, forgive yourself, and maybe even consider therapy. You are worthy of love, from those around you but most importantly, from yourself.