I Hate Myself: Identifying And Managing Self-Hatred

By Corrina Horne |Updated July 12, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Audrey Kelly, LMFT

"I hate myself" isn't an uncommon phrase; it is often tossed out carelessly in response to a simple mistake. This isn't the only instance of using the phrase, though, as some people sincerely think and say that they hate themselves. When used this way, it is called self-hatred or self-loathing and constitutes a very real mental health issue.

Whenever someone reaches a point of genuinely loathing themselves, seeking medical advice from a mental health specialist comes highly recommended. Likewise, it is also important to understand what self-hatred is and how self-hatred presents itself.

Do You Hate Yourself? You Don’t Have To Feel This Way
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Self-hatred (also called "self-loathing") is a term used to describe feelings of hatred, unworthiness, or disgust toward oneself. Far more than just low self-esteem, self-loathing suggests to those who struggle with it that they are truly unlovable and without value. Even people with a partner, a spouse, and loved ones can struggle with self-hatred, and many hide their condition, asserting that if anyone truly knew them, they would leave.

Self-hatred may be far more difficult to treat and overcome than low self-esteem because it is usually not grounded in a realistic, accurate view of yourself. Although low self-esteem can be unfounded, it often has roots in something you've been told or something you've internalized, such as the idea that a larger-than-average nose is unappealing. Self-loathing, however, goes beyond feeling poorly about one aspect (or a series of aspects) of yourself and extends to virtually every part of you; no piece of you is considered worthy of knowing, loving, or seeing.

Many mental health professionals agree that self-loathing begins in childhood when children learn or are taught unhealthy self-talk and self-image patterns. This usually happens in response to parental influence or other authority figures who encourage negative self-perception through example (their self-loathing behaviors), excessive punishment, or unhealthy speech patterns.

How Does Self-Loathing Present?

Self-loathing presents differently in everyone affected by it. For some, self-loathing is extremely obvious and is seen in persistent negative self-talk, a seeming inability to take care of oneself properly, and the appearance of depression. For others, self-hatred might be more masked in its approach. It can look like someone who constantly puts everyone before themselves, who refuses to be in photos, and sees life as a necessary series of sacrifices without regard for their health or safety.

Self-loathing is also problematic because most people who experience it do not see it as such; instead, self-loathing is often regarded as a reasonable, legitimate way to feel, based on "logical" conclusions. If someone struggled to make friends growing up, for instance, they might conclude that they are weird, unlovable, or destined to be an outsider. If someone was made fun of for having freckled skin, or large hair, they might think that no one will ever be able to see past these supposed flaws since that is what experience dictated.

Perpetual comparison can also be a sign of self-loathing. A comparison can indicate that you are constantly trying to reassure yourself that you are worth something by identifying how others are not. This is simply an externalization of self-hatred, as you are looking outside yourself for confirmation that you have worth. While the comparison is, to some degree, a normal thing, constantly feeling as though you must prove your worth via comparison trends toward self-loathing.

Is Self-Hatred A Diagnosis?

Self-hatred is not currently recognized as a qualified mental health disorder but is increasingly recognized as a serious mental health concern. Some have posited that a self-hatred is a form of narcissism, called negative narcissism. It can color and overwhelm every part of your life and has similar consequences in relationships. Just as people with narcissism often struggle to maintain meaningful relationships due to self-focus and self-importance, people with self-hatred may struggle to maintain meaningful relationships due to self-focus and intensely negative self-image.

Do You Hate Yourself? You Don’t Have To Feel This Way

Self-hatred is not a diagnosis listed in the DSM, no. Still, therapists and psychiatrists recognize it as a very real condition-one that should be treated to improve your basic living conditions and your ability to lead a healthy, happy, and fulfilled life. Self-hatred might not have the same research backing and therapeutic techniques as something more common or long-standing, such as depression. Still, there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that it can be a dangerous condition and can severely and negatively impact a person's quality of life.

Are You Experiencing Self-Hatred?

Self-hatred can be difficult to recognize, as you might believe that your perceptions of yourself are based on observable fact rather than a skewed perception. With very few exceptions (if any), no one is unworthy of love, and everyone experiences thoughts and feelings that would be considered unhealthy, alarming, or worthy of professional intervention. People are deeply flawed creatures and creatures capable of self-improvement and can overcome many of these flaws with persistence and patience. You are no different.

Self-hatred is rarely a condition that you can simply up and walk away from or reason yourself out of. Because many people who experience self-hatred experience these feelings at a deep, powerful level, they are not readily removed and can often require some form of therapeutic intervention.

How Is Self-Hatred Improved?

There are many ways to improve self-loathing; some of them completed yourself, and others implemented by healthcare professionals. The first step in mitigating self-hatred is improving self-talk. Initially, this can feel extremely awkward and forced: if you do not believe you are worth anything, saying something like "I am worthy of love" might fall flat. This is one of the simplest ways, however, to begin improving self-loathing and jump-start healing.

Self-hatred can also be improved through self-care. Although many people suggest that self-care is a series of bubble baths, spa nights, and shopping sprees, self-care often needs to be even more basic. Self-care in these instances can mean exercising consistently, eating healthy, whole foods, and making sure you get plenty of sleep each night. These can help improve your mental state and set in motion improved habits that lead to improved self-esteem.

Setting boundaries can also help improve self-esteem-particularly if sacrifice is one of the ways your self-loathing manifests. Learning to say "no" when you feel tired or overwhelmed is among the simplest boundaries you can set to maintain your mental health and self-esteem. Setting boundaries can also mean not taking on others' problems as your own. If you have a friend, for instance, who is constantly coming to you with anger or tears, setting boundaries around venting those problems can help you regain your equilibrium and move toward improved self-esteem.

Seeing a therapist can also help eliminate self-loathing in favor of a healthier self-image. A therapist can offer objective, third-party views of yourself, your behaviors, and your characteristics and provide you with techniques to improve your relationships and interactions. Relationships are frequently impacted by the presence of self-hatred and may require the intervention of a qualified mental health professional.

Who Treats Self-Loathing?

Some instances of self-loathing can largely be self-treated through learning different ways to speak to and treat yourself. This will likely work best in people who have not been struggling with this issue long-term or people who have strong, healthy support systems. Individuals without large support systems might struggle to improve themselves, as the doubts caused by self-loathing can make mustering the will to improve almost impossible.

When self-treatment is not possible, therapeutic intervention can be useful. Therapists offer unbiased, outside perspectives and help you find aspects of yourself that you may consider worthy of love, cultivation, or respect. This is the start of leaving self-hatred behind: if you can find something within yourself to love and be proud of, you can build momentum and continue cultivating traits you admire.

Therapists are the most likely sources of this form of improvement, but life coaches and counselors can also improve self-talk and self-image. Loved ones and mentors, too, can help people mired in self-hatred identify parts of themselves that are worthy of love and admiration and maybe a good initial source of contact when trying to heal.

Seeking treatment for self-loathing is an important step, but a huge one, nonetheless. Seeking out medical advice from the right therapist, counselor, or life coach shows an interest in improving, which is a great thing. Likewise, taking steps to overcome self-loathing can only benefit someone who needs it, as can the ability to identify and manage self-hatred.

Identifying And Managing Self-Hatred

Self-hatred might seem like a common enough phenomenon, but it goes much deeper than poor self-esteem. Poor self-esteem often stems from a lack of awareness of your worth, while self-loathing comes from a concrete belief that you are not worthy-not a lack of awareness, but flawed awareness. Self-hatred can be dangerous, as it can make you feel as though your life is not worth living or that you are not worthy of love, acceptance, or kindness.

People who experience self-loathing are more likely to be in abusive relationships and engage in unhealthy behavior. Self-loathing may lend itself to substance abuse and other forms of addiction, as the pain of self-loathing can become too great to bear. The temporary relief offered by illicit substances can alleviate pain for a period-though, of course, this pain relief is neither healthy nor effective.

As comparison becomes far easier, and people's lives are portrayed as perfect and easy via social media, self-loathing can become far easier-and hiding the condition can be a matter of survival. Unfortunately, hiding self-loathing is a common side effect of the condition and can identify an issue and seek treatment troublesome. Professional intervention can be the best road to healing; however, therapists can offer tools and techniques to improve self-esteem and self-care while unraveling self-hatred roots.

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