Do you often have the thought, “I hate myself?” If you are filled with feelings of self-hatred, you know how frustrating that can be. Not only does self-hatred limit what you can achieve in life, but it also worsens mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
In order to get over feelings of self-hatred, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms, understand the underlying causes and triggers, realize the powerful effects it has on your life, and finally, make a plan to get over those feelings of self-hatred and develop healthy coping skills to feel better.
Signs of Self-Hatred
Below are some of the tell-tale signs that you might be living with self-hatred, beyond having occasional negative thoughts about hating yourself.
- All-or-nothing thinking: You see yourself and your life as good or bad, without any shades of gray in between. If you make a mistake, you feel as though everything is ruined or that your life is over.
- Focus on the negative: Even if you have a good day, you tend to focus on the bad things that happened or what went wrong instead.
- Emotional reasoning: You take your feelings as facts. If you notice that you are feeling bad or like a failure, then you assume that your feelings must reflect the truth of the situation and that something must be wrong.
- Low self-esteem: You generally have low self-esteem and don’t feel as though you measure up when comparing yourself to others in daily life.
- Seeking approval: You are constantly seeking outside approval from others to validate your self-worth. Your opinion of yourself changes depending on how others evaluate you or what they think of you.
- Can’t accept compliments: If someone says something good about you, then you discount what was said, or think that they are just being nice. You have trouble accepting compliments and tend to brush them off instead of graciously accepting them.
- Trying to fit in: You find that you always feel like an outsider and are always trying to fit in with others. You feel as though people dislike you and can’t understand why they would want to spend time with you or actually like you.
- Taking criticism personally: You have a hard time when someone offers criticism, and tend to take it as a personal attack or think about it long after the fact.
- Often feeling jealous: You find yourself jealous of others and may cut them down in order to make yourself feel better or feel better about your situation in life.
- Fearful of positive connections: You may push away friends or potential partners out of fear when someone gets too close, and believe that it will end badly or you will end up alone.
- Throwing pity parties for yourself: You have a tendency to throw pity parties for yourself and feel as though you have been dealt a bad lot in life or that everything is stacked against you.
- Afraid to dream big: You are afraid to have dreams and aspirations and feel as though you need to continue to live your life in a protected way. You may be afraid of failure, afraid of success, or look down on yourself regardless of what you achieve.
- Hard on yourself: If you make a mistake, you have a very hard time forgiving yourself. You may also have regrets about things you have done in the past or failed to do, or that you have trouble letting go of and moving past.
- Cynical viewpoint: You see the world in a very cynical way and hate the world that you live in. You feel as though people with a positive outlook are naive to the way that the world really works. You don’t see things getting any better and have a very bleak outlook on life.
Causes of Self-Hatred
If those signs sounded all too familiar, you’re probably asking why you hate yourself, and how did you end up here? How long have you been having the thought, “I hate myself?” You might not immediately know the answers to these questions, so it’s important to take some time to reflect. Below are some possible causes to consider.
It’s important to remember that not everyone will have experienced the same life events that have led them to the thought that they hate themselves. Instead, it’s important to consider your unique circumstances and what might have brought you to this point.
Negative Inner Critic
If you are having the thought, “I hate myself,” chances are that you have a negative inner critic who constantly puts you down. This critical voice might compare you to others or tell you that you are not good enough.
You might feel as though you are different from other people, and that you don’t measure up. This may leave you feeling like an outcast or a fraud when you are with other people.
The inner critic is like a frenemy who is intent on undermining your success. This voice in your head is filled with self-hate, and can also evolve into paranoia and suspiciousness if you listen long enough. The inner critic doesn’t want you to experience success, so it will even cut you down when you do accomplish something good.
Here are some things your inner critic might say:
- “Who do you think you are to do that?”
- “You are never going to succeed no matter how hard you try.”
- “You’re going to mess this up, just like you mess up everything else.”
- “Why would a person like that like you, there must be an ulterior motive.”
- “You can’t trust anyone, they are just going to let you down.”
- “You might as well eat that dessert, you’re just going to end up eating too much anyway.”
If you have a voice in your head like this, you might come to believe that the thoughts you are having are the truth. If the voice tells you that you are worthless, stupid, or unattractive, you might eventually come to believe those things. And with those thoughts, comes the belief that you aren’t worthy of love, success, confidence, or the chance to make mistakes.
The more you listen to that critical inner voice, the more power that you give to it. In addition, you might eventually start to project your own insecurities onto other people, leaving you paranoid and suspicious and unable to accept love and kindness.
If this sounds like you, then chances are that you have been listening to your negative critical inner voice for far too long.
Negative Life Experiences
Where does that negative inner critic come from? It isn’t likely that you developed that voice in your head all by yourself. Rather, most often the negative inner critic arises from past negative life experiences. These could be childhood experiences with your parents, bullying from peers, or even the outcome of a bad relationship.
Did you grow up with parents who were critical of you? Or did you have a parent who seemed to be stressed, angry, or tense, and who made you feel as though you needed to walk on eggshells?
If so, you may have learned to be quiet and fade into the background. Childhood experiences or trauma such as abuse, neglect, being over-controlled, or being criticized can all lead to the development of a negative inner voice.
Not all critical inner voices begin during childhood. If you were in a relationship or friendship with someone who engaged in the same types of behaviors, this could also have created a negative inner voice.
This could even include a work relationship with a coworker or supervisor with a tendency to put you down or make you feel inferior. Any type of relationship has the potential to set a negative tone in your mind, and create a negative inner voice that is hard to shake.
Bullying by Others
Were you the victim of bullying in school, at work, or in another relationship? Even transient relationships with people can create lasting memories that impact your self-concept and affect your self-esteem. If you find yourself having flashback memories of seemingly insignificant events from your past, it could be that these instances of bullying have had a long-lasting effect on your mind.
If your negative inner voice replays the words of the bullies, then this is a sign that you have some deeper work to do to release these events from the past. Instead of accepting the bullies’ words at face value, you’ll need to explore their meaning and how this relates to your current situation if you want to move forward past your self-hatred.
Have you experienced any traumatic life events like a car accident, physical attack, or significant loss? If so, this might leave you wondering, “why me?” which can evolve into feelings of shame or regret, particularly if you feel you were somehow at fault.
Long after original events, you might find yourself being triggered by things that happen in your daily life. For example, a new coworker might remind you of a past bad experience at work, or a new friend might trigger an unpleasant memory from your childhood.
If you find yourself having an emotional reaction to a situation that seems out of proportion to what has happened, this is a sign again that you may need to do more work to uncover the blocks that are holding you back. This is usually done with the help of a therapist or other mental health professional.
Do you have a negative self-concept, poor self-image, or low self-esteem? When you have thoughts of self-hatred, then any small problem becomes magnified into a much larger one. This is because you feel as though the things that happen reflect back your own poor sense of self or confidence about what you can accomplish.
For example, if you act awkwardly around a group of people, you might start to think that everyone hates you and that you’ll never be able to make any friends, even though it was just one situation and things can change.
Mental Health Conditions
A feeling of self-hatred could also be the result of a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. Depression includes symptoms such as hopelessness, guilt, and shame, which can make you feel as though you are not good enough.
Unfortunately, the nature of depression also means that you are unable to see through this cognitive bias to recognize that it is your depression that is making you think this way.
The more that depression influences your thoughts, the more likely it is that you will start to see this negative view of yourself as your reality. This can leave you feeling as though you are not worthy and do not belong. You may feel isolated and different from everyone else.
Outcomes of Self-Hatred
Beyond the causes of self-hatred, it’s important to understand the outcomes that can result when you constantly tell yourself that you hate yourself. Below are some potential outcomes:
- You might stop trying to do things because you feel they will only end badly.
- You might engage in self destructive behavior such as using substances, eating too much, or isolating yourself.
- You might sabotage your own efforts or fail to take care of yourself.
- You might unknowingly choose people who are bad for you or who will take advantage of you, such as toxic friends or partners.
- You may likely struggle with low self-confidence and low self-esteem.
- You might have trouble making decisions and feel as though you need others to guide you when you become paralyzed in indecision.
- You might have a perfectionist tendency and struggle to get things done.
- You might excessively worry about daily problems or your future.
- You find it hard to believe good things about yourself and feel like others are just being nice or manipulative when they compliment you.
- You aren’t able to go after your goals and dreams and always feel held back
- You doubt your abilities and what you can accomplish.
- You view the future as being very bleak and have no positive expectations.
- It feels as though you don’t belong anywhere, and that you are an outcast and disconnected from the world around you.
As you can see, many of the outcomes of self-hatred are similar to the signs of self-hatred. In this way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy from which you cannot escape. As long as you stay in this pattern of self-hatred you’ll never move forward. However, there are actions that you can take to break the cycle.
How to Combat Self-Hatred
If you are looking to get over self-hatred, there are a number of steps and actions that you can take. Above all else, remember that you are not to blame for how you feel, but you are responsible from this day forward in the actions that you take toward making positive changes to improve your life.
Keep a journal to reflect on your day and understand how you felt about what happened. Reflect on the events of the day, examine situations that may have triggered certain emotions, and be mindful of the root causes of your self-hatred.
As you journal each day, look for patterns and become more aware of how your emotions shift. Research shows that expressive writing such as what is done during journaling can help to reduce psychological distress.1
Challenge Negative Thinking
When you start to become more aware of your emotions and their triggers, start to identify the thoughts that you have when faced with negative events. Ask yourself questions about whether your thoughts are realistic or whether you are engaging in thought distortions.
Try standing up to your inner bully by countering the inner voice with arguments to the contrary. If you find it hard to build up a strong voice on your own, imagine yourself taking on the role of a stronger person that you know, like a friend, famous person, or superhero and talking back to the critical voice in your head.
Instead of hating yourself, practice showing yourself compassion. This means looking at situations in a different light, seeing the good things that you have accomplished, and ending black-or-white thinking.
Was that one bad thing that happened really the end of the world? Could you reframe the situation to see it as a setback instead of a catastrophe? When you can be kinder to yourself, you’ll open yourself up to more positive feelings and a positive inner voice. Research shows that compassion-focused therapy can improve self-esteem, which could be helpful to reduce self-hatred.2
Spend Time With Positive People
Instead of hanging out with people who make you feel bad, start hanging out with people who make you feel good. If you don’t know any people like that in your real life, consider joining a support group.
If you aren’t sure where to find one, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is a good place to start, regardless of what type of mental health issues you might be facing.
If you find it hard to slow down and detach yourself from your negative thinking, try starting a regular meditation practice. Engaging in meditation is a way to shut off the negative voice in your head. It’s also like a muscle; the more that you practice, the easier that it will be to quiet your mind.
See a Therapist
If you are struggling with your mental health, you might benefit from seeing a therapist. While it’s possible to shift your mindset on your own, a therapist can help you to more quickly deal with past trauma and also practice more helpful thinking patterns.
Practice Self Care
Instead of engaging in self destructive behaviors, engage in self care. This means taking care of your physical and mental health by doing all the things that will keep you feeling good. Eat healthy food, get regular exercise, get enough sleep, reduce social media and screen time, spend time in nature, and talk kindly to yourself, to name a few examples of self care practices.
The antidote to feeling bad all the time might be to start taking small steps toward what you want in life. That might mean finding a new career path, traveling, getting out of debt, ending a relationship, starting a family, or moving far away.
Determine your values and then start acting in accordance with them. Once you start to align with your values, it will be easier to feel confident in yourself.
A Word From Verywell
It’s easy to think that you are the only one who struggles with the thought that you hate yourself. The truth is that many people feel the same way that you do, so there is no need to feel alone.
If you’re still struggling to get over these feelings, it could be that an underlying mental health issue is contributing to your negative thinking patterns. If you haven’t already been assessed by a mental health professional, this should be your first step. If you are diagnosed with a mental disorder, this could be the starting point to finally making positive changes in your life.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a diagnosable disorder, or if you have already seen a mental health professional and are receiving treatment, then your best course of action is to follow through with the above-mentioned set of coping strategies to manage your negative thinking.
If this feels hard, you might benefit from an accountability partner or someone else who will check in with you regularly to make sure that you are keeping up with your positive habits. While it might feel hard to confide in someone that you need help, you also might be surprised at how willing others will be to help when you ask.
There’s no reason to keep living your life with the thought that you hate yourself. Today, you can take the first step toward feeling better and living a life that isn’t filled with self-hatred and negative thought patterns.