'I Hate Myself': 8 Ways to Combat Self-Hatred

ways to combat self hatred

Verywell / Laura Porter

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Do you often have the thought, "I hate myself"? If you are filled with feelings of self-hatred, you know how frustrating they 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 self-talk.

  • All-or-nothing thinking: You see yourself and your life as either good or bad, without any shades of gray in between. If you make a mistake, you feel as though everything is ruined or that you're a failure. 
  • 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 you are, in fact, bad. 
  • 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, 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 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. You may have trouble letting go and moving past mistakes. 
  • 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 about 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 wondering why you hate yourself and how you ended up here. 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 who experiences self-hatred will have had the same life experiences. There is no singular path that leads to thinking, "I hate myself." Consider your unique circumstances and what might have brought you to this point.

Negative Inner Critic 

If you are thinking "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. These thoughts 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.

The following 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 these types of critical thoughts 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 you give to it. In addition, you might eventually start to project your own insecurities onto other people, leaving you paranoid, suspicious, and unable to accept love and kindness. If this sounds like you, then chances are that you have been listening to your negative inner critic for far too long. 

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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. 

Childhood Experiences

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.

Bad Relationships

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, the experience could also have created a negative inner voice.

This could even include a work relationship with a co-worker 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's hard to shake. 

Bullying

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 with bullies from your past or present, it could be that the experience has had a long-lasting effect on your mind. If your negative inner voice replays the words of your real-life bullies, you have some deeper work to do to release those thoughts rather than internalize them.

Traumatic Events 

Have you experienced any traumatic life events like a car accident, physical attack, or significant loss? If so, the loss might leave you wondering, "why me?" which can evolve into feelings of shame or regret, particularly if you feel you were somehow at fault.  

Environmental Triggers 

Long after original events, you might find yourself being triggered by things that happen in your daily life. For example, a new co-worker 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, you may need to do more work to uncover the things that are holding you back. Many find this process is made easier with the help of a therapist or other mental health professional

Negative Self-Concept 

Do you have a negative self-concept, poor self-image, or low self-esteem? When you have thoughts of self-hatred, small problems can be magnified into much larger ones. You may feel as though the bad things that happen are a reflection of your own inherent "badness."

For example, you're at a party and you tell a joke that falls flat. Instead of rolling with the punches and moving on, your negative self-concept might induce a spiral into negative thoughts such as "everyone hates me" and "I’ll never be able to make any friends." 

Mental Health Conditions 

A feeling of self-hatred could also be the result of a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. Depression, for example, can cause 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 your condition 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 your thoughts continually reinforce that self-hatred. 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 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 might not be able to go after your goals and dreams and feel held back.
  • You may doubt your abilities and what you can accomplish.
  • You might view the future as being very bleak and have no positive expectations.
  • You may feel as though you don’t belong anywhere and that you are an outcast and disconnected from the world around you.

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 easily escape. As long as you stay in this cycle of self-hatred, you’ll never move forward. But with help, you can break the cycle.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

How to Combat Self-Hatred 

If you are looking to get over self-hatred, there are a number of things you can do to break the cycle. Above all else, remember that you are not to blame for how you feel, but you are responsible from this day forward for the actions that you take toward making positive changes.

Try Journaling 

Keep a journal to reflect on your day and 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 any feelings of self-hatred.

As you journal each day, look for patterns and aim to become more aware of how your emotions shift. Research shows that expressive writing such as journaling can help to reduce psychological distress.

Talk Back to Your Inner Critic 

As you start to become more aware of your emotions and their triggers, try 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 that 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 you know—such as a friend, famous person, or superhero—and talking back to the critical voice in your head. 

Practice Self-Compassion 

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. What would you say to a friend or loved one who was having similar thoughts about themselves?

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.

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 have any positive people your everyday 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. 

Practice Meditation 

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 and let go of negative thoughts. 

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 deal with past trauma more quickly and guide you to more helpful thinking patterns.

Take Care of Yourself 

Instead of engaging in self-destructive behaviors, engage in self-care. This approach 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. 

Move Toward Living the Life You Want

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 thoughts of self-hatred. The truth is that many people feel the same way that you do, and there are ways to get past it.

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 your treatment plan and consider trying some of 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 thoughts about hating 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. 

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