Ready to Overcome Self-hate? Meet Your True Self

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Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Do you relate to self-hatred? In the literature, it seems to be less a psychological concept than a sociological one, as in “ethnic self-hatred.” Apparently, psychologists prefer terms such as “low self-esteem.” Yet I have heard many individuals refer to their self-loathing, including myself.

I see a recurring theme that relates to self-hatred: true self versus false self. It is when we are caught up in the false self that we become self-hating. Or perhaps it is self-hating that creates false self.

My experience bears this out. Early in life, I divorced myself from my feelings as too painful, and thereby separated myself from the guidance my emotions could provide toward true self. I was sad, but no one could tell me what was wrong or comfort me, and so I stuffed the feelings and never knew why I had them.

Eventually, I stopped listening to my wants, needs, feelings, and intuitions. But I had to figure out some method for guiding my life. I built a false identity to cover for my lack of inner knowledge. I turned to other people’s opinions, feelings, desires, and needs. If my family members were happy, I could be happy. If my friends liked me, I liked me.

In time, searching for meaning and identity outside myself became a habit, in fact, an addiction. An addiction is a compulsion for a substance or an obsessive habit. I was addicted not to a drug, but to other people. How they reacted to me defined how I felt about myself.

An addiction is also a distraction. From the real pain, the original problem: separation from true self. If we can reconnect (or better yet, never lose touch) with our inner knowledge, we can also let go of the distractions, or addictions, that keep us blind to ourselves.

Self-hatred is one extreme on the continuum to self-love. To travel from the one back to the other, we must practice self-care to the best of our ability. It may not feel natural, or comfortable to “act as if” we care for that lost self, rather than stay with the negative perceptions – the false front we’ve become.

Here are some ideas for reconnecting with the true self we left behind:

  • Listen to yourself – no one knows you as well as you know yourself, if you just listen. Even if you’ve buried your feelings, they are still there when you give them a chance to surface, so allow time for the truth to arise.
  • Trust your intuition – when you get a flash of knowledge or a gut feeling, that’s your true self talking; trust yourself rather than rely on everyone else’s opinions.
  • Do something nice for yourself every day – give yourself a treat or gift, something as simple as your favorite cup of coffee or a new pillow for that crick in your neck.
  • Learn to identify your feelings – many of us are disconnected from our emotions and barely recognize anger, sadness, or even joy anymore. When you have a feeling, let it emerge and spend some time with it, even if it’s uncomfortable. See if you can give it a name.
  • Give yourself permission to do something you’ve always wanted to but didn’t think you could – a hobby, a creative outlet, an activity, a trip to a foreign land, a relationship, a sport, why not?
  • Pretend you deserve it – our false selves would keep us in self-hatred forever, it’s what fuels their existence and we allow it because we don’t think we’re worth more. So pretend you are. Treat yourself like a king, or queen, or at the very least, the court’s spoiled dog.
  • Practice self-care, even when you don’t want to – Put yourself on a healthy sleep schedule, pay attention to the foods that upset your stomach and stop eating them, call friends when you realize you are isolating yourself.
  • Ask five friends to tell you something they love about you – listen without interrupting! Write them down and keep the list by your bed to review every night for a week.

Ok, I think this last one is such a good idea, I’m doing it today. You do it too, and we can post our answers here!

sarahc says:

Thank you so much for the article. Has really put me on the path I need right now.

Linda Wolf says:

Sarah,

You are very welcome. Would love to hear more about your path, if you’re willing to share.

Best,
Linda

Angelique says:

Hi,

Please accept my apologies if my speculation and theories step on any toes.

I do all those – treats, and all. We judge ourselves on a slightly more severe level than we judge others, but on the same basic principles. We have fixed ideas of who we want to be as a person and then fall into self-loathesome behaviours if we don’t meet up to the standards we have set for ourselves. It’s not a matter of loving yourself, and is it really about accepting yourself as you are? Wouldn’t you rather be better anyway? Everyone has reason to hate themselves – some are just brave enough to do it and then do something about it. In my opinion, everyone should always, constantly, work on improving themselves.

That brings me to the next point of my unstructured argument: self-pity is not self-hate. Although they are closely linked and often accompanies one another, you can separarte them and use self-hate in a constructive, productive manner that will grant you satisfaction and/or that feeling of self-pride. And that’s the reward self-haters look for. Not compliments, not “oh, but you’re such a wonderful person and you shouldn’t hate yourself”, not a fuss or anything that might hint at an attention-seeking scheme, just plain old support and the achievement of your self-established goals.

Linda Wolf says:

Dear Angelique,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments about self-hate. I actually do agree with you on several points. Self-acceptance is absolutely key to overcoming self-hatred, you are right. And to get there, as you say, you have to do something about it. Self-hatred, if we become aware of it, is a trigger to that action – if we’re unhappy enough, we can use it to start trying new behaviors and ways of thinking. Using it to trigger self-pity is definitely a problem, as you point out, because self-pity just keeps us trapped in negativity.

Linda

Ken says:

Hi Linda,

People grow up with all sorts of disabilities some are visible and the considerate observer will compensate for that. Other handicaps are not so visual so no adjustment is made. This can lead to misunderstanding and incredible frustration amplified by low self-esteem. Writing is a great tool to correct this abnormality and though I don’t write professionally it is a pastime providing wonderful enjoyment.

There is a fiction novel from me in the polishing stage which in the narrative encapsulates some of this stuff in a positive way. Doesn’t necessarily answer any questions but the processors the characters go through changes them for the better.

I do have a bit of an insight to what people are suffering and if that knowledge can help someone this is good.

The brain is just a sophisticated computer and as easily programed if you know what keys to press.

The forebrain and subconscious have two distinct roles to play one to program the other to obey.

The problems of cause are that there is no turning the brain off so it is continually giving instructions most of which is negative.

The key to controlling the mind stems from knowing how input the correct data and filter out the rubbish.

Think of it like a conveyer belt and all your five senses are constantly loading it with the information they receive. Poor old subconscious just goes ahead and does what it’s told regardless in an endless cycle.

But what if we put a filter there that prevents negative stuff coming in, how long before the mind is changed from thinking of you as worthless, opening you up to your true potential.

My beliefs are that life is an eternal round, that we come from a much better place and that to have what our Father in heaven has we must first be tested down here. Conveniently, for fairness, a veil is placed over our memories of that past reality. The key to this place is self-mastery, this leads to enlightenment, which lifts us mentally above those sharing this experience opening our minds to those in need offering them a helping hand. God delights in seeing His children help each other.

You already have an understanding of the process and are seeing some of the results for yourself.

Sorry if this was bit preachy honestly not intended.

Take care.

Ken

Ken says:

Hi Linda,

Not quite there yet as you say some things take time, maybe even a lifetime to resolve; the important part is to never give up.

While I understand the mechanics of self-hate and even some of the techniques to combat its affects eradicating it completely still remains such a major obstacle.

A friend of mine suffered badly with self-loathing from childhood and didn’t find any real self-worth until he met the lady who became his wife. She had her own problems but fortunately not self-hate. For twenty five years they lived, loved and raised a family. Then one day his wife left the dinner table half way through the meal, got into her car and drove away never to return.

We talked often my friend and I but could never really understand what the catalyst was that sent her over the edge until realising a probable cause.

You see his self-loathing supressed his ability to produce love independently, he could mirror it but this was just reflecting it back. This does not mean he’s devoid of love just an inability to tap into his abundant reserves hidden beneath his protective shield guarded by his negative feelings toward himself. He is a very matter-of-fact guy, and had over the years lived off the love his wife had in great quantity. Unfortunately with no love going in eventually her tank ran dry.
Crazy idea or one for further consideration?

Take care,

Ken.

Linda Wolf says:

Ken,

Not at all crazy. Incredibly insightful, in fact. It makes a lot of sense to me, as I’ve had a similar experience of learning to tap into my own source of love. Before that, I did rely on others to give me what I thought I needed, love, validation, worth, etc. It never worked, for me or for them. It’s only been in clearing a way to that source inside myself that I have a flow – and plenty to give back with. I can only be there for others, be of service, if my needs are first taken care of and I know I am connected and loved (and I consider the source to be spiritual and divine, not reliant on another person).

So interesting about your friend. I am very privileged to work with people who are on the path to self-love – watching it develop is such a gift. It’s always there inside us, just a matter of how hard we’re willing to work to get to it, you know?

Thanks for opening communication here – do you do any writing or sharing of ideas online? Would love to hear more of your perspective.

Best,
Linda

Ken says:

Hi Linda,

You quoted one of the important keys to self-worth right there in its simplicity “being available to others.”

Of all the things I do the ones that bring me the greatest joy is when I give of myself to others. This has a way like no other of loading the scales on the positive side.

Forgiveness is another important key to happiness.

The professional also quoted on how important this was when he said there are three things we need do in the process of being healed from the bad effects of our childhood.

1:We should forgive our parents because they are and were not perfect
2:We should forgive ourselves because we are not perfect
3:We should forgive everybody else because they are not perfect either.

These three things can be tough, especially the second one, but when I had a go it helped tremendously.

Bad memories hold us in the past, drawing us back to them in an endless cycle. The built in defence systems of our brains learns to drive them underground deep in our subconscious, forever festering and like a physical cancer eat away at all our efforts to be free from them.

To move on, the psychologist says, doing those three things in essential.

The starting process to a cure you cover in your blog so I hope these insites add to them.

Ken

Linda Wolf says:

Ken,

Yes, excellent insights, thanks for sharing them. Your list is interesting – I find forgiveness one of those mysterious processes that cannot be forced. One must simply be willing for feelings to shift and change as we work on ourselves. I have observed it working in me – sometimes it takes a LONG time. But it’s worth the work and it’s worth the wait. In order to purge old patterns, we must be both willing to let them go, and also to work hard to create new behaviors. This requires discipline and practice, persistence and tolerance for mistakes.

I’m so glad you found the blog – I love hearing others’ perspectives on transformation and spiritual paths. It sounds like you have found a way through your stuff and are able to reach out and help others along your way.

Linda

Ken says:

Searching Self-Hate on Google brought me to your blog and what you say is very positive and helpful as it is said from the heart.
How we feel is the key to happiness. Feeling bad about oneself is destructive and leads only to loneliness as it can drive away all but the most determined friends and family.
Self-loathing can stem from childhood. A research was carried out which found that by the time a child reaches school age they would have received 40,000 negative statements (no’s) compared to 5000 positive ones (yes’s). It’s just a parents built in protection system to keep an infant safe.
In the majority of cases these negative statements are laced with love but in some this is not so.
The latter are the seeds of self-hate.
Uprooting the resulting growth is why I search for answers.
Isn’t it interesting that the second commandment is to “love thy neighbour as thyself” implying we first must learn to love ourselves first?
One piece of advice I heard from a professional regarding this self-loathing thing is to look yourself in the eye and repeat several times everyday “I like myself, I like myself.”

Keep up the good work.

Ken

Linda Wolf says:

Ken,

So glad to find a fellow seeker. The topic of self-hatred fascinates me. The research you quote is interesting indeed – and fits with my theories of how and why self-hatred develops. I think the antidote, learning to love oneself, is a truth very well hidden, as you point out with the biblical reference. It’s taken me many such practices as you describe to even begin to turn around the habits of a lifetime. Though it does seem completely counter to societal teachings, putting oneself first is, I’ve found, essential to being available to others in any truly meaningful way.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on this post.

Best,
Linda

pieces of me says:

this really makes sense for me, I am not addicted to a drug or drink or food, but often times I feel addicted to pain and self hate and it is a vicious bad cycle and hard to stop. it is a distraction and looking to others to fulfill me is another distraction. so hard to get over these distractions.

wolflinda says:

Pieces of Me,

Thanks for spending some time thinking about this. The distractions serve a purpose, until we are really ready to face ourselves and all that entails – it could seem more painful than the self-inflicted damage to go back into ourselves. It’s scary, what will we find? What if we don’t like who we are? Better to stay in the safety of familiar negativity. It’s a leap of faith to turn around and look at what’s really in there. Hope you keep working at it!!

Linda

Meera San says:

Hello Linda,

I find myself eager to learn – almost always.

Meera

Meera San says:

Hello ! I was referred by a friend to your blogs. I am glad I stopped by. Simple, fundamental and makes sense. Cheers, Meera San.

wolflinda says:

Meera,

Thanks, really glad you stopped by, and thanks to your friend for the referral. What’s your particular interest?

Linda

This is great, Linda. Very clear. May I add another to the list? Connect with the ideas and activities that brought you joy as a child. Some of us are conditioned to diminish these, but they are an expression of our natural selves.

One of the things that always brought me joy, ever since I was little, was learning new things. I had a strong desire to know everything, a desire that is still very much alive. In fact, as I think about it, it carried me through some tough times.

wolflinda says:

Gail,

That’s a great idea. Learning is such a passion for kids, I see it in my young niece and nephew, I see it in my 15-year-old stepdaughter…I do remember loving play as a child, and games of all sorts, and puzzles, and creative expression. I still love puzzles, games, and creativity, but I’ve really gotten away from fun, maybe I need to find a way to bring it in more. So nice to have you stop by, thank you for adding to the ideas.

Linda