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!