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Do you often find yourself thinking sentences such as “I’m not good enough”, “No one likes you”, “Of course I failed”, “I hate myself”?  if so, this can cause a lot of stress to a person, as no one wants to dislike themselves. So, if you’re struggling with self-hatred, you might be wondering how you ended up here and what you can do about it.

Now, ‘Hate’ is a very strong word, yet so many of us look in the mirror and do not recognise or like what is looking back at us. This may be due to weight gain or some pesky acne that has resurfaced or maybe all of them hours spent scrolling through social media you cannot help but compare yourselves to others. And before you know it, a simple though “I have such an ugly nose”, can quickly spiral into “I’ll never be good enough for anyone”.

This can create a very harsh inner self critic, a inner voice that is constantly criticising everything you do or say can make you feel extremely small and worthless. Fighting against this self-loathing may seem impossible to think you will ever feel a different way. However, it is possible to learn how to accept and love yourself. It is important to note when we say “love yourself” this does not mean you will suddenly look in the mirror and feel fabulous. It is about loving yourself enough to not be so harsh and learning to be kind to yourself. Understanding that if you are not having a good day, it is ok, you are allowed to feel that way. The important part here is trying to figure out what it is you need at this moment in time to feel better and allowing yourself this space.

Other than having a harsh inner self critic there can be other reasons why we hate ourselves. Your early childhood experiences can have a significant role here. Just as our parents can equip us with multiple tools to grow our confidence and self-esteem and feelings of self-worth they can do the complete opposite too. Now, this is not to put the blame on our caregivers but to acknowledge that they are human too. Parents fail, surprise, surprise because they are human, and they are bound to mess up at some points. However, the child’s interpretation at the time would think they have done something wrong, not that my mother is a human and is having a bad day but, ‘she hates me’ or ‘I am always naughty’ and so on. So unfortunately, for children to cope they create thought patterns as a defense mechanism. Let us take an example, if your parents where very annoyed with you during a particular period and they let you know this, you may grow up feeling that you’re a nuisance, later in life, you may be extremely shy, apologetic and take a submissive role in relationships. 

On the other hand, if you grew up in a home where you were neglected, ignored, or rejected by your parents, you may grow up feeling that there is something wrong with you or feel a lot of shame about various situations, which can lead to low-self worth in adulthood. 

In part 2, we will continue to address some common reasons behind hating ourselves and what we can do about this to not feel so bad.

Stef Gafa’ is a counsellor with Willingness who has a particular interest in trauma, attachment, domestic violence and the LGBT community.

References

Bushman, B. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2002). Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence?. Journal of research in personality.

Ussher, J. M., & Perz, J. (2020). “I feel fat and ugly and hate myself”: Self-objectification through negative constructions of premenstrual embodiment. Feminism & Psychology30(2), 185-205.