If you’re thinking “Why do I hate myself?” but aren’t sure why, it’s time for a reality check. Below, we explore why it’s easy to hate ourselves in the first place, and offer some options for cultivating self esteem and respect.
The short answer is: there isn’t always a reason for hating yourself. It can relate to low self esteem, but contrary to popular belief, low self esteem isn’t always rooted in one’s current reality.
Below, find explorations of why you might feel like “I hate myself.” Even if you’re feeling broken, you may not be permanently broken.
Need some instant relief from the “I hate myself” feeling? Chat with people who know how it feels, here.
Read on, or jump around using the Table of Contents below.
When the reality of having depression kicks in, and anxiety about our self-worth may appear as well. We might blame ourselves for the depression, which makes us feel hopeless and even more depressed.
Depression can cause us to lose sight of ourselves — at least the parts of ourselves that are bright, shiny, and healthy. When we feel broken, we lose our self-esteem. And accordingly, we may hate ourselves for feelings we have little control over.
In the midst of depression, it becomes progressively easier to forget about your positive qualities, and to accept the labels society puts on your symptoms: useless, damaged, lazy… “I hate myself” starts to feel natural.
You’re never irreparably damaged, since healing from self-hatred and depression is a process, not a destination. Start the process, below.
Low self esteem and depression go hand-in-hand, because depression makes it easier to think about your inadequacies.
Depression’s cognitive biases make you focus only on the negative feedback you receive, causing you to become more depressed. Depression shifts your focus from growth to disappointment, and when this shift continues for many years, it starts to become something you actually believe in. Even if it is not at all the truth.
Self esteem is the sense of value we assign to ourselves. Having high self esteem feels like we are worthy of love and belonging.
On the other hand, when we feel depressed, we question our place in the world and in our own lives, and we feel broken or unworthy. We start to feel different and isolated. And we feel like we don’t deserve to take up space.
But remember that very true saying? “Depression is a liar.”
Depression makes us believe the worst about ourselves, and the deepest self-hatred arises when we stop believing we’re worthy of love and belonging. In this headspace, we spiral further into depressed symptoms and thought patterns — soon, our depressed selves feel like all we are and will ever be. So we have to consciously challenge the messages our depression sends us about our worth.
This is when the deepest self-hatred comes out — when we stop believing that we are unconditionally worthy.
We can’t forget there’s another way to be, and we can’t give up until we no longer hate ourselves.
Low self-esteem (and maybe even depression) can often stem from deep-seated habits and beliefs, like those learned in childhood.
If you’ve never completely been yourself around others, you’ve never seen evidence that your genuine self is lovable and worthy.
In order for children to adjust to the world, they must feel the love of a caregiver — a mother, father, nanny, or even extended family member. Studies have shown that without the trust and love of a reliable caregiver, children’s bodies may react to fear as if they are in danger of dying.
Other than food and physical security, a child has a tremendous need for love and emotional security. This need is arguably just as important to a child’s health and wellbeing as physical needs, but far less frequently fulfilled. No wonder so many of us feel like “I hate myself.”
Humans have a primal need to feel worthy and safe, in order to function. This is why, in childhood, we tend to do whatever it takes to feel accepted and loved. When we don’t get adequate acceptance from our caregivers, we learn to seek it from anyone we meet.
In order to keep functioning, we tend to stick with this approach to our self-worth, into adulthood. Whether we see it or not, most of us seek approval and shape ourselves to make that approval more likely.
Over time, since we’ve been shaping ourselves away from authenticity, we never get to form a deep knowledge that people accept us. If you’ve never completely been yourself around others, you’ve never seen evidence that your genuine self is lovable and worthy.
If our self worth wasn’t established in childhood, we internalize a connection between our peers’ or superiors’ positive reactions and our worth. This cycle kills our self-esteem.
What parts of yourself have been clouded by low self esteem and a yearning for acceptance? What authentic traits has self-directed negativity chased away?
These may be painful questions. Answering requires you to acknowledge and grieve the time were out of touch with your authentic self.
It also may force you to struggle through the disheartening process of rebuilding your identity. Yes, it might be disheartening — if you’re already depressed, many do-able things feel hopeless. That includes trying to rebuild your self-esteem.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.
These are the parts of yourself to welcome back, in order to heal.
Although there will always be a learning curve at work, your professional successes will surely nurture your self esteem. And when you have healthy self esteem, you can make mistakes and feel like it’s not the end of the world.
When you have low self esteem you tend to take every situation personally. Try to shift your focus and internalize only your successes, giving less thought to the ambiguous or negative events.
A person who makes a mistake at work can decide to see it as an opportunity to grow. And professional accomplishments boost your self esteem in an indirect, safe way – your work doesn’t directly reflect who you are, so it’s slightly lower stakes than, say, social situations.
From the small confidence you develop, taking pride in your work, build your self-esteem. Aim to call out just one piece of evidence for your self worth, daily.
More than your professional life, your social life directly impacts your self esteem. Depression makes it difficult to connect with friends, or to get out in the first place.
You may not even enjoy doing the things you used to with loved ones, which leaves you feeling more broken. And since you know yourself best, your self-hatred feels universal to everyone in your life.
You might hate yourself, but what does that say about the people that love you?
Do try to believe that you’re worthy of your friends’ love. They do see you. They love you and probably wish you could feel more comfortable proudly flying your flag.
Self-esteem comes from an evidence-building feedback loop – incidentally the same type of loop that can bring you out of depression.
You have to take a small step, even if it feels scary or useless – build small bits of evidence that it’s safe to be your authentic self, that you’re worthy of self-love instead of self-hatred.
Tiny interactions can be those small steps. Even if it’s not a whole conversation (which feels vulnerable when you hate yourself), connect in a tiny way, like by sending Snapchats, or joining an understanding anonymous chat.
There are few better self esteem reality checks, than chatting with folks who have felt this way too. Chat now, here.
When you open up to the people you trust, and they are there to support you emotionally, you begin to feel connected again. Real friendships are about being present to someone else’s pain and struggle — by opening up about your self hatred to a trusted friend, you deepen your connection while practicing authenticity.
Only you can heal you, but having someone hold you while you do that… that is a great gift.
The former ends your narrative; the latter inspires change.
It helps to remember that as Mama Cax says, “How you talk to yourself affects how you feel.”
Trust that you are on a self discovery journey and will continue to be. You are growing and evolving into a healthier self-awareness. And the result will be worth it.
If you don’t have someone to listen unconditionally and accept your authentic self, try reaching out at Supportiv – in an anonymous, low-stakes, no-judgment setting.