How do I stop hating myself and find inner peace?
July 6, 2011 8:12 PM   Subscribe

I am unhappy about 95% of the time. Seems like no matter what I do, it's never enough and I'm never satisfied with myself. I base my happiness on external things and I'm aware it's the wrong way to go.. but how do I change it?

I'm a guy in my very early 30's. As long as I remember, I've always hated myself.. and while I feel (objectively), I've done great things to improve my life, it's never enough for me and seems like nothing makes me happy.

10 years ago, I had all reasons in the world to be unhappy and hate myself. I was very fat, had zero experience with girls, felt like I was slowly dying at a worthless job, etc. But since then, I've lost a lot of weight, learned how to talk to girls, been in relationships (although I'm single now), quit my job and started a successful business, etc.

But it seems like it's never enough for me. Objectively, I know I'm a successful guy, who's very smart, tall, good looking, has a great and very interesting business, etc. But to myself - I'm still the same loser I've been in my teens. When I'm home alone, this happens a lot: an embarrassing moment from my past resurfaces in my memory, and I yell "I hate myself!!!!" out loud. I don't have control of it, it just comes out. If it happens in social settings, somehow I manage to mumble it instead, but it still happens. I daily think of suicide and while I'm sure I won't do it, to be honest the only thing preventing me from it is because I'm the only child and I love my parents a lot, and I know this will devastate them.

So my question is: how do I stop doing that? How do I learn to look at myself objectively and love who I am? How do I become at peace with the person within and be able to "live in a moment"? Am I so far gone that I need professional help?

Thank you.
posted by ant345 to Human Relations (26 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Am I so far gone that I need professional help?

Your whole post screams depression, and I have so been there. I mean, change a few details and that was me two years ago. I got therapy and I don't have those intrusive thoughts any more (or at least, much more rarely). It takes a lot of work and time, and slipups and setbacks and getting back on track and slipping again and on and on're getting better.

You need to go to therapy, but it's not because you're "far gone." ( that's what we call "the depression talking" ). You need to go because it's the best thing you can do for your depression, and your entire life. You don't have to feel this way, and you deserve better.
posted by sweetkid at 8:21 PM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

IANAD, but if you're thinking about depression on a daily basis, it's time to get help from a mental health professional. Like sweetkid says, you deserve better.
posted by Shoggoth at 8:24 PM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Therapy in a combination of doing small activities/things that make you feel good. That could something as simple as making a dinner for friends, taking a walk, reading a book that has been sitting on your shelf for years.

I am coming from a similar situation as well. Up until my first years in college I often felt this way about myself -- I was overweight, didn't really have a boyfriend, etc.. it is an adjustment for sure. With time you will realize different things about yourself that you like and hopefully that will pull you away from the "I hate myself" views.

Back to the therapy note-- I think it will help you a lot. It's a chance to just speak to someone without feeling biased or to be filtered. It will help you to just realize you need to live in the moment because you'll hear how you are talking and projecting your feelings. Don't look at it as you are so damaged and a weakness. It doesn't have to be forever. And remember it takes a strong person to admit they need a bit of help. I think everyone could benefit from that.

Try volunteering or helping someone else. Oftentimes I find that when you help someone else you forget about yourself and you feel better about what you did.

Hope something works for you. You will get through this. Good luck!
posted by melizabeth at 8:30 PM on July 6, 2011

Till then, get some fish oil tablets, and get into the sun as much as possible. Also get some b vitamins.

You will need to change your thinking but those steps will help you while you do that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:34 PM on July 6, 2011

No matter how much you do, you still hate yourself. The logical conclusion is that the hatred is not connected to what you do. No matter how successful you are, you hate yourself. That suggests that the hatred is not connected to success.

You hate yourself, then, for some other reason -- maybe for what you are (were) or because of what you did in the past. The only cure to hatred is understanding. You need to be able to see your hated self in perspective and from its point of view if you wish the hatred to dissipate. You need to see the inherent strengths in qualities you found to be weaknesses, and to see the circumstances that caused the weakness in greater depth.

Find a good psychodynamic therapist, or this book on Internal Family Systems is excellent if you want a DIY route.
posted by shivohum at 8:53 PM on July 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

I am you. Except female. These intrusive thoughts are part of the reason why I am in therapy and it has been working. I'm having them less and less and the other day I actually said to myself "well, I did that well..." and meant it. I didn't feel proud but felt satisfied with myself and didn't automatically hate myself. It can get better if you reach out. It is not something you have to do on your own. Getting professional help is not too far gone. That is the self-hatred talking IMO. Thinking that if you were stronger you could deal with it yourself. There is nothing wrong with getting help. Equate it to going to the dentist to get your teeth fixed or adjusted. Sometimes you just need a professional to help you out.
posted by kanata at 9:01 PM on July 6, 2011

Yes, please see a professional. It may take time, but things CAN be better than what you are experiencing now. [I wish I had started sooner]
posted by evening at 9:03 PM on July 6, 2011

Just to add: going to a therapist isn't giving up. This would be you actually handling the situation. If you have the balls to start your own business, you certainly have the balls to go talk to someone for an hour a week. (Don't know if you're male or female: using 'balls' in the figurative sense).
posted by Gilbert at 9:11 PM on July 6, 2011

It's important to realize that people who feel good don't hate themselves. Instead of trying to "fix your thoughts", view your thoughts as merely a barometer for how you feel. Ways to feel better from the inside out are to eat healthy, sleep well, exercise, get sunlight, be in nature, socialize, have physical contact with other people, stay busy, create meaning, and more things that I'm not thinking of...
posted by blargerz at 9:13 PM on July 6, 2011

Depression is actually curable and you are definitely worth it. Find a therapist that says some things to you that feel like ral zingers -- don't settle for just anyone.

Meanwhile I'd suggest two self messages. First, tell the critical voice in your head to shut up. Every time it starts up. Second, try to spend some time each day just consciously appreciating something. Your food, the view, that you have decent vision, whatever. Consciously feeling fortunate is a great happiness inducer.
posted by bearwife at 9:40 PM on July 6, 2011

When I'm home alone, this happens a lot: an embarrassing moment from my past resurfaces in my memory, and I yell "I hate myself!!!!" out loud. I don't have control of it, it just comes out.

I suffer from sort of a rash of these over 2-3 days maybe once every 2-3 months, usually spurred on by reflecting on some social activity where I did say or do something a little off.

I've learned to almost smile at them--almost--because I've had occasion to observe the exact same issue in others I admired for being smart, funny, creative, and perceptive people, making it really obvious to me it's just a glitch in the system that perfectly good human beings sometimes suffer from. I look at them almost like a speech error or memory lapse: a little brain fault.

If I suffered from them on a daily basis, I would run not walk to a professional. So much unnecessary pain!
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:54 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I have so been there. I used to flash back, cringe and worry about everything even slightly embarrassing that I had done in the past. Had sought counseling, and tried out meds which definitely took the edge off. What finally worked for me was forgiving myself, and giving myself permission to make mistakes. I had a few days where I just went through everything that was causing me grief, analyzed what happened, examined what could have been done differently, forgave myself, took the lessons and moved on. Cried a lot, it hurt to face it all, but it was a worthwhile exercise for me to get it resolved so the memories wouldn't be attacking me all the time. It gets better. I am still working on it too, but it does get better.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 10:00 PM on July 6, 2011

This isn't meant to sound overly simplistic, but I'm convinced that a necessary piece of the contentment puzzle is to do good, intentionally, for other people who have needs. If that's missing, life will often feel a bit incomplete. During times that I've felt depressed, I've had times where service to others has quite literally pulled me out of it in ways that I did not anticipate. The reason, I think, is because 1) life was not meant to be purely introspective regarding our own personal awesomness, which actually has a depressing effect on our psyche, rather than an uplifting one; and 2) it just feels really great to help other people, which often feels counter intuitive when we think that our needs are so looming that we would rather have others tend to us. The trick is not to pursue this kind of thing because you think it will make you a more noble person, per se, but because you want to cultivate a joy of life through other people's joy, when you are able to meet their needs. It thus makes it a reciprocal relationship, rather than a purely selfish one.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:00 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Only upon a lot of years and reflection did I realize that I would internally say "I'm worthless" whenever I did anything: wash my hands, cook, drink, talk, think, work, even sit. Once I realized that, it was only one small step to knowing that my Dad had instilled that internal dialogue in me with his incessant criticisms and insults.

You are worthy of life. You are a human being who deserves to live and have happiness and make decisions. But you won't believe this until you realize what's going on in your head. Knowing is more than half the battle in this case.

The worthlessness that I felt seemed untrue when I calmly realized it was coming up again and again. I mean, really, how can my choice of how to wash my hands be bad and make me worthless?

Let your own rationality and instincts guide you: you are a person worthy of a life. You haven't done anything that's horrible. We all make mistakes, so you're not alone there. The issue is probably someone external to you who instilled a very negative and incorrect set of thoughts in your head when you were young.

You should not commit suicide because YOU are valuable, you are a human being, you are worthwhile. You may not believe me right now, but it is true.

Please don't be so hard on yourself. :)
posted by minx at 10:11 PM on July 6, 2011

You've made all of these great life changes in the last ten years WITHOUT therapy?!? That's amazing. There's no telling what you'll be able to achieve WITH assistance. I mean this seriously. Hugs to you.
posted by cyndigo at 10:33 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

This sounds like a weird answer, but: find a local Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym and start training. Not only does it give you a healthy focus in your life (and you can't help but get in amazing shape), but as a side-effect it teaches you how to to exist in the moment, completely, and how to set your ego aside, which is key to real happiness. As a bonus, you'll make a bunch of friends with common interests that you can lean on for a support structure.
posted by LordSludge at 11:54 PM on July 6, 2011

Meditation helped me with similar feelings of worthlessness. I liked Start Where You Are, and Mindfulness in Plain English.

Most of meditation is just watching your mind. You'd be surprised for long running states of mind like worthlessness how regular your thoughts are about reiterating those feelings of worthlessness, until it becomes a constant hum in the back of your mind that doesn't go away. And by noticing and recognizing that hum of feelings, you can begin to take steps towards turning those thoughts around, slowly but surely.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 2:56 AM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Dude, I get those horrible "I'm a useless fuckwit" flashbacks too - even thinking about it causes them. So, y'know, thanks for the post! I'll have to listen to comedy or something interesting for 15 minutes now to distract myself from them (which is the best technique I've found for dealing with the awful moment, incidentally).

Long term, understand that all humans are bloody idiots at times and EVERYBODY has done embarrassing stuff. And pretty much nobody apart from you remembers what you did. Especially if you're like me and never tell anyone those stories.

I think not ever being completely happy might be the price of high intelligence and self-awareness, but it definitely shouldn't mean suicidal depression. 95% of the time when people suggest therapy and mind-altering prescription drugs on here I disagree (I'm not American) but in your case maybe it's a sensible avenue to explore.

Seems like life progress has been pretty good in the past 10 years, you need to give yourself a ton of credit for that.
posted by dickasso at 3:18 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're depressed. And probably have been at least dysthymic (less intense, longer lasting than depression) for years. I know at times therapy sounds like too much work, or when you're depressed, like it wouldn't be worth the effort, but a good therapist can be a major step towards a better life. Think of them as the coach who knows all the things shown to work who is there to help you practice them and troubleshoot, instead of having to figure it out on your own.

"Needing a professional" isn't necessarily a sign that you're 'OMG so SICK' etc. Lots of fully capable highly functional individuals show up for therapy. Its been my personal opinion that asking for help and doing what you think will make life better is a sign of strength, even if that means admitting you can't do it on your own.

A CBT therapist will teach you techniques such as mindfulness (mentioned above) cognitive challenging to deal with those thoughts that keep telling you how awful you are, and a bunch of behavioral things to get you going and help you find interest in your life again.

Especially helpful is a therapist's ability to see from the outside the position you're in. You may not even realize how hard you are on yourself until somebody else says "wow, that's a really hard thing to believe about yourself" and you suddenly think "yeah, it really is, why do I think that?" Not everything you try in therapy might work for you, but there will probably be two or three Ah Ha moments or techniques you might use for the rest of your life. If you find you're not comfortable with your therapist, or don't feel like its working, talk with your therapist honestly, and they can try another approach, or another therapist entirely. A professional shouldn't get their feelings hurt by this, and its extremely important to have a therapist you like, trust and think can help you.

The most important thing to do in the short term IMO, is to talk to your family or a close friend. Tell them you're thinking of suicide, and also that you want to make some changes in your life. Ask them to help you get into therapy, and support the changes you plan to make. When we're depressed sometimes even things we know are in out best interest seem too hard, and support from those who you love and love you is a huge factor.
posted by gilsonal at 4:43 AM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

All the successful people I know have a therapist.

I'm new to it and can't believe how helpful it is (and I'm a guy and previously thought it was REALLY not for me).

The key is finding someone who matches you well. The secret to this: try several and choose the best one (and go fish if you like none of them).
posted by Murray M at 5:11 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

The therapist can't hurt, but I think s/he's going to help you realize that -- well, you know, you're pretty successful as an adult and you're living a life of the mind. You're an adult A LOT longer than you were a kid and it's good to know that relatively early in your adulthood you've laid a foundation for success and prosperity. That should help you forget about awkward, ridiculous moments of our youth. If it makes any difference, our brains are not really finished their baseline wiring until our mid-20s, so you got that also to forgive your (perceived) embarassments of youth. And, trust me, people who have not come to half the conclusions you already know are going to have it much worse than you. Good luck. You'll do great.
posted by skepticallypleased at 5:51 AM on July 7, 2011

I was gonna write a whole long response but you mentioned you think of suicide daily.

Please get professional help ASAP. At the very least call suicide hotline even if you feel silly about it. And keep us posted. Frequent suicidal thoughts are a serous matter.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 6:24 AM on July 7, 2011

When I'm home alone, this happens a lot: an embarrassing moment from my past resurfaces in my memory, and I yell "I hate myself!!!!" out loud. I don't have control of it, it just comes out. If it happens in social settings, somehow I manage to mumble it instead, but it still happens.

This sounds suspiciously like a compulsion and something a therapist could help you with. All the things you talk about sound like things a therapist could help you work on and it seems as if you'd be a great candidate for behavior modification therapy. There is no shame in seeking help. You're not living your ideal life and you know yourself it could be better. You just need some help to get there.
posted by cooker girl at 6:46 AM on July 7, 2011

Thank you all. I'm going to look into seeking therapy and keep you posted. Helping others and volunteering is a wonderful idea as well.
posted by ant345 at 6:53 AM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seeing a professional is not as extreme as it can seem. Even though you don't really have any reasons to be unhappy (by your standards) in your life right now, you did have them before. You're still stuck in that same frame of mind, but you can get unstuck. A good friend of mine always says that happiness is a state of mind. It's not something I understand or something I can do, though. I think happiness is different for everyone. Everyone - every single person on this planet - deserves to be happy. You deserve to be happy, no matter what is going on in your life.

Considering suicide is an immediate problem. Talk to someone, as soon as you can. If the first person isn't somebody you feel comfortable with confiding in keep looking. You need to find someone that could be a good friend. Also, I know it's corny, but confiding in us was incredibly brave - it's hard to ask for help sometimes.

Also, something that took me a very long time to understand is that those embarrassing moments aren't what you think they are. It's easy to remember them shamefully and sort of magnified. But most people don't notice the things that you might be embarrassed of from day to day, or from a long time ago. They're more likely to remember their own actions. And the people that do notice those things forget. Everyday life takes over and high school, college, and old jobs are replaced with their own house notes, current jobs, and family responsibilities. I know it's hard not to focus on embarrassing memories, but you have to remind yourself that they don't have the impact on others the way they do on you. Try to remind yourself with your daily actions, now, everyday, by saying, "Will this matter in a year from now - or ten years from now?" Keep moving forward, and it will get better.

I feel like I haven't expressed myself clearly, and I know it's tl;dr. If you do read it, though, remember it will get better. And keep us posted.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 8:36 AM on July 7, 2011

You're depressed and you have shame. Everybody has shame, well most people do. You feel humiliated by past behavior and that is shame. Research shame, look into an author called Brene Brown. Know that everybody has these feelings and you are worthy.
posted by Fairchild at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2011

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