How do you show yourself that you love yourself?
October 17, 2013 7:53 PM   Subscribe

I've pretty much always hated myself. I'd like that to change at some point, and am willing to go the "fake it til you make it" route. How do you show yourself that you love and value yourself?

One of my very first memories involved a realization that I hated myself. That feeling's always been simmering in the background but has been especially present lately (seasonal depression, financial stress, a breakup... basically your usual depressive-thinking triggers). Hopefully I don't sound like that fucking crap song, but I really, really want to learn to love myself. Trouble is, I don't have any idea what that even looks like. I think I need practical suggestions. What does that phrase mean to you? How do you show yourself that you love yourself?

(I've talked about this with therapists a bit but not productively. I'm certainly having a depressive episode and am lining up therapy, but insurance only pays for five sessions, I can't afford full-price therapy because of a recent financial catastrophe that's left me basically broke, and I make too much on paper for most people to do a sliding scale. I am mildly bipolar and take an anticonvulsant for hypomania, but most anti-depression meds leave me feeling spun so meds aren't an option. Hence the DIY method.)

Other deets b/c of anonymity: American, queer man, early 40s, demanding caretaker-y profession, an injury that's forced me to largely abandon a performing arts career (so "do the thing you love most" doesn't work for me anymore), one time/practice intensive and gratifying hobby. I've only lived in this city for a couple years and am somewhat socially anxious in groups, especially when I don't know anyone. I have one circle of friends, but for various ex-related reasons I need to take a break from them for a while. I have a gym membership I don't use often enough, and eat crap food every night because I don't really know how to cook. I know that changing those last couple things will help me feel better, and I'm going for a workout after I post this.

throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
The book There is Nothing Wrong with You (Going Beyond Self-Hate) by American Zen teacher Cheri Huber changed my life. In combination with her other books and teachings, it literally saved my life: I feel confident that if I hadn't discovered her work (starting with The Depression Book), I would have attempted suicide years ago.

I've written about her work a fair bit because it's made such a difference for me.

Very best wishes.
posted by Lexica at 8:03 PM on October 17, 2013 [26 favorites]

Buy a really nice body moisturiser, I have a preference for the homemade all natural kinds, and after a shower listen to some music or a podcast or whatever and gently and slowly rub it into every inch of your body. Be kind and thankful for this bizarre lumpy occasionally hairy chunk of meat that transports you about your life.

I also clean up my nails (fingers and toes) and ex-foliate where needed. Maybe a face mask if I have time.

Sort of a gentle little mini-me spa hour.
posted by Dynex at 8:05 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Find one attribute about yourself that is admirable and demonstrably true. Repeat that to yourself and listen to yourself. Continue to repeat that to yourself until you actually believe it, and then find another.
posted by xingcat at 8:09 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Whenever you find yourself reacting to something you've done, or you've thought, consider: If a friend did this -- if a friend said he felt this way -- how would I react?
Try treating yourself as a friend.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:09 PM on October 17, 2013 [26 favorites]

Cutting out all sugar from my diet has made a noticeable difference in my mood. I thought it wasn't having much of an effect after about a month, and then I strayed and had a chocolate bar, and the euphoria followed by crashing mood was quite dramatic.

Seconding treat yourself as a friend. When you're cruel to yourself it's no better than being cruel to another person. When I'm feeling really low I have the tendency to listen to the ongoing negative patter in my head about what a piece of crap I am (often the language is much stronger than that) and I've been making an effort to not listen to that nasty voice. No need to argue with it, just calmly think to yourself: no, that's wrong. I am not X (negative quality). I have my problems like anyone else, but I also have X, Y and Z strengths/positive qualities.
posted by whistle pig at 8:14 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Treat yourself as a friend-- I do this for myself. Benefit of the doubt, cutting myself some slack.

Also, I have in-jokes with myself. These usually start as an unfounded observation that anyone else might object to-- They're not PC. For example, a guy who cuts in front of me in line at the deli is probably in a hurry to complete his honey-do list so he can start hitting the booze already before his wife comes home from work. So, I see people in a ridiculous line-cutting-caliber hurry and I think "Thirsty much, a-hole?" Then, I laugh like a weirdo and appreciate that I'm my favorite performer and loveliest audience at the same time.

posted by little_dog_laughing at 8:29 PM on October 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

Whew, I feel for you, anon. First of all, *hugs* to you, because you've got a lot on your plate! But I want to say that, having been there myself, I commend you on how balanced your approach seems to be to everything. You know you've got a lot going on, but it really sounds like you are doing everything you can to be proactive about it, and that's great. You care about yourself and your well-being and happiness, despite these distorted thoughts re: self-esteem/self-regard.

Definitely keep working on the therapy might have to call around to quite a few places until you find a good fit, but I would think that, especially as a member of the queer community, there will be some organization out there who will work with your budget once you run through your insurance-allotted sessions. Sometimes you may have to go through your Employee Assistance Plan first before their insurance will cover anything more than the bare minimum. Can you check to see if, based on "medical necessity," or whatever, you could be approved for ongoing maintenance sessions?

You could try the usual stuff like the Feeling Good workbook, do some reading on self-care, maybe work through the Mood Gym website to develop some CBT skills for talking back to the negative self-talk.

I wasn't really able to crack this particular issue until I was a few months into therapy...a lot of the negative self-talk was due to internalized voices from parents, childhood peers, etc. I was using it to tell myself how much i didn't measure up, and I was always beating myself up for it. What it really masked was how much I had internalized that negativity from a very depressed parent, and how much his expressed negativity was, in turn, an expression of his experience with his mother, who could be cold/distant and controlling. It took me a long time to pick apart this stuff, and even longer to think, okay, I had this cesspool of crap floating around inside, but how do I detoxify myself from it?

Especially with being many of those parental-negativity/disapproval/dismissal issues are echoed in society as a whole, and it wasn't until I found the right supportive community for me that I could finally start to say, hey, I am pretty okay with the way I am, and I am effing sick of feeling ashamed of myself. If "you" (society) want to judge me, go eff yourself, because I don't owe anyone an apology or a justification for who I am anymore.

I've also been trying to slooowly address other issues, like personal health/diet/fitness, both to make me feel physically better about myself and to reaffirm that I deserve self-care and I deserve to feel good about myself.

About the stuff in your last paragraph...the best I can recommend is to pick one thing at a time to constructively tackle. You mentioned a lot of things, and I think of them may be red herrings, a bit? Some of the stuff can be addressed more with some planning don't necessarily need to have chef skills to buy healthier prepared food, salads, fruit, have a healthy breakfast, etc. It just takes some organization and planning, and when your brain already has to devote so many RPM cycles to work & family stress PLUS the depression merry-go-around, focus and premeditation take a nosedive. You could start practicing self-care by taking Sunday afternoons, for example, to plan and shop for healthy food for the week. You could take 10 minutes every morning or evening to do a quick mindfulness/gratitude session and start to work on re-framing the negative self-talk and ask yourself WHY you feel this way, and start to work on alternate responses before you can get into a self-abusive thought spiral. Sometimes, beating ourselves up and giving all of ourselves away is just another method to waste RPM cycles and avoid dealing with the real root issue.

Since you are in a transitional phase, of sorts, with your friend-group, maybe look at this time as a period to rest and just focus on you? Be your own best friend, especially if your ex was at all critical or abusive. It takes time to get that poison out of your system. It sounds like you haven't had enough time to just plain have fun and do things that reaffirm that there is good in the world, that you are allowed to participate in it, and that you deserve to experience. I think you sound like a wonderful, intelligent, caring and giving person, and you are probably harder on yourself than anyone else could be.

I wish you the best of luck. Know that there are people out there rooting for you!
posted by cardinality at 8:30 PM on October 17, 2013 [16 favorites]

I don't deal with serious depression so this may not be helpful, but as I get older, I think about myself less. Sometimes I have to buckle down and look at myself and say, "yes, this is a pattern, and it's bugged the shit out of every girlfriend I've ever had/gotten me in trouble at every workplace/whatever else" and deal with that thing, but most of the time I am really trying to cultivate a not thinking as much about myself stance.

Instead, I try to think about: This is what I need to do in the next hour/day/week. Then I do it.

This approach keeps me busy enough that there's less time for negative thinking about myself, and it just gives me less room to wallow in those negative thoughts when they come.

Good luck to you - you're on the right path.
posted by latkes at 8:38 PM on October 17, 2013

Bragging. (A little bit.)

It's easy for my automatic negative thoughts to dominate my internal monologue, so I help counter that by externalizing my achievements to other people. ("Do you know what I did today? I washed three whole loads of laundry.")

People usually respond with encouragement, and that helps solidify the positive thoughts enough in my mind that the negative ones ("Yes, but you didn't fold them") can't chip away at them so easily.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:38 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

MBCT is done in 9 sessions. We are coming to year end, if your insurance starts over with 5 additional sessions in next calendar year you can complete the therapy. Don't write it off with a 5 session limit.

Mindfulness based therapy can teach a practice of self kindness. This is much easier and more accessible than having a goal of self love. Kindness is a one time act that you can choose to repeat if desired. Also mindfulness can teach you about stepping out of automatic thought patterns, separating feeling from fact, etc.

You can explore mindfulness and self kindness in many ways. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Pema Chadron are good. You can find talks and guided meditation at There are sitting groups around to support meditation. Also you can find group MBCT for $500/8 sessions. A yin yoga practice can also support you.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:40 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, its easier if you notice your self-talk. Counter every bad thing you think about yourself as though you were hearing someone say it about a friend you adored. "I am so stupid!" "Hey! Take it easy on Me! I don't want to hear that sort of thing about someone I care about."

Yeah, sounds dumb, but it was amazing how much I was down on myself. With a steady diet of that in my head, I'm surprised I functioned as well as I did!

Another version of that, that I learned in Al-anon was their dumb little slogans like "Take it easy." I thought, that is insanely simplistic- who needs slogans? And then someone in a meeting said that they'd been using slogans all their life, but they were negative ones, like "you'll never amount to anything. You're worthless." So true- I'd been living by those slogans day in and day out. Just changing those out changed my brain patterns more than I'd ever have guessed.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:42 PM on October 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

Hi, I am a SME in hating myself. Credentials include: My fifth-grade teacher nicknamed me Eeyore.

There's a book I like about being kind to yourself (I believe I saw it recommended on AskMeFi): Self-Compassion

I got it on audiobook and sometimes listen to it when I'm falling asleep. I have a lot of self-defeating thought patterns and the book hasn't shut them up entirely, but it has helped me recognize it better. The author has downloadable exercises to help you reflect on how you react internally to things... and in the book itself she makes practical suggestions, in the sense that she offers a rebuttal to the cruel thoughts -- which, for me, tend to accelerate and pile up until I'm battered and a quivering pile of despair!

For example: I've noticed that when I have a thought about how much I hate myself and how much I suck for x reason, now sometimes I will reflexively think, "Wait, what if my friend said that about themselves? I would instantly see how harsh and unfair it was."

Or, another exercise from it is thinking: "This moment is really hard for me." And just acknowledging that does make a difference. I just try to step back, as often as I can, and evaluate whether I'm being fair to myself. A good test for that is if I would judge or bully another person the way I do myself.

Anyway, I recommend that book. I hope you feel better.
posted by perryfugue at 8:48 PM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

I found the tools of CBT to be incredibly useful for learning how to work towards internal goals while also being kind to myself (ie coping with negative thoughts). A lot of it is about framing things as intentions of working towards a goal, such that even the baby steps are to be embraced. And when I don't make it, that is ok because I have the intention to get there. I helps me keep calm when I am feeling overwhelmed and like I'm going to freeze up.

Another big part of my self-care is understanding when I need to be around people and when I need to retreat and trying to honor those feelings. Sometimes that means reaching out when I feel alone and need someone around. Sometimes that means cancelling plans and retreating with my laptop and headphones.

5 sessions might not seem like much, but ideally your therapist will stretch those out over months and give you tools to work with in between.

oh good I'm not the only one who once was nicknamed eeyore
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:51 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Good self care: yoga, enough sleep, vitamins, sunscreen. You don't need to be perfect to take good care of yourself. At first, all of those things feel fake. After awhile they start to feel like things you deserve.

Start small and take good care of yourself.
posted by 26.2 at 8:56 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know this is going to sound very "Stuart Smalley", but I talk to myself in the mirror. When I was deeply depressed and feeling terrible about myself I used to say awful things to me when I caught my reflection in a mirror. When I started therapy, every time I would start to be mean to myself, I would say something nice instead. I always made sure it was true, so the compliments weren't great to start with. At the beginning I might have just commented that it was nice that I bothered to fix my hair up that day or hey, you don't have acne this morning. Over time they got more complimentary. I might compliment my outfit or my smile. I might say I deserve good things to happen to me, that I'm loveable or I'm smart. All things I would say to a friend in conversation, but rarely used to think about myself. Crazy as it sounds (and I only do it when I know I'm alone, because, really, some things don't need an audience!) it works. Don't forget when you're doing this to smile at yourself :-)
posted by cecic at 9:11 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend sent me this little note the other day:

"Be nice to yourself. It's hard to be happy when someone's mean to you all the time."

I've been repeating this to myself frequently and am finding it very helpful as a perspective reset.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:48 PM on October 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

Pema Chodron. I have 'When Things Fall Apart' in my bag in my lap this very moment.

Take a cooking class, or swap work hours for a CSA share. Eating well and healthily is really important, and you can use learning to do this to meet people and get exersise (also important).

It's like menstrual cramps: I'm gonna feel like shit no matter what, so I might as well go to work, class, etc...

Google 'Super Better', and watch the TED Talk too!
posted by jrobin276 at 10:37 PM on October 17, 2013

I would recommend the Ted talks about being happy
He says that 21 days of doing certain things every day will make you happy and a lot more positive. The tasks are:
-Identify 3 new things you’re grateful for
-One random act of kindness
-Journal about one good thing that happened

You don't have to meditate for very long, and a gentle walk could count as exercise, but you have to do these things every day!!! In fact there is a blog about a man who was depressed and did these things for 30 days, and the outcome.
posted by lovisa91 at 10:52 PM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

write down all the bad thoughts you have about yourself - eg, "i'm fat", "i'm lazy", "i'm dumb", "i am incapable of happiness", etc.

then, write down the exact opposite of each - "i have a great body", "i'm motivated", "i'm intelligent", "i seek out happiness constantly and work towards maintaining it with every fiber of my being".

notice that these are all just judgements, relatively arbitrary and perhaps interchangeable. notice how it makes you feel to write down the positive ones versus the negative ones.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 11:18 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Loving yourself:
Level one:
Use a lotion or powder with a smell you like.

Get yourself a few pieces of clothing that you look good and feel good in.
Get your hair cut/styled.

Advanced level:
Get a massage.

Do nice things for yourself. You are worthy.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:47 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You show that your love yourself by being nice to yourself. Like what the good people above said about treating yourself as a friend. If your friend told you they'd been to the gym once in the last week, would you say "well, you should have gone 5 times!"? I doubt it. I think you're more likely to say "good on you, keep it up!" So say the same thing to yourself.

It also means giving yourself a break. Super stressed and a hard day at work? Then do what will make *you* feel better. This may mean gym (because seriously - endorphins = free drugs) but this may mean curling up in bed with chocolate and popcorn and watching old sitcoms until you fall asleep. Guilt free. You've had a hard day and you deserve your me time.

BUT! Loving yourself also means looking after yourself because you want to be around, and functioning well for as long as possible. Even if you don't particularly enjoy healthy food and exercise, it is still something you are doing for yourself.

OK, practical things. If I was you, I'd take a cooking class. If that's too stressful, think of a favourite meal, and learn to cook it from recipes or youtube.

And slightly silly, but to carry on from ocherdraco, congratulate yourself for slightly trivial things: washed the dishes? "I am awesome!". Nailed the paper-into-basket shot? "I am awesome!" Burnt the toast? "that's OK, I can scrape the burnt bits off, because I am awesome!"
posted by pianissimo at 12:19 AM on October 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

One thing that really helps me, is to hang out with happy positive non-judgmental people, and to sack any of those kinds of friends who pass the time by making hilarious bitchy comments about everyone else.

Being surrounded by "ha ha what a loser! so unfashionable!" leads to self hatred even when the bitchy comments in question are not addressed to you specifically.
posted by emilyw at 2:13 AM on October 18, 2013 [9 favorites]

Treating yourself as a friend is true, but to take it one step beyond that, I try think of my future self as a separate person that I like and want the best for. I work to avoid screwing over my future self for the gratification of my current self. For instance, if I'm driving home and notice I'm low on gas, I will take initiative and get gas right now instead of being lazy and leaving the chore for my future self (who will most likely be trying to get somewhere on time). Or I don't stay up late watching netflix because I want my future self to get good rest and have a good morning and not be exhausted at work. So I am basically constantly doing my future self little favors of goodwill that I might do for a friend or significant other. The important thing is to visualize the positive outcome for your future self. I'm not brushing my teeth because it's just habit, I'm brushing my teeth because I specifically want my future self to be cared for and have good hygiene.

Instead of taking the easy route and eating microwave dinner as per normal, you could change your mindset to "I'd like my future self to be able to cook because it's better for my future health and future bank account, so I'm going to research and practice making this one dish tonight."

It may not sound like much, but it really shifted my thinking to the next positive level. Maybe you're unhappy with you current self (or really your past self, for not meeting your expectations), but don't set your future self up for failure as a sort of reverse punishment. That's really what procrastination is. Your current self telling your future self you don't like them and hope they have a miserable time and ps, eat mud. Your current self has the power to break that cycle and be a friend to your future self. Takes time but lately I'm all, "Thanks past self!" and "Past self, you are awesome!" (In my head, of course.) It builds a cycle of positivity that helps you think better of yourself.
posted by griselda at 2:50 AM on October 18, 2013 [47 favorites]

In addition to the 'be your own best friend' suggestion, start treating yourself like someone you really look up to and respect/a role model. So if for instance you think Hilary Clinton is a total badass and want to be more like her, then when you are going about your day keep asking if yourself 'hey, is this good enough with Hilary Clinton? Would Hilary Clinton be okay with this?' and act accordingly. So for example in the past I have during a binge eating fest taken a packet of crisps out of the rubbish bin and continued to eat it (the bin was pretty empty and the crisps were clean) but if I asked myself 'would Hilary Clinton eat crisps which have been in the bin?' the answer would be a resounding 'NO'. So have standards! Expect better! Treat yourself like someone you want to become.
posted by dinosaurprincess at 4:06 AM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

The best things I have done to help me go from hating myself to now loving myself are:
1. Regular workouts. I can't express how much of a huge difference it makes. The exercise alone just makes me feel happier in general, but the fact that I am doing this thing for myself, I am taking care of myself and improving my fitness... it helps me to appreciate my body and take better notice of my self worth. You have a gym membership. Time to start using it.
2. Sleep. I kid you not. I am usually in bed ~9:30-10pm and up at 6am. Adopting a healthy, consistent sleep schedule (even on weekends) again makes me feel like I am taking care of myself. It is also a bit self indulgent in a way. It is something that is healthy, that benefits me on many levels, and I don't care if it makes me seem lame or like a nerd. Sleep is hella important.
3. Nice underpants. I have said it before. There is nothing more depressing than ratty stained dingy poorly fitting ugly underpants. I think people's underpants are often a good litmus test for how much they value themselves because underpants are (generally) just something for each person to enjoy privately, it is for their benefit alone. So if you can afford it, go through your underpants and bin any of them that have holes or the elastic is going in them or are stained or don't fit well or don't make you feel awesome. Then go buy some new underpants. Get some properly nice boxers/briefs/whatever you wear. Don't get a dozen all the same. Make a point of getting different styles and patterns etc. Get some novelty ones that make you laugh when you see them (ie. I have a pair of ninja turtle underpants that crack me up).
4. Learn to cook. I know, it isn't easy for everyone, but learning to cook, building that skill, pays off in the end. First of all, it allows you to nourish your body with healthy delicious food. Secondly, you'll save money. Thirdly, cooking a date a nice meal is pretty impressive to just about everyone. So start cooking. Not everything will work, not everything will taste good, but I promise you will improve. Look in to a slow cooker. Those are MAGIC!

5. I stopped caring what other people might think of me. I spent so much damned time stiffling and repressing huge parts of me (mostly the nerdy, go-to-bed early, likes-to-quilt parts), all because I didn't want people to think less of me for it. I didn't want to see lame. I think that was the biggest source of my self hate. Because I was so invested in how I appeared to others, and because I was constantly worried that I may be coming off as nerdy or loserish I constantly came up lacking in my own mind. Well fuck that. Who the fuck cares if some random person thinks I'm lame for going to bed at 9:30pm! It makes me happy and feel great and they can go fuck themselves if they feel like it makes me a nerd or a loser. So just BE YOURSELF!

Love yourself by giving yourself permission to truly be your authentic self.

Big hugs to you, though. I've had similar periods in my life. They are hard, but they are 100% survivable. You can come through this stronger than you went in to it. Best of luck.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:26 AM on October 18, 2013 [18 favorites]

My aunt gave me some advice when I was a teenager which I never forgot. She said, "Every day, no matter how busy or rushed you are, give yourself one thing which is beautiful or good."

I try to put one thing into everyday which is just for myself and which is good and makes me happy.

Yesterday, my 'beautiful thing' was an hour in a cafe with a coffee and a graphic novel. Yeah, there are probably better uses for my time and money. But it was a gift to myself.

Basically, give yourself a nice thing everyday, and don't worry about things like whether you deserve it and whether you 'should' be doing it.

This is not that different from advice you have received above. Basically, just treat yourself like you would treat a family member, friend or partner whom you love and treasure just for being themselves.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:48 AM on October 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

You sound a bit like I used to feel :/

Go to youtube and watch the whole of Louise Hay, how to heal your life and take it from there... That and her Audio book "The power within" started me on a path to self love

Good luck x
posted by krisb1701d at 5:25 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know how universally true this is, but a therapist told me that the insurance limit on therapy sessions just means that after that number, the therapist must fill out paperwork for your insurance company stating that further therapy is indicated for you. Have not put that to the test personally, but if true, you may be able to get your insurance to cover longer-term therapy sessions.
posted by Kriesa at 5:52 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Make a list of alllll your bad qualities. Then make a list of your good ones. Then, ceremoniously burn the bad one. Re-read the good ones. Maybe out loud, in a mirror. Its ok to feel silly. Smile. Repeat the good ones every so often. Maybe come up with a personal statement that says who you are and who you want to be and what you can achieve in life.

Every time bad, self abuse/self defeating comments pop into your head, smack them down and counter them with something good.

Most of all, be kind to yourself. You are a good person. Anything bad you have done in life can be forgiven. People like and love you.
posted by Jacen at 6:48 AM on October 18, 2013

A little over one year ago, I got a gym membership and started going regularly. It was this routine that kickstarted the whole idea of wanting to love myself more. I had never had New Year's resolutions before, but last December, I decided my resolution was going to be to "love myself more." There have been SO many times when I've had to remind myself to do it because it's my RESOLUTION! For me, showing myself love has been about me concerning myself more with my presentation to the world. Even though I kind of hate myself (doh!) for taking the superficial route, I feel so much more confident when I'm out there. Anxiety about money/indulgences has always kept me from buying things like makeup, nail polish, and nice clothing. I did have to spend money and I did have to invest a lot of time learning about adopting a personal style, but I feel...better. Good luck to you. I think realizing that you are unkind to yourself is the first step to doing something about it.
posted by okay-quiet-time at 7:00 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmm. I guess I read your questions as what are the outward signs that someone loves themselves.

What comes to mind for me is things like, voicing your opinions tactfully even when you think others might disagree. Making time to get enough sleep and to cook healthy meals. Responding assertively when something happens that you don't like. All that takes practice. And mindfulness.
posted by mermily at 7:35 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, letting it be ok to do things just for yourself -- not for patients, not for society, but just because they bring you pleasure. That could be buying a really sharp modern wallet that you feel cool every time you get a card out of, or taking a weekend afternoon to hang out in an arm chair with a cup of delicious tea [insert other pampering beverage favorite] and an escapist novel and no obligations, or wandering an art museum or other aesthetic place that stirs you, or calling up people you like and making a plan to see them (that is, asking for their time just because you enjoy their company). You probably know what some of these things are, because you probably think you "don't deserve" them -- but liking yourself means saying that you do, even if only every now and then. It's a start.
posted by acm at 8:59 AM on October 18, 2013

Yes, for me the insurance limit meant that my therapist submitted an argument as to why I should have more sessions (with a diagnosis, prognosis), and I got more sessions. After awhile I had to pay her more, because insurance was paying less, but she basically worked with me through several health insurance snafus to get me years of therapy. So don't let your depression-brain tell you that you can't get much help so you shouldn't even bother.

Things that have helped me:
- Treating myself like a friend/loved one.
- Therapy.
- Self-care. has a mefite group, and lots of nice goals around everything from meditating to exercise to gratitude lists to flossing. It's harder to hate someone you're taking good care of.
- Paying attention to self-talk and making myself substitute my usual "gawd, why am I such a moron?!" with something like, "oop, that was silly, I guess that makes me a sillisaurus!" or something else Ridiculous, just to make myself smile and stop beating myself up.
- Trying to come up with something positive about Every Person I See. I've talked about this game on askme before, and it's best on the subway or in a dense urban area where you see a lot of people quickly. Having to rush makes me come up with quick "fabulous nose!", "gentle hands", "pretty dress", "dramatic eyebrows!", "kind eyes" snap judgements. Spending just 5 minutes finding beauty in other humans makes me more charitable toward myself, too.
posted by ldthomps at 9:27 AM on October 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Things self-loathing people I have known have had in common:

poor hygiene or at best minimal standards of self-care
substance abuse issues
poor diet
lousy clothing
lousy everything that touches them: lousy towels, lousy sheets...
out of shape
generally poor manners

And other similar things. Treating yourself badly is not that hard to identify; you've already noticed you've got the poor diet part.

The suggestions to "buy lotion you like the smell of" might sound a bit hokey but they are spot on. Find a toothpaste you really dig. If you are going to do something regularly, make it nice. Because: it's for you.

(I wish there was a less consumer-oriented way to approach/explain these things... It does also frequently manifest in bad manners; because the person treats himself poorly, he's got a hard time noticing when he's doing it to others. Check yourself for sub-par interactions with the rest of the world. And if you drink, drink moderate amounts of things that you enjoy the taste of, and drink to celebrate; make your relationship with intoxicants happy and healthy)
posted by kmennie at 10:13 AM on October 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I thought this part of cardinality's excellent answer was so good that it deserved an additional mention:

Some of the stuff can be addressed more with some planning don't necessarily need to have chef skills to buy healthier prepared food, salads, fruit, have a healthy breakfast, etc. It just takes some organization and planning, and when your brain already has to devote so many RPM cycles to work & family stress PLUS the depression merry-go-around, focus and premeditation take a nosedive.

Depression is so often about dealing with a constant sense of overwhelmement. So it becomes really important to be a) extremely selective and b) consistent with whatever changes you want to make so that you don't try to take on everything at once and then failing miserably at them, thereby giving you more fuel for the 'I'm worthless and suck at everything' fire.

Leo Babauta's The Power of Less is a good resource for how to make powerful and lasting changes - the secret is (unsurprisingly) to pick one thing at a time and doing it incrementally but consistently for 30 days until it becomes a habit. (This is how I went from hating to get up in the morning to becoming a morning person - I set my alarm for 15 minutes earlier every few days and now I routinely wake up around 530 without the alarm.) Removing as many decision-making points as possible from your day is a good thing when you're feeling depressed or overwhelmed.

Everyone else has chimed in with some really good advice as well. The dual approach of getting help + making a few changes for yourself will get you where you want to go. Good luck!!
posted by widdershins at 10:59 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Be aware for the things you could otherwise afford (in money, time, or otherwise) to buy or do for yourself but find your inner voice telling you "I don't deserve that".

Buy or do the thing anyhow, and tell yourself that you do deserve that and are doing something nice for yourself.
posted by yohko at 2:30 PM on October 18, 2013

I give myself permission to stay in bed when I feel like I need rest; work, chores, other obligations be damned.

I do my best to eat well, and actively prevent myself from beating myself up when I don't eat well for some reason.

I say no to obligations that will stress me out or make me frantic.

I schedule time with my friends well in advance, so that I am not left alone and with nothing to do on the weekends (my friends all know that I'm a "planner" and they're okay with it - but they know they can call me short-notice too, I usually leave some downtime in my schedule). I find that if I don't have something to look forward to, I get very, very down.

I try to get some sunshine on my face every single day. Really! Just a few minutes usually makes me feel good.
posted by vignettist at 5:04 PM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I hear you. I try to set myself up for success. I constantly try to learn new things, take a class, get a certification, practice a language, read that book I've always wanted to read, learn to tap dance or hula hoop, whatever it is, I point my head in the direction of achievable things that interest me and then I try to develop skills. I set small goals, and then up the ante if/when I achieve them. For me at least this makes me feel good about accomplishing things and, sometimes, learning that I'm really good at a few of them. Then if I choose, I can build on skills and hopefully develop talent. I've learned that part of setting myself up for success is purposely pursuing things that my partner is not involved in, something that can be all mine at least in the beginning.

Another thing I try to sometimes do is force myself to be social even if I don't always feel like it. Relationships with others are necessary for my happiness. I'll try to branch out to things I would never normally in a million years go to, like a community spaghetti dinner put on by the local fire department, or bingo night at the Elk's Club, funky Meetups in my area, or a singalong movie. If I force myself outside the box, I meet more and different people and increase my chances that some of the new relationships I develop will stick and grow.

I also feel so much better when I exercise, especially when I can get cardio. It just improves my mood tremendously. So there are ways I can combine this with my above-mentioned approaches, like starting the 100 pushups program when I start at four, and C25K, even though I don't really fancy myself a runner.

Hope that's useful in some way. All the best to you.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:06 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Three words: extreme self care.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 2:56 PM on October 19, 2013

another reminder.

the world is heavy
but your bones
(just a cubic inch)
can hold 19,000 lbs

ounce for ounce
they are stronger than steel

atom for atom
you are more precious than diamond

and stars have died
so that you may live

you need to remember these things
when you say that you are weak
and worthless
posted by Space Kitty at 10:29 PM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is a very late addition, but in case you're still reading new responses I'll chime in. I found that this kind of thing never totally goes away for me, but it got so much better, and became much more a background thing than the loudest voice in my head, and became much less frequent. The thing that really started my turnaround was a book by Tara Brach called Radical Acceptance (Embracing your life with the heart of a Buddha). I can't recommend it enough. My library has it, maybe yours does.

In the short term I second the bathing and mini spa suggestions. Candles during a bath, things that are soft and smell good and make you feel warm. Also I have always found that when I could get myself outside it helps. In a park, or near some water or rocks or big trees, the feeling of nature being there near me often helped with the noise in my head.

It took me years of trying different things but it did get better. Don't give up, it can get better for you, too. Sincere best of luck.
posted by eggkeeper at 10:40 AM on January 3, 2014

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