Who am I and how do I learn to love her?
January 15, 2015 12:12 PM   Subscribe

After tons (and maybe too much self-reflection) I've come to realize all my problems boil down to the fact that I hate myself. Help?

I really hate myself. For years. It began subconsciously and now it just nags at me every minute of every hour. Please help. What are good resources to help me learn to quit hating myself and learn to build myself up and love me. How do you court yourself? (ha!) What's worked for you?
posted by xicana63 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I'm confused how the answer could be anything other than 'Therapy'.
posted by Brockles at 12:16 PM on January 15, 2015 [14 favorites]

I would start smaller. Love and hate are separated by "tolerate" "don't hate", "like", and "really like" and probably a few others. So start with just challenging the notion of hating yourself. Do you really hate everything about you? Identify the things you don't mind about you. Maybe your laugh is okay. Maybe you don't hate your hair or your eyes. Maybe you are good at some aspect of your job and that makes you proud.

Once you've done that, every time you think, "I hate myself", mentally pull out that list of things you don't truly hate. Challenging a faulty thought with the truth takes away some of its power. Keep your mind tuned in to fleeting positive thoughts about yourself. When you have one, add it to the list of things you don't hate. I can't say I've reached "I love myself" status, but doing the above (and therapy!!!) have moved me firmly away from the "I hate me" end of the spectrum. Good luck!
posted by cecic at 12:26 PM on January 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

It is quite likely that not all of you hates all of you.

It is also likely those godawful 'voices' in your head are not really yours.. ie they were internalised through years of crap and probably early and formative crap. So know these things.

Look into inner child work, think about asking yourself when the nasty voice pops in - where it really came from and what may have triggered it and how you can get it to fuck and begin parenting yourself. It is a bloody hard road but I really do believe no BABY is born loathing themselves. The journey to the authentic self is long and rough and peppered with victories and vital. Keep going.
posted by tanktop at 12:29 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Keep in mind, Hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is the opposite of love. Hate is a type of obsession. It is like a warped form of love. For you to hate yourself means that you have feelings for yourself. If it nags at your every minute of every day, then you love to over-examine yourself.
posted by Flood at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

A recent AskMe.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 12:39 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I have a really negative outlook, it fucks up my social interactions and makes me judge myself more harshly. When I notice this is happening, I'll sit somewhere, say, on a bench in Chicago's Merchandise Mart, and people watch and try to come up with one positive comment/compliment about total strangers. It can be really hard, if you're used to snarking on people.

"I bet that person has a bunch of crazy stories. Those shorts are a really awesome shade of pink. I like that hat. Aww, those children made sure to hold hands as they crossed the street. That toddler is very energetic. He's a fast walker. Those shoes are cute. Dressing in that style must be very deliberate and thoughtful. That is a lot of neck tattoos, that requires dedication. Holy shit, she can really walk in crazy high heels. That panhandler has a very clear voice. That is probably the suit I would wear if a was a business dude. She's pretty. Aww, he looks really tired and I hope he gets a nap soon. Her hair is bouncy. She looks kind."

This is also a really good practice for people who obsess about their own bodies and appearance in a negative way. Learning to be less critical and kinder helps us be kinder to ourselves. On the flip side, people who are really hard on themselves also will think that gives them the right to judge others harshly.

previously posted here
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:50 PM on January 15, 2015 [35 favorites]

Think about who loves you, and spend time with them.
posted by michaelh at 12:55 PM on January 15, 2015

When I find myself having a lot of intrusive negative thoughts, I try this trick:

I grab a journal and every hour I make myself write down 5 positive things. They can be feelings of gratitude, things I like about myself, those around me, my surroundings, something I read, something I'm looking forward too, etc. I found that doing this exercise so frequently helped change my negative thought pattern. Maybe that could work for you, and you could focus on positive things about yourself.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 12:58 PM on January 15, 2015 [4 favorites]

Find some activities you enjoy and do those. Take a class in something that interests you. Try new and interesting food. Go to the library or the bookstore - wander around, get lost in the words. Do you like ice cream? Go have some. Savor every bite.

You may benefit from leaving this circular thought process for a while every day. Eventually you spend more time out of it than in it, but it requires effort and there is no single magic thing that will fix it.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 1:01 PM on January 15, 2015

Are you living in accordance with your own values? If you're doing the best you can, that's the important thing.
posted by amtho at 1:21 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

And now that you've realized this, you hate yourself for hating yourself.

Therapy. Spirituality. It works.
posted by mibo at 2:05 PM on January 15, 2015

You're probably right that you are doing too much self-reflecting. Direct your attention outward. Pay attention to beautiful things around you. Be kind to others; that helps you be kind to yourself.

amtho hit the nail on the head - "are you living in accordance with your own values?" If you are a good and conscientious person, there is simply nothing to hate.

Learning not to hate yourself will take time. Follow the advice from the people on this page, and gradually, gradually, you will find that you are not deserving of hate; you are deserving of love.

I speak from experience. I used to have such feelings of self-loathing that it is hard for me to believe it now. I still feel the occasional twinge of "you're weird; you're awkward; your opinion is stupid; people will laugh at you", but those thoughts are few and far between, and I recognize them as bullshit.
posted by LauraJ at 2:44 PM on January 15, 2015

Oh, and spend time with dogs. They will remind you that you are AWESOME!
posted by LauraJ at 2:49 PM on January 15, 2015 [5 favorites]

Slowly. With pathos. It helps to learn to accept what you are. And if the hatred stems from previous mistakes or behaviour, to begin to let those go and realise that they can't and won't always define you.

Slowly. With love. Talk, write, whatever works for you. Realise it won't happen immediately, that you will leap forward in bounds and sometimes retreat just as quickly. Slowly. Gently.
posted by mrme at 4:24 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

I got a lot out of reading The Feeling Good Handbook and doing the exercises. You have to actually do them -- write them out, don't just think about them. It sort of retrains your brain not to be so unrelentingly negative. Oh, and there's a newer edition.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:55 PM on January 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here is my experience: the mental activity of hating oneself and the mental activity of seeking a solution to hating oneself are the same type of thing despite their apparently antithetical discursive content; they are in the same class of human mental behavior, caused by and leading to the same things; they are the fundamentally the same stuff. It's all the same anxious-critical loop. In one case its object is yourself; in the next, the its object your own thoughts and behaviors. (Astute readers will note that it would be hard to tease out the real difference between these objects anyway.)

It's suffering, actually. There is a great quote by a western Buddhist named Chogyam Trungpa c/o Pema Chodron that I've posted elsewhere in the green (here and here): she says he said, "Everybody loves something, even if it's just tortillas." In other words, each of us is capable of feeling loving kindness, of softening up, about the most trivial things--and will indeed occasionally do so--even when we are feeling completely solid about something as serious as hate for ourselves. In the midst of all of that, something peeks through.

That's basic goodness. You might be having trouble generating compassion by thinking about your love for tortillas, and I would again mention tonglen as an interesting activity to consider:

When you feel hatred for yourself coming on, reverse your habit of trying to tamp it down. Instead, breathe it in; actually let the feeling develop, let its intensity build. In that moment, when you are feeling very off guard, you have a wonderful opportunity: you can take in not just your own suffering, but the suffering of everyone else in the world who is on the spot just like you are, feeling that squeeze. In a non-competitive way, there are many others who are also stuck, and probably stuck much harder than you even. We are all in the same boat. This is the wisdom of no escape (that's actually itself the title of a Chodron book). There's nowhere to go.

For me, this practice pretty reliably softens me up. If you can feel even a tinge of that softening up, then what I want you to realize is this: that softening is a new kind of human/mental activity/behavior, and you can cultivate it. Indeed what serious practitioners of meditation will tell you is that you can not only cultivate it, but that it will even spontaneously arise in the absence of our thoroughly groomed obsessions with the anxious-critical game. Capitalism is one big anxious-critical game, right? Everyone is incentivized to keep someone else in an anxious-critical loop, in "need" of something else. That is the modern notion of productivity. There is a great quote: "Don't just do something; sit there."

So, sit. You will be sitting with your pain, your hatred for who you are. When it makes you anxious, the instruction is to walk right up to it and touch it, and then touch the pain of someone else you know, or can imagine. All the while, you will just be sitting. I want you to recognize that. Whatever you feel, you'll just be sitting there:

"The third noble truth says that the cessation of suffering is letting go of holding on to ourselves. By "cessation" we mean the cessation of hell as opposed to just weather, the cessation of this resistance, this resentment, this feeling of being completely trapped and caught, trying to maintain huge 'me' at any cost."

Huge me--this is what sitting and feeling pain begin to dissolve. The only way to stop hating yourself is to strap in and let your thoughts and notions of self dissolve until your experience of just sitting there can peek through.

In case it wasn't clear, I owe essentially all of this to Pema Chodron and Chogyam Trungpa.
posted by holympus at 6:10 PM on January 15, 2015 [15 favorites]

hating oneself and...seeking a solution to hating oneself are the same type of thing...they are the fundamentally the same...It's all the same anxious-critical loop...It's suffering, actually.

This is a sage observation. I advise you to take it on faith [for now] that this is so. I have two tools that I use to break either pattern [amateur musician]:

- count a difficult meter in my head
- listen to my breath

Can you think of a repeatable activity you can set your mind to when this arises? It can be a small part of a more comprehensive approach that, yes, probably includes therapy.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:09 PM on January 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Split your personality. Inside you are various different yous, the ones you used to be, the ones you are now and the potential ones you will be.

For example once upon a time you were a perfect little baby who simply by existing deserved to be changed, cuddled, fed and protected. The physical you has grown up but that baby is still a part of you, part of your heritage. Can you love that baby? Can you talk to that baby and reassure it?

There is a perhaps insignificant part of you who has some value - maybe you said something witty, maybe you did something altruistic, maybe you had a moment of internal self-discipline. Can you love that current you? Encourage him or her? Value that brief fragmentary you because, even if its accomplishments are perhaps meagre, it is not the you that you hate.

There is a future you that you might not hate. This is a you that has fewer of the things that you hate about yourself, a you who has outgrown some of your complexes or bad habits. Can you cherish that you and grow towards them?

The you that you hate is largely an externally imposed you. For example, you are an absolutely incredible high tech machine who processes mass into energy. It does some things incredibly well. But your appreciation of that machine is probably tempered by social judgements. You would love yourself if only you had paler skin or higher status or could be more like your sister or whatever.

Using skin colour as an example, that incredible body of yours is doing so many things efficiently and fantastically. Your skin is the wrong shade and yet it does exactly what skin is supposed to do, protecting you from germs, feeling when things touch you, absorbing sunlight and protecting you from UV, and containing your quiddity inside its fragile responsive mutable matrix. Why do you value the colour of your skin over all its other abilities? If you had been born in another culture your skin could have been considered too pale or not hairy enough or the height of beauty.

So much of what you hate about yourself are values you have accepted from your external circumstances, cultural values that are based on the random place you find yourself now. Maybe your natal family wanted you to be a wealthy and successful lawyer with a perfect square jaw and a firm handshake? If you had been born on a Celtic island in the 1300's they would have valued you according to the speed that you could gut fish, and measured you physical beauty according to how many double chins you had.

Write down a list of things you hate about yourself and then come up with a circumstance where each of these things are good and valued. There is nothing about yourself that could not be valued in some circumstances. Many of your traits are contradictory. You can be both greedy and generous. To be greedy is a survival trait. To be generous is to further the survival of your own tribe.

You might finish this exercise by feeling like you were born in the wrong time, era or income bracket. But you can change your culture and your values to match your strengths and personality. Your family might scorn you for not becoming a high-powered lawyer with a seven figure income, but there are plenty of people who consider high-powered lawyers with a seven figure incomes to be a significant detriment to society. By not succeeding as a lawyer you have made the world a better place! Maybe instead of wasting your education and your entire life because you spent your school years making crude drawings of animals, you can make people happy by posting pictures of your worried looking elephants and dizzy pterodactyls on line. You won't get any recognition, let alone a seven figure income but you will contribute more than the lawyer.

Hanging out in media can often make you feel inadequate. Many groups are the same way. Be aware if the places you hang out are full of advertisements that imply that designer clothes are better than non-designer clothes, that the average income is a six figure income, that the size of your anatomy is the only thing that makes you valuable or sends you other messages that you are inadequate. If the feedback you are getting is not supportive, change the places you hang out. You may get significant relief by un-friending competitive social climbers on facebook, or admitting that you have a toxic boss.

Hatred of self is often linked to the feeling of shame. Biologically when you feel shame you are probably be flooded with cortisol and other stress hormones. You can also approach your self hatred the same way you would if your blood sugar dropped. If you are hungry, you eat. If you feel shame, you do something that makes you feel secure and included.

In the past people have made you feel shame deliberately. If you feel self hatred they probably did it a lot. You may also have been a fairly anxious baby to begin with and more vulnerable to feeling shame when someone belittled you. It's a good idea to examine the past if it doesn't upset you too much and look at some of the painful incidents that you remember. For example, you may have been made to feel shame for soiling when you were seven or so years old. Of course occasional soiling at the age of seven years old is developmentally appropriate. The chances are a lot of the things that you feel shame about are linked to times when someone was aggressive and essentially bullied you. You now feel a frantic aversion, but it is turned inward. You want to get away from the person who was unkind to you but instead you turn it inward. You couldn't get away from your parent or your teacher or the TV. You needed them. So instead the aversive feeling is towards yourself. "I'm so dirty. I'm so stupid. When will I ever learn? Why can't I be clean like other people? There is something wrong with me." All those messages came from someone else originally.

Sometimes it helps to blame the person or things that made you feel the shame. If their behaviour was really bad, if they were really cruel or unkind it is good to know that your teacher or whoever was awful to you, and then you can discount the message. But more often you don't remember exactly where the shame came from. At some point you lived with voices that held a tight edge of annoyance and didn't edge over into brutality, but their constant anger or neglect created a groove of anxiety in your brain. Your mother was over tired so you were afraid you would make a mistake. The TV lauded people who wore the latest style and never praised you. It can help to see your feeling of self hatred as the inadvertent by product of a faulty world.

I am told that Thomas Merton's book "The Care of the Soul" is a good place to start when looking for help with self-hatred.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:38 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've written about a lot of this stuff before so I really appreciate where you're coming from.

For me, getting over this has been my life's work - and though I feel far better and happier with myself these days, its still a work in progress.

While there were a lot of issues in my family growing up by far the most damaging for me was the neglectful, hostile and dismissive environment.

I know what people say about being subject to verbal hostility and listening to "voices" of other people in your head can be a thing, it was the silence of neglect and being ignored in people's actions that really gave me the "message."

Having understood that I was essentially alone in the world meant I developed a very hard exterior which was really difficult for me to relate to anyone, but also alienated me from myself and developed an ongoing depression, anxiety and shame in everything I did, that just circled and circled me.

Going to a person centred therapist really helped me with this; though I absolutely hated it to begin with as weird, hokey, intrusive and horribly uncomfortable it really did work in showing me that I really could show myself and be accepted by another person as I was, which really took a lot of self imposed pressure off myself, and opened me up.

The process showed me that "feelings weren't just for other people" and that I could feel them and express them to myself and to other people without a whole of process, rumination, dread and regret.

Being in tune with my own feelings and "acceptability"overcame the need for a lot of my former defence mechanisms and also made me much less sensitive, as well as reassuring me that I could deal with what they had to say without having any sort of negativity rock me to the core as previously.

Though I still have struggles, its now about the big things; rather than stupid shit like being frightened to say hello to my neighbours or buy a bus ticket.
posted by Middlemarch at 2:47 PM on January 16, 2015

Zen teacher Cheri Huber's book There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate changed my life. Combined with her book The Depression Book and her other work, it literally saved my life.

(Things aren't perfect; it's midwinter and my depression has been kicking my ass recently. But my current definition of "depression is kicking my ass" includes "going to work every day, feeling content while petting my cats, getting praise from my boss, and laughing with my spouse", where ten years ago it included "not leaving the apartment for a month and a half". It's SO much better than it used to be, and I credit it entirely to the practice I've developed since finding Cheri's books.)
posted by Lexica at 8:21 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why do you hate yourself? Is it something that's been instilled early and ingrained in you for most of your life? Maybe caused by parents or other people? Do you feel inherently inferior and defective? If that's the case, there's a book you need to read called Healing the Shame That Binds You.

If it's something else causing that hate, I don't know. You'd have to be more specific exactly what the issue is.
posted by atinna at 11:43 PM on January 16, 2015

« Older All-Inclusive Vacations in middle America?   |   Any UK based psychotherapists out there? Non... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.