A few years ago, I went into counseling. I had blown up and yelled at my then three-year-old son, and realized I had an anger problem. Through therapy I learned I had a much deeper problem then just anger outbursts. I hated myself. This self-hatred manifested in anger outbursts.
I also learned I had hated myself for a long time. When I was a teenager the self-hatred manifested in anger outburst and poor grades due to a seeming lack of interest. As an adult things have changed dramatically and this is due to the fact that I have learned to love myself.
I am not alone in this. A lot of people walk around angry at the world and hating themselves. One study showed that out of three thousand adolescent girls seven out of ten of them genuinely believed they were not good enough. Learning to love yourself can be a challenge especially if you grew up in a home where you were shamed and told you were a bad person for doing certain things.
I experienced this. One time I fought with my cousin and my grandma punished us by telling us we were bad kids and having us kneel on rice with a bottle of bleach over our heads.
You really do not need an extensive study to show this. Ask any group of teenagers about how they see themselves and you will hear a lot of self-criticisms. Things like “I’m too fat” or “I’m annoying”. These thoughts lead to behaviors such as disorderly eating or self harm.
Common Reasons Why We Hate Ourselves
How Your Parents Spoke About You
One reason we hate themselves has to do with how the people who raised us spoke about us or treated us. When you grow up with the image that you are bad, then you expect bad things to happen to you because you are a bad person who deserves bad treatment. This will affect every aspect of your life. In relationships, you will expect the person to be unfaithful to you because you do not deserve someone to be faithful to you. Everything someone says to you will be interpreted as having negative intentions because you expect bad things to just come your way. At work, you will assume the intention of your co-workers to be negative. This can lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety.
How Your Parents Spoke About Themselves
Another reason why people hate themselves has to do with how those who raised them spoke about themselves. If your parents or guardians were overly critical about themselves, this begins to create a negative inner voice that informs everything you do.
If you ask the parents of teenagers saying they are too fat, you will discover the teenager’s story sounds remarkably similar.
This was something I had to deal with in my own life. One of my sons looks a lot like me. I spent some time speaking very negatively about my body. One day my wife suggested that I learn to love my body since my son has the same body and he will relate to himself the way I relate to myself. She was right. Negative self-talk can creep in when you least expect it and it can be very harmful.
Feeling Like You Don't Fit In
A third reason has to do with growing up feeling like an outsider. For example, if you are the only Hispanic person in a particular school or in your community. Or, if your sexuality is different from the rest of your social circle. This can lead to self-hatred because you begin to hate the fact that you do not fit in.
This is profoundly rooted in our need to be loved and accepted. We want people to love us. We want to feel welcome by our peers. However, when this is missing it could create disconnection in us.
I often have seen people trying on cultures or personalities just to feel accepted. It would seem apparent that to live an authentic life we sometimes need to brave the uncomfortable reality that we may not be accepted. This is especially true in situations where the otherness is societal. In other words where the standard for being “normal” is established by an entire group or a tradition. This can be especially harmful since the person has no reference for things being different or better.
Often times, people are bullied for not fitting in. When we are bullied for being different this could lead to self-hatred and even self-inflicted harm. This is especially the case if the protective factors of a stable home and a solid supportive community are not present.
What does a person do if everywhere they turn they feel rejected? Being bullied is especially damaging if the bullying is done by people who we love, like a sibling, since a dissonance is created by a person who we love but who also hurts us.
Bullying is also a masked villain because while on the one hand, it seems like the person who is doing the bullying is in charge, confident, and in control. However, it is likely the bully hates themselves as well. The self-hatred is actually the catalyst that leads to causing someone else harm.
What You Can Do To Love Yourself
In my experience, the road to healing and recovery will not be a simple fix. However, I will share four tips that helped my journey towards recovery and learning to love myself.
1. Take Care of Yourself As You Would For A Loved One
If my wife or kids got sick, I would get them medicine and make them the food they wanted to eat. If they get hurt, I made sure to bandage their wounds and help them manage the pain.
I started to ask myself how would I take care of my kids or my wife if they were depressed, anxious, lonely, or scared? I would listen to them and I would look for ways to help them heal. So, I started to do the same for myself. I started to write down what I feel and listed to what I was saying. Then I began to find ways to help me feel better.
2. Work On Your Relationship With Your Parents
I began to work on my relationship with my father since a lot of my trauma came from my broken relationship with my father.
When I was in therapy for my anger management and severe depression, my relationship with my father was a deep pain point for me. I did not know where to start but I decided to start as if I was meeting him for the first time.
I began to look for opportunities to speak with him. What was he like? What did he like to do? How can I help him to achieve a dream or a goal? When I started treating my father as an adult, I wanted to befriend our relationship began to heal. I found a broken man who needed love and who deeply loved me.
3. Learn To Say No
For years I had been an addict of praise. I wanted people to praise me and talk about how great I am. To achieve this, I would always say yes to people. If there was anything someone else needed, I was there. If there was anything someone asked of me I would do it in a heartbeat.
However, this would leave me depleted and often was detrimental to myself. Now I am saying yes to myself. Yes, to my self-care. Yes, to getting more sleep. Yes, to spending time doing the things I like to do.
I may not please everyone, but I am someone worth loving and I must take care of myself.
4. Know Your Thoughts Are Not Always Facts
You are not your thoughts! Thoughts come and go but you can decide which thoughts are welcome and which thoughts are not.
One technique is to think of your thoughts as though they were statements from someone else. You would not accept someone criticizing or saying something negative about you. Your thoughts should be treated the same way.
You Are Worthy Of Love
Loving myself has not been easy but I am learning that I am beautiful. I hope my story can help you love yourself as well. Whoever you are, no matter what you have done.
Maybe you have made many mistakes. Maybe you have come to a point of hating yourself. I have been there; I am still there sometimes.
Learning to love myself has taken time, work, and effort but it is worth it. You are worth loving. You are worthy of love. Not because of something you have done or not done. You are worthy of love because you are alive and your life matters.