How To Stop Being Such A Self-Hater
Have you ever consciously held yourself back from going for that next promotion, attractive individual, or life opportunity because you felt you weren’t good enough or didn’t deserve it? Have you ever tried so hard to fit in or have people like you that you compromised on your own values and sense of self? Have you ever numbed yourself through drugs, alcohol, porn, video games, food, or obsessive activity in order to avoid the overwhelming shittiness of your situation? Have you ever jokingly mooned the gorillas at the zoo only to realize minutes later that you disrespected a magnificent species and thus felt obligated to build a shrine to all of gorilla-kind where you would bow down and lament the folly of man multiple times a day? Then you my friend may be guzzling a big ‘ol jug of self-haterade®, also known as self-hate.
What Is Self-Hate?
Self-hate is an intense dislike or “hatred” towards one or multiple aspects of oneself. It can stem from early childhood experiences, life traumas, stress, psychological imbalances, social conditioning, or that dickhead Bill who used to harass you for lunch money.
You can hate your physical appearance, past decisions, social status, relationship status, career, life trajectory, emotional and mental faculties, or – if you’re really a self-loathing bastard – all of the above! Self-hate is distinct from objective self-criticism in that it tends to be largely subconscious and manifests in behaviors that follow a consistent pattern.
Screw up on a test because you didn’t study enough? You probably don’t hate yourself and your ego could benefit from some psychic bruising. Screw up your 6th relationship this year because no one seems to “get you”? You probably hate yourself in some way and are subconsciously sabotaging your chances at a healthy and functional partnering.
The 3 Types Of Self-Haters
Self-hate tends to manifest in three distinct behavioral archetypes I’ve deemed overcompensators, punishers, and avoiders. Let’s dive in!
Have you ever heard the expression that guys who drive big trucks have small…uh…packages? Well it’s not outside the realm of possibility for a man that judges his self-worth off the size of his meat mallet to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy acquiring the resources to make up for his “lack of packing in the deli isle” if you catch my drift. This is a classic case of overcompensation.
Overcompensation occurs when you pursue excess in order to subdue feelings of inadequacy, shame, and all those other shitty emotions we love shoving next to the skeletons in our mental closets. Overcompensators are on a never-ending quest for more and gain a sense of self-worth and purpose from the attainment of whatever it is they’re after be it material goods, sex, success, power, or the knowledge that they successfully finished EVERY show on Netflix.
While overcompensation may appear narcissistic or even healthy on the outside (after all, what’s wrong with chasing material goods or success?), individuals who indulge in this behavioral pattern ultimately build an ego atop Jenga blocks that is liable to collapse as soon as their need for excess is not met.
The challenge for overcompensators is to find purpose and self-love in NOT having or pursuing their ego-fixation; a notion that leaves many feeling hollow and lacking meaning and direction.
Back when I was a young adolescent first exploring the newfound realm of male hormones and women, I did what many teenage boys that age do and scoured the internet for pixelated depictions of the female form. Ah, those were the days. Anyway, one day I wasn’t as sneaky as I would have liked and got caught with a browser history full of search terms I’d rather not say over the internet. I was ashamed of my stupidity and embarrassed by my sexuality. So I did what not many teenage boys that age were doing and found a small metal nail to carve an inch-long gash into the side of my forearm with the hope that the pain and scar would leave a permanent reminder not to make those mistakes again. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this was my first memorable experience with punishment as a behavioral projection of self-hate.
Punishment occurs when you inflict physical or emotional self-harm to “punish” yourself for whatever it is you hate about yourself. It can appear as physical harm, vicious mental dialogue, indulgence in destructive or risky behaviors, or perhaps most pervasive of all: self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage is when you consciously or subconsciously screw up your chances or ability to achieve a desired outcome. Oftentimes, it stems from a fundamental belief that you do not deserve or could not handle said desired outcome. An example of self-sabotage could be skipping out on an important job interview because the milk in the fridge expired and you NEED unexpired milk because for some reason your life suddenly depends on it. Another subtler example could be passing on an opportunity to meet new people because you subconsciously believe that you’re not attractive, social, or likable enough to connect with other human beings.
The challenge for punishers is to stop taking short-term pleasure in the pain of self-harm so as to actualize the long-term fulfillment of self-love and acceptance.
The last of the three behavioral archetypes, avoiders, consistently run away from their self-loathing by numbing or distracting themselves through various activities. While these people may appear similar to overcompensators and punishers, avoiders are focused on “not feeling” whereas overcompensators tend to focus on emotional highs and punishers tend to focus on emotional lows.
Avoiders may numb their feelings through drugs or alcohol, change their circumstances whenever something triggers their self-hate, suppress their emotions partially or completely, or engage in activities intended to keep them busy for the sake of it. FYI, avoiders LOVE smartphones and all the wonderful distractions they offer.
The challenge for avoiders is to cut all of their distractions and numbing tools and face their self-hate head on so as to process it fully and work towards self-love and acceptance.
What To Do If You’re A Self-Hater
I’ll preface this section by stating I am not a licensed professional or really even a normal professional for that matter. Before you do anything crazy like off yourself or start a bonfire in the nearest public restroom, please seek professional help if you believe self-hate is deeply and negatively impacting your ability to live healthily and functionally. Okay, onto the tips!
Consciously recognize your self-hate and subsequent behavioral patterns.
One of the underlying frames of effective therapy is to bring the subconscious to the conscious. What this means is that you have to be able recognize what is causing your problems in order to fix them. I encourage you, the next time you find yourself overcompensating, punishing, or avoiding, to assess whether or not the behavior is warranted in that specific context or if it might be stemming from a deeper and more malignant place. We ultimately want to fix the root cause of the self-hate rather than apply temporary bandages to the symptoms.
This sounds so fucking cheesy but it can do wonders in eradicating existing self-hate and preventing future bouts. I like to live according to the motto “do what fills your cup”. What this means to me is that you should be spending as much time as possible engaging in activities and thoughts that provide joy, fulfillment, and purpose, AKA things that “fill your cup”. Go on a walk if you’re stressed. Sing in the car or shower. Put some time into learning something new that intrigues you. Travel. Spend time with friends or loved ones. Work on transitioning out of that awful job. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Exercise. Write an article for the internet to see. Do whatever it is that you need to do to love and accept yourself as fully as possible. It takes work and consistent effort, but the rewards are pretty sweet.
You are enough as you are.
Break the cycle.
If any of my made-up archetypes resonated with you and you’ve had enough of the destructive and restrictive behavioral patterns you’ve been engaging in, take responsibility for your life and break the cycle. Find someone to hold you accountable for making changes in your life and initiate weekly or bi-weekly check-ins. Journal your thoughts and feelings. Replace a shitty habit with a more productive one. Seek professional help. Change your environment or social connections. Do SOMETHING to interrupt the pattern of self-hate and its ensuing behaviors.
Learn about yourself.
Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are often praised as two of the most important elements for success. If you have no idea who you are, why you do what you do, how your thoughts impact your behaviors, what your personality is, how you make decisions, how you respond to certain stimuli, what you want out of life, etc., then you are already at a massive disadvantage. Spend some time getting to know yourself. Write down your strengths and weaknesses and ask others what they perceive your strengths and weaknesses to be. What gives your life meaning and purpose? Take a personality quiz (MBTI-focused quizzes are my favorite). What would your perfect day look like and why? Question yourself and your beliefs. Figure out why you might hate pieces of yourself and use that self-knowledge to make proactive decisions moving forward.
It can be insanely difficult to eradicate self-hate and its behavioral symptoms on your own. Find a confidant with which you can discuss the topic and ask for advice. Surround yourself with supportive individuals. Talk to a therapist, psychiatrist, or other licensed professional. Reach out to a stranger online through their Contact page. Seeking help can be terrifying but it’s okay to admit you can’t do it alone. Plus it shows a ton of courage and makes you a personal development badass!
Self-Love & Acceptance
The reason I chose to write about a topic as negative as self-hate is because I believe it is the journey through hell that ultimately paves the path to heaven. If we consider self-hate a vice, then self-love and acceptance are virtues we should strive for. Whatever has happened to you, whatever you may have done that you regret, whatever you think you have or don’t have, all of this will soon be lost in the sands of time.
It is critical to take responsibility for your thoughts and actions and make the leap towards self-love and self-acceptance. Of course this is easier said than done and there will be a ton of nuances and hiccups along the way. But through conversations such as these, awareness, proactivity, and courage, we can stop running so fast from all the things we hate about ourselves and start snuggling up next to all the great things we should be loving about ourselves. And trust me, there’s a lot to love :).