We hear one thing over and over from people who reach out to TheHopeline: “I hate myself, and I don’t know what to do about it.” If you struggle with self-hatred, or the behaviors and thought patterns that tend to go with it, you can shift to a healthier mindset and begin living your life more fully.
The Heart of the Matter
Getting to the root of any problem is essential to solving it. Have thoughts like this ever crossed your mind?
- I can’t believe how [ugly, fat, stupid, etc.] I am
- I am such a failure. I knew I would mess this up
- I wish I could stop being a screw-up, but i think that’s just who I am
- Everyone thinks I’m a loser, and I get why.
If you’ve had these thoughts, you know what it feels like to struggle with the despair of self-loathing. If you want to stop hating yourself, it’s important to understand not only that these intense feelings come from a place of pain, but that the pain can be healed.
The Source of Your Pain
If you have long-term, deep-rooted feelings of hate toward yourself, it didn’t happen overnight. Thinking through the parts of your life that affect how you see yourself can be useful in making things better.
Abuse: If you are or have been in an abusive relationship with a family member, friend, or romantic partner, you’ve been hurt by others repeatedly over a long period of time. It doesn’t matter whether the abuse is mental, physical, or emotional. Since it’s driven by someone attacking who you are, abuse can have a pronounced negative effect on how you see yourself and the world, causing you to fall into the trap of self-loathing.
Grief: For many, grief includes self-blame, which can quickly turn into self-hatred. If you find yourself asking “Why couldn’t I be there more?” or “Why didn’t I give more of my time and energy to them when I had the chance?” and becoming very angry in the process, hating yourself could be tied to your grief.
Mental or physical illness: If you struggle with physical or mental health challenges, it’s likely that you’re more often faced with your weaknesses than your strengths. This can skew your view of yourself and your worth towards the negative, which often leads to self-hate.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
— 2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV
Expectations of perfection: The same is true if you grew up in a family, church, or friend group that emphasized a perfectionist mentality. Since no one is perfect, the feeling of failure that comes with perfectionism can lead to blaming and hating yourself, even when your mistakes and weaknesses don’t have serious consequences.
Forgiveness and Acceptance
There’s good news if you are ready to stop hating yourself. You don’t have to be perfect. God is full love for you and ready to show mercy toward you, no matter how much you may wrestle with doubt or grapple with your faith. Praying for even a short while each day, or asking others for prayer on that days when it feels like you hate yourself most, are important steps toward freeing yourself from those painful, toxic emotions.
Many mental health professionals agree that there are several key mindset shifts you can build into your daily routine to help you move away from self-loathing.
Self-acceptance: It can be freeing to understand that everyone around you makes mistakes and has limitations. To accept your weaknesses, your shortcomings, or to make peace with things you can’t control makes you human. And that’s a good thing!
Self-love: If the Gospel calls you to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), healthy self-love must be part of living a joyful life and fulfilling our purpose. You can love yourself in a way that isn’t self-centered and that better equips you to relate to and care for others.
Self-forgiveness: A lot will change when you’re able to forgive yourself for past failures and mistakes. There may be lasting consequences for some of our choices, but those are difficult enough. There’s no reason to heap additional punishment on yourself.
If kindness toward yourself still seems impossible, our team of experts and mentors is here to listen and help, without judgement. You can forgive yourself, love yourself, and accept yourself more fully than you thought possible.