“I hate myself.” “I’m not good enough.” “I fail at everything I do.” “Everyone hates me.” “If I try that, I will just screw it up.”
These are just some of the thoughts you might have if you experience self-hatred, self-loathing, or low self-esteem. Being flooded with thoughts like these can be demoralizing, troubling — and if left unchecked, can lead to serious cases of depression and other mental health issues. The question is, when are thoughts like “I hate myself” a problem, and if they are, what can you do to remedy the situation?
How To Tell If Your Self-Hating Thoughts Are Problematic
Almost all of us have thoughts of self-hatred at one time or another. In a way, having a bit of self-consciousness is a good thing. It means that we are realistic about our own shortcomings. This awareness can contribute to an ability to feel compassion toward others. Self-critique is an important part of growth and maturity as well — realizing that you have room to improve and evolve can prove to be a vital asset.
The problem arises when thoughts like “I hate myself” dominate your thinking. A good litmus test is to ask yourself a few questions:
- “Do my thoughts of self-hatred stop me from reaching my goals or functioning optimally in my life?”
- “Can I ‘talk myself out’ of these thoughts, or do they seem to come into my head without permission?”
- “Am I experiencing heightened feelings of worthlessness, depression, or just a general ‘darkness’ that is tied to these thoughts?”
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it might be time to figure out how to cope better with your thoughts of self-loathing and general negative thinking. The truth is that thoughts like “I hate myself” are just thoughts. They aren’t hard facts about who you are. The problem is that if they begin to take over, you might begin to believe them.
If you can’t separate fact from reality when it comes to your own self-worth — this is when thoughts of self-loathing become a problem. The good news is, however, that the thoughts are not true (I promise!) and you don’t have to live believing they are.
6 Ways To Cope With Self-Hating Thoughts
There are degrees of self-hatred and low self-esteem. Some of us just experience these thoughts and feelings intermittently. For others of us, self-loathing is a constant reality, and one that is hard for us to get a handle on. Whatever the case, no one should feel that they just have to “live with” these feelings.
You deserve to feel better, to experience self-love, compassion, and confidence. It may be hard to believe — especially if you have lived with low self-esteem for a long time — but it is absolutely possible to feel good about yourself, and for those “I hate myself” thoughts to become a thing of the past.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Sometimes moving our thoughts from inside our head onto a different medium is just what we need to release them, and stop them from having quite as much power. Journaling does not require you to be a proficient writer, or even to write in complete sentences! Taking even five minutes a day to “spill” your thoughts out on the page can be therapeutic and can give you a little perspective.
For someone with dark, racing thoughts, the idea of mediating may sound far from relaxing. But contrary to popular belief, meditating doesn’t require you to shut down your thoughts. Rather, it asks you to simply notice them. Becoming more mindful of your thoughts, and then making a conscious choice about how to react to them, whether to ignore them, acknowledge them, or simply breathe through them is a wonderful tool for combating negative thoughts.
3. Reflect on the origins of the thoughts
No one is born thinking self-loathing thoughts about themselves. Usually, if you reflect, you will see that thoughts like “I hate myself” likely came from people in childhood (caretakers, teachers, or other authority figures) who consistently put you down.
Hearing things like “you are worthless,” “you will never achieve anything” or “no one likes you,” can have a profound life-long impact on your self-esteem. Learning to see that these ideas do not come from you can take away some of their power, help you to see that these thoughts are not truths, and that you don’t have to listen to them anymore.
4. Speak to a therapist
Exploring the origins of your self-hatred can be extremely difficult, and for many of us, doing so under the care of a licensed mental health professional is vital. A good therapist can help you uncover the root causes of your low self-esteem.
Perhaps even more importantly, they can help you come up with a plan to cope and heal. It can be hard to take the first step to speak to a therapist, especially if you deal with self-hatred and shame in the first place. But you can be assured that your therapist has heard it all, and will not judge you for your feelings.
If you are entering therapy for the first time, it can be helpful to speak to several therapists before picking one to see. Go with your gut on this: if a therapist makes you feel safe and comfortable, they are probably a good fit. If the idea of venturing out to meet a therapist face-to-face stresses you out, you might consider an online therapist. Talkspace therapists are trained to help with self-esteem issues and will meet you where you are, and at your convenience.
5. Surround yourself with positive people
Going through the process of understanding your feelings of self-loathing may cause you to see how certain people in your life have contributed to your negative thoughts. This may be an uncomfortable realization, but the silver lining is that you have a choice in the matter. You can choose to surround yourself with people who lift you up, value you, and inspire you to be your best self. Having these people in your life — and learning to be that sort of person for others — can combat the negativity, and allow you to lead to a full, happy life.
Have Patience With Yourself, and Seek Help if Needed
It can take a while to let go of all the negativity. Try to practice patience along the journey (so hard, I know). When you are used to doubting yourself at every turn, it can be hard to trust the process. But you can do it. It will take a little effort, and a little faith, but you will get there, and you are so worth it.
Originally published on Talkspace.
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.