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Why Do I Hate Myself?

Zoe Mittman, LSW

Why do I hate myself? As a psychotherapist, self-hatred is a common topic of conversation. The truth is there is simply not one answer. There are a multitude of reasons that you may feel this way, and I am going to share with you some of the most common reasons, as well as tools to cope with those emotions and lean into self-compassion. Before we get started, if you struggle with feelings of self-hatred and are looking for help, contact our team at Symmetry Counseling today to connect with a licensed therapist who can give you the help you deserve.

  • Childhood trauma: If you grew up in a dysfunctional household and were neglected or abused, then you might have developed self-hatred tendencies. This is because you may have internalized feelings of unworthiness. No matter how hard you tried to excel, your accomplishments may have gone unnoticed, and maybe you were even scolded. Childhood is a critical time of development, and studies show that trauma impacts brain functioning. You may have been constantly hypervigilant of your surroundings and protected yourself by shutting down (also known as the freeze response). That may have served you in those moments. It may have allowed you to feel less pain and disconnected. That may look like avoidance, sleeping too much, isolation, and zoning out in adulthood. These coping mechanisms protected you once but are not serving you today.
    • Tip: Ground yourself in the present moment. Look around you. Engage your five senses. What are five things you can see? Four things you can hear? Three things you can touch? Two things you can smell? One thing you can taste? This method could help you stay present and not let your mind spiral out of control. 
  • Inner dialogue: Pay attention to what you’re telling yourself. Do you look in the mirror and automatically say, “I look gross today” or “I hate my hair”? If so, then you may be extremely self-critical. Your mind might focus on negative thoughts and filter out positive or neutral thoughts.
    • Tip: You do not have to love yourself. By all means, that is wonderful if you do, but the truth is, it is quite difficult to go from self-hatred to self-love. I encourage you to lean into self-acceptance. That looks like acknowledging what your body does for you. What is the function of your heart? What is the function of your eyes? How amazing that your heart keeps blood pumping throughout your body and your eyes allow you to see. I encourage you to bring awareness to your thoughts. How are they serving you? Are they protecting you from something? Are they preventing you from certain feelings or experiences? 
  • Overgeneralization: Have you ever received a poor grade on an exam and told yourself, “I’m such a bad student. I’m so dumb”? If that’s the case, then you may be caught in the thinking trap called overgeneralizing. You may also be labeling yourself in unhelpful ways. If you received an amazing grade on an exam, do you tell yourself, “I’m so smart”? With self-hatred, clients tend to put more emphasis on the perceived negative events to define who they are.
    • Tip: You are you. You are not your actions. You are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings. You are simply a person who behaves in a certain way and has thoughts and feelings. Using the example above, you are just a person who received an undesirable grade on an exam one day and an amazing grade on an exam another day. Human beings have flaws. You cannot be perfect. That mindset just sets you up for failure. I encourage you to focus on one thing you are proud of yourself for each day.
  • Toxic relationships: If you have experienced abuse, neglect, or manipulation from a partner, you may be experiencing self-blame and guilt. You may feel like what happened was your fault. You may be having a hard time holding your partner accountable for their actions. You may be questioning the truth. Please know that you are not alone.
    • Tip: Work with a therapist to process the relationship trauma. This can be tremendously powerful as it can empower you to practice self-forgiveness and compassion. You can learn to trust yourself again and build trust in others.

Understanding and overcoming self-hatred is a journey that requires self-compassion and support. At Symmetry Counseling, we’re here to help you on this path of healing and self-acceptance. Reach out to our experienced therapists today and take the first step towards a healthier, more loving relationship with yourself. You deserve it.

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