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The Best Way to Stop Self Loathing

Battling against a self-loathing mindset is one of the biggest struggles a person can face. When you feel as though you’re not good enough to succeed, not good enough for others, or even not good enough to exist, you may start to engage in destructive behaviors. Self-loathing manifests in lots of different ways and it can be subtle to the extent that you’re not aware it’s happening. By learning more about it, you can overcome it.

self loathing

What is self-loathing?

Recognizing that self-loathing is different from self-criticism is important. While self-criticism is a useful tool that allows you to overcome a mistake, self-loathing is hatred of oneself.

Although most people will experience fleeting moments of self-loathing, those who suffer from it chronically find that it underpins their existence. For example, you may constantly set yourself up for disappointment by telling yourself that you’re unlikely to attain your goals. You’ll walk into an interview feeling as though every other candidate stands a better chance than you.

If you self-loathe, you might also use tough love to make your way through life. You’ll tell yourself to snap out of it when you’re down, inform yourself that you’re too unattractive to be loved, and you’ll believe that the reason something has gone wrong is that you’re simply not good enough.

As a self-loathing person, you may reject or be afraid of love. You might steer away from relationships or close friendships because deep down, you believe you’re not capable of maintaining them. You’ll automatically brush compliments off as being insincere, or suspect that the person giving them is doing so through pity.

Inevitably, your self-loathing will amount to envy. You’ll envy the way others have things that you do not, and decide that you’re not capable of achieving what they’ve achieved. Because of this, social media may become a pain point.

Eventually, self-loathing results in a need to escape reality. For this reason, if you’re struggling to escape your self-loathing mindset, you may turn to drugs or alcohol to make life feel temporarily pleasurable.

What causes self-loathing?

Nobody is born with a self-loathing mindset. Because of this, it seems reasonable that those who self-loathe started to do so following a childhood experience . If you regularly became a victim of parental anger as a child, you didn’t have the chance to develop a secure sense of self. Children depend on their parents for security, validation, and reassurance. If you grew up in an environment where your parent was emotionally absent, narcissistic, overly critical, and/or unable to let you be your own person, you may not know how to engage in self-love.

Self-loathing can also arise following an emotionally abusive relationship. Although you’re not as dependant on a partner or spouse as you are a parent, some levels of emotional abuse can cause you to doubt yourself.

In many cases, self-loathing comes as part of a mental health condition such as depression. It can be a worrying and challenging symptom to unpick.

In all cases, self-loathing can have a serious and negative impact on the relationships you have with others. Your underlying lack of self-compassion may cause you to become suspicious of others or overly dependent on them. When relationships fail, it may make your sense of self-hate worse.

The relationship between self-loathing and addictions

When self-loathing reaches the stage where you feel as though there’s a tyrant living in your head, drugs or alcohol may seem like an easy escape. At first, substance abuse may feel like a cushion for your state of mind. Intoxication can numb you to your feelings, but they always return and they’re likely to feel worse after the brief respite.

As you realize that your feelings are still negative, you may start to drink even more or take even more drugs. Your brain and body will adapt rapidly to your substance of choice, resulting in the need to get more of it. As your brain’s reward center begins to depend on drugs and alcohol for you to feel good, breaking the cycle becomes almost impossible and you’ll find that your self-loathing deepens.

When addictions become particularly severe, your low self-esteem will worsen. As a result, you might start to accept the bare minimum in life, and begin to see your addictive state as a part of your punishment for not being worthy of better. Because you’re suffering from self-loathing, you may also feel as though you don’t have what it takes to recover. You may also continue to envy those who live a life free from addiction, and believe they have something that you don’t that allows them to achieve a healthy lifestyle.


Ways you can overcome self-loathing

Although it’s a common saying, it is true that recognizing you have a problem is half the battle. Having insight into your state of mind is a big step toward abandoning it. Overcoming self-loathing requires a combination of conscious lifestyle changes, healthier mental habits, and healthier physical habits.

Loving-kindness meditation

Loving-kindness meditation is a form of meditation where you focus on developing compassion for yourself and others. At first, you’ll start with developing compassion for yourself. Most guided sessions focus on techniques such as meditating on the thought that you deserve happiness, love, and peace. Then you’ll do the same for someone you care about (such as a spouse), someone you’re apathetic about (maybe a colleague you don't see often), and then someone you dislike.

The aim of loving-kindness meditation is to improve your ability to show yourself kindness. It’s also a way to reduce the amount of envy you feel toward those who you feel have a better life than you do. You may find it useful to start a guided series at home and begin with the easier elements. Alternatively, you can try using a teacher who is local to you.

Consider seeking professional help

If your self-loathing is present because of past trauma, you may find that unraveling this alone simply isn’t possible. As such, you should consider seeking professional help.

Talking to a counselor who specializes in your area of trauma is a reliable way to develop better coping mechanisms. Although revisiting your past may feel challenging at first, gaining a better understanding of how it influences your present will help you move forward.

Counselors are also adept at helping you see the good in yourself. They’ll use techniques that encourage you to turn away from the idea that you’re a bad and undeserving person, instead moving toward the idea that you’re an accomplished individual who can enjoy life. If you’re currently abusing drugs or alcohol to escape self-loathing, your counselor can help you through the mental strains of the withdrawal process.

Start challenging your inner critic

Your inner critic is sometimes a useful tool. For example, if your inner critic tells you that you really shouldn’t eat a bag of chips before bedtime, it’s helping you out. However, if you’re living in a state of self-loathing, your inner critic becomes more like a constant voice of hatred. It may be telling you the following:

  • That there’s no point in aiming for something because you’ll never get it.
  • That you haven’t done a great job at something because didn't achieve absolute perfection.
  • That you haven’t got a good enough personality to encourage people to be your friend.
  • That your partner’s playful comment is something you should be upset over.

When your inner critic continues to act unchallenged, life becomes quite miserable. That’s why you need to start challenging your inner critic using the following tactics:

  • Recognize when it happens. If you think something negative about yourself, ask yourself whether you’d feel okay saying those things to a friend?
  • Reassure yourself that your thoughts aren’t always real. They’re influenced by your opinions and past experiences.
  • Set a limit for how long you can be negative each day. Try allocating a period where you can sit and write everything down, then challenge negative thoughts for the rest of the day.
  • Dig deeper into the negative thoughts you’re having. For example, if you tell yourself you can’t really attend a party without drinking because you’re not interesting, look for evidence that you are interesting.
  • Ask yourself whether the incident that has upset you will be important in five or 10 years.
  • Try to frame your sources of upset and your problems alongside what’s happening in the world on a larger scale.

Try creating thought ladders

Thought ladders allow you to challenge your negative thoughts and turn them into something more realistic. At the bottom rung of the ladder, you will have your negative thought. At the top, you write down a thought that you would rather have. On the three or four rungs in-between, you have neutral or believable thoughts that you build your way up through.

For example, let’s say your negative thought is “I’m not talented.” Potentially, your ideal thought would be “I’m very talented.” Jumping from the first thought to the second is borderline impossible. However, you could place the following neutral and believable thoughts on the rungs in between:

  • I am open to the idea that I am talented.
  • I can accept that I may have talents.
  • I am good at some things.
  • I am talented at these things…

Every time you think a negative thought such as “I’m not talented,” switch it to “I am open to the idea that I am talented.” When that becomes a believable thought, make your way further up the ladder until you reach your target thought.

Thought ladders can take a while and you should never rush the process. Even moving onto a neutral thought is a whole world better than constant negative self-talk.


Say your negative thoughts out loud or write them down

Thoughts always seem more plausible when they’re stored in your brain. Once you say them out loud, they lose this plausibility.

If you have a friend or family member who you can trust, agree to write the thoughts down and send them to them. Sometimes you may only get as far as writing the thoughts down. Attempting to make someone else see the thoughts you’re having can expose them for how ridiculous they truly are.

Start exercising to balance your mind

Exercise and self-loathing may have a complicated relationship. There’s a risk that you’ll exercise out of self-hate. For example, you may exercise because you believe that you need to sweat yourself into a better body and that your current shape isn’t good enough.

If you approach exercise in a different way, it can become one of the most useful acts of self-love that you have. Tell yourself that you’re exercising because your heart and muscles deserve the extra strength. Start each class or workout with the mindset that you’re exercising because you love yourself enough to secure a healthier future.

In addition to having a more positive experience with exercise, you’ll get all the neurological benefits. As your mind floods with positive neurotransmitters, you’ll achieve a happier state.

Make healthier lifestyle choices

If you’re aware that you’re depending on drugs or alcohol to escape self-loathing, you should seek help to create healthier lifestyle choices. Seeking professional help to avoid the continuation of your addiction comes with the following benefits:

  • You’ll receive physical support during your detox, which can make the experience safer and less distressing.
  • You’ll enjoy counseling that helps you develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  • You may be able to enter a residential setting where you receive support around the clock.
  • You can transition using an outpatient program that helps you remain at home and in your community.

As you move through your treatment, you’ll learn how to make healthier lifestyle choices. Many programs encourage participants to learn about nourishing their minds and bodies in a nurturing way. As you begin to live a life free from your addiction, the path to challenging self-loathing will become clearer.

At Clean and Sober Recovery, we help those who suffer from self-loathing and have turned to alcohol or drugs to numb their pain. If you’re ready to begin a life of self-compassion, contact us.

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