“You can’t do anything right.”
“You’re not good enough.”
Hearing negative comments like these never feels good, but what happens when they’re coming from yourself, the critic you can’t get away from?
Everyone self loathes at some point in life, to some degree. For some, it’s rare and infrequent, and for others, it’s so constant that it gets in the way of reaching goals, socializing, building and maintaining relationships, and pretty much every other aspect of life.
Even the more rare and infrequent self-loathing can ruin entire days or weeks, so whether it’s a sometimes or an all the time thing, how do you stop self-loathing?
Signs of Self-Loathing
If you’re here, you probably either know or think that you have self-loathing tendencies. If you found this page accidentally, you might be thinking “I’m amazing, what’s all this about “everyone self-loathes sometimes”?”
While you probably are amazing, sometimes the signs of self-loathing aren’t as obvious as you’d think. Sure there are the obvious things like literally hating yourself and always being hard on yourself, but these less obvious signs can point to self-loathing too:
- Being a people pleaser
- Constantly apologizing for every little thing (maybe over and over again)
- Setting expectations too low
- Motivating yourself with tough love
- Using harsh self-talk
- Focusing most on what goes wrong and on the negative
- Turning feelings into facts (i.e., “I feel like a failure” turns into “I am a failure”)
- Making all or nothing statements (i.e., If I mess up this project, I’ll lose my job and never move up in my career)
If any of these signs sound familiar, it’s okay, you’re not alone and here’s how you can turn self-loathing into self-compassion:
1. Target Your Triggers
There are many causes of self-loathing. Self-loathing can be caused by the traumatic experience of someone in your life consistently putting you down, especially a parent when you were a child. It can also be caused by social comparison, big life changes, setbacks, and sometimes just the way some brains are wired.
Figuring out the root of your self-loathing is one of the ultimate ways to overcome it, and one method that helps is journaling.
Journaling allows you to identify problems, fears, and concerns and helps determine what triggers these issues. Plus, journaling has other benefits, like reducing anxiety and depression.
Every night before bed, reflect on your day, and think about the times when you started self-loathing. What time was it? What were you doing? Who were you with? Once you have a better understanding of what your triggers are, you can pick the best coping methods.
2. Talk to Yourself How You Talk to People You Love
We tend to treat our friends, lovers, and family members with a lot more compassion than we treat ourselves with. But that’s not the only option.
Next time you start being hard on yourself, stop, take a deep breath, and respond to yourself how you would respond to someone you love.
If a friend, lover, or family member came to you and told you they just lost their job and feel like a total failure, you most likely wouldn’t respond with “Yeah, you’re a total failure.”
Instead, you’d give them some compassionate (and real advice) about how it’s not the end of the world, how there’s a better job out there for them, and that you believe they’ll be a great success.
Practice this same compassion with yourself, and you’ll start feeling better.
3. Practice Gratitude
There are so many benefits associated with practicing gratitude, and one of them is that it can increase self-esteem.
Even if it might not feel like it at the moment, you have so much to be grateful for. Focusing on those positive things instead of what you hate about yourself is an easy switch that can make a big difference.
This month, I’m planning to journal about two things (or more) I’m grateful for every day, and I extend this challenge to you.
But let’s put a twist on it, one of these things has to be about you. These can be big-picture items like being grateful for how well you learn new things or more trivial ones like how awesome your hair looks today.
More reading: 6 Ways to Express Gratitude Every Day
4. Sit Out on the Comparison Game
Social media, when used well, can have many benefits. But when you start making comparisons, it can lead to so many adverse effects, like depression and reduced self-esteem.
This survey shows that 60% of social media users found that it impacted their self-esteem negatively. Sound familiar?
It’s so easy to log onto social media platforms, like Instagram, and scroll through hundreds of picture-perfect moments, and start to think about how much less you like your own life.
But the thing is, social media is a highlight reel, not reality.
And even with the rare moments when something you feel envious about is real, you still shouldn’t compare yourself to it.
You always hear about how you shouldn’t compare yourself to others because everyone has different circumstances, privileges, and is at various points on their path.
That’s all true, but the other day I read a quote that reminded me how useless comparison can be – even if someone’s situation isn’t that different from yours.
It’s a bit silly, but a lot true. I have no idea who said it, but it goes like this “Popcorn kernels are prepared in the same pot, under the same heat, in the same oil, but they don’t pop at the same time.”
Okay, I know you probably don’t make popcorn on the stove, but you get the point.
5. Give to Others
Self-loathing is often a result of not finding enough value in yourself, and giving to others is a great way to feel more valuable. Research backs this up, showing that giving to others reduces stress and negative feelings, boosts self-esteem, and more.
So when you’re feeling negatively about yourself, do something for someone else.
Volunteer, donate to a charity, help your parents or friends with something, let the stranger in line with a couple of items go ahead of you.
The simplest acts of kindness can make us feel so much better about ourselves and put some love out into the world too.
6. Talk to Someone Else
With practice, talking to yourself more compassionately will become a habit. But if you find it challenging at first, or if you need some extra love, speak to someone else about what’s causing your self-loathing.
To be honest, I was not feeling so great about myself this morning. I called my boyfriend and started listing a bunch of negative things about myself and how I was feeling.
He reminded me that I was one of the greatest, smartest, and most capable people he’s ever known and that all the things I was feeling down about could be solved.
I’ll admit, at the very moment, this didn’t make me feel any better. But a little later, all the negativity I was feeling turned into gratitude for having someone in my life who would say such nice things about me.
I also felt motivated to live up to his thoughts about me, which helped push me out of self-loathing and into taking action.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend or family member, there are other options too. For instance, Talkspace is a cool text therapy service that lets you talk to licensed therapists over video chats or text messaging.
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7. Change the Things You Can
Zen masters from all over the world have been telling us for ages that peace and happiness come from within. While I think that holds a lot of truth, I also believe that we can be a product of our environments.
If you find yourself self-loathing because you are in a place that doesn’t align with you, or are surrounded by negative people, or are in a job that doesn’t give you what you need, then it’s time to make a change.
I know this is one of the hardest things to do, but often the best things in life are the most challenging and scariest.
Make a list of the things in your life that you aren’t happy about, identify what you can change, and make small moves toward those changes every single day.
Maybe you can’t move, or avoid certain people, or switch your job right away, but you can start.
If you don’t love where you live, start saving up and researching places you can move to. In the meantime, try to find a space near where you live that you enjoy, whether it’s a park or a coffee shop and spend more time there. You can also try redecorating your home and turning it into your favorite place.
If there are negative people in your life that you can’t avoid, like family, then try to at least break up your time with them or talk to them about their behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable.
If your job makes you feel like you’re stuck, look for more. Take that course that will help you land a better job. Put some more time into your side hustle. Dedicate just 30 minutes a day to applying for other jobs.
You Are Good Enough: The Key to Stop Self Loathing
A big trigger of self-loathing is a perfectionist mindset. This might mean needing to always perform perfectly at work, or it can be wanting to be the perfect person who never gets angry or stressed out or critical.
But that’s just not human nature.
Sometimes good enough is all you need, and you are always good enough.