It’s hard to avoid comparing yourself to others. We all do it from time to time — at work, at school, with friends, on social media.
But this act of constantly evaluating how you measure up can have a big impact on your mental health and how you see yourself.
A simple “I’ll never look like Marissa,” can quickly spiral into “I’ll never be good enough for anyone.”
Before you know it, just looking at yourself in the mirror can trigger thoughts of self-hatred and frustration. These feelings can be particularly distressing if you already live with a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression.
find help now
If you’re considering suicide or have thoughts of harming yourself, you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
The 24/7 hotline will connect you with mental health resources in your area. Trained specialists can also help you find your state’s resources for treatment if you don’t have health insurance.
If you’re unsure if you’re experiencing self-hatred, you can check for a few of the common symptoms:
- All or nothing statements. You see your life as a list of ultimatums, most of them resulting in catastrophe. For example, “If I fail this exam, I’ll flunk out of college and be a total loser.”
- Only focusing on the negative. It doesn’t matter how good your day was — sunshine, ice cream, puppies — all you can think about is what went wrong.
- Believing a feeling is a fact. Instead of “I feel like a failure,” you think, “I am a failure.”
- Low self-esteem. You don’t feel like you’re good enough to be around friends and family, to apply for new jobs, or to put yourself out there for new opportunities.
If this all sounds familiar, don’t panic. Things might feel overwhelming right now, but trust us: You are worthy of love, especially from yourself.
Read on for some tips to get you started on the road to self-love.
The first step to addressing any problem is understanding its root.
If you’re battling a severe bout of self-hatred, it can be helpful to sit with that feeling and try to identify where it came from. You don’t live in a vacuum, so consider what could have prompted these feelings.
You’ve heard it a million times, but journaling can really help here. Try sitting down at the end of the day and walk through your day mentally. Try to jot down some notes about:
- what you did
- how you felt during different activities
- who you were with throughout the day
If you don’t process best by writing, you can record short videos or voice memos for yourself on your phone. You can also simply reflect for a few moments on the events of the day.
Regardless of how you go about unpacking your day, try to keep an eye out for any common threads or patterns that might help you identify what triggers your negative thoughts.
Once you’ve identified some of your triggers, you can work on coming up with ways to avoid or minimize them. There are some triggers you might not be able to avoid, so it’s helpful to learn the tools to work through them.
Sometimes self-hatred pops up when you aren’t in a good place to journal or reflect. When this happens, try having an internal conversation with yourself.
For example, if you think, “I hate myself,” then it can be helpful to immediately ask, “Why?” If the answer is, “I look ugly in this dress,” or “I really messed up that meeting,” then try challenging that thought as well.
Say to yourself, “That’s not true.” Then think of reasons this negative thought is wrong.
Standing up to your own thoughts can feel daunting. If that’s the case, try imagining a separate identify to combat your thoughts. Maybe they’re a mix of all your favorite superheroes from childhood or a best friend. Imagine them coming in and stopping those negative or challenging those negative thoughts.
Don’t be discouraged if the positive side of things doesn’t win. Simply challenging these negative thoughts helps to reinforce the idea that self-hatred isn’t a fact or undeniable truth — it’s an emotion.
Self-hatred often comes in a moment when you don’t have compassion for yourself. If you have a period where you’re feeling good, try to write out a list of what you love about yourself.
If you can’t think of anything, don’t panic. Love is a strong emotion that’s hard to feel toward yourself in a low point. If it’s easier, try to think of things you simply like or don’t hate about yourself.
Maybe you take excellent care of your pet or always know just what to bring to a potluck.
Keep this list where you’ll see it every day. When the self-hatred thoughts come, stop, take a breath, and say out loud one of the items from your list.
Reframing is a therapy technique that can be used to address negative thoughts and self-hatred. It’s usually done by simply shifting your thoughts to a slightly different perspective.
It might involve thinking upsides of a bad situation or considering a frustration in a new light. However you decide to try it, reframing is about training your brain to find and focus on the positive.
For example, instead of saying, “I’m so bad at work presentations,” you could reframe the statement to, “I don’t feel like I did well in my presentation today.”
Yes, it’s a small change. But you’re taking an all-or-nothing statement and reframing it as a single instance.
This helps the negativity not feel so overwhelming or permanent. After all, messing up one work presentation is only one instance — and it means you can do better next time.
The next time you feel like saying, “I hate myself,” try to think of a small way you can reframe that statement to be more manageable and specific.
Self-hatred can make you want to isolate. You might feel like you don’t deserve to be around your friends or family. Or you might feel like no one even wants to be around you.
While withdrawing from social situations may seem like the best action according to our negative self-talk, studies have shown this isn’t such a good idea.
Connecting with others is a huge part of our mental well-being because social interaction helps us to feel better about ourselves. It creates an environment in which we feel valued and cared for.
The best way to combat these negative thoughts is to spend time with our loved ones, whether that’s a friend, family member, or partner. Go for a coffee, see a movie together, or simply visit while taking a walk together.
Social interaction can help you feel recharged and valued.
Don’t have anyone to reach out to? Consider talking to others dealing with similar issues online. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has an online support group for people dealing with a range of issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness can also help you find a group in your area.
This may be the hardest item on the list, but it’s perhaps the most helpful.
Self-compassion is different from self-love. It means accepting your negative thoughts, mistakes, and failures, and understanding them as messy human moments.
It means forgiving yourself in the same way you’d forgive a loved one for snapping at you in a moment of frustration.
The next time you find yourself spiraling down the self-hatred rabbit hole, try to cut yourself some slack. Acknowledge that you aren’t feeling great and remind yourself that’s okay.
Dwelling on certain actions you’ve taken that you aren’t proud of? Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Those actions don’t have to define you.
Of course, self-compassion doesn’t happen overnight. But studies have shown that, much like reframing or meditation, self-compassion is a trainable skill.
Remember: You’re never alone in your mental health journey. Everyone has been where you are at one point or another, and most need a little help to get through.
It’s a good idea to practice the items on this list with the help of a trusted mental health professional. There’s no shame in asking for help. In fact, it’s the best way to learn how to manage your self-hatred and negative self-talk.
How to find a therapist
Finding a therapist can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by asking yourself a few basic questions:
- What issues do you want to address? These can be specific or vague.
- Are there any specific traits you’d like in a therapist? For example, are you more comfortable with someone who shares your gender?
- How much can you realistically afford to spend per session? Do you want someone who offers sliding-scale prices or payment plans?
- Where will therapy fit into your schedule? Do you need a therapist who can see you on a specific day of the week? Or someone who has nighttime sessions?
Next, start making a list of therapists in your area. If you live in the U.S., head over to the American Psychological Association’s therapist locator.
Concerned about the cost? Our guide to affordable therapy can help.
At the end of the day, learning how to go from, “I hate myself,” to “I will do better tomorrow,” is one of the most beneficial life skills you can have.
It won’t come easily, but it will eventually be in your toolbox, preparing you for whatever else life puts in your path.