Hate seeps into our minds, and when left unchecked, it can take over our lives

Hate is a mix of many emotions – anger, fear, pain, sadness – all fused together.

When hate is directed outward, we may tense up, speak in a sharp tone, yell, or resort to physical acts of aggression or violence.

But there is another form of hate that we don’t often talk about, despite its terrible harm – hate that is directed inward.

This is the kind of hate I know all too well.

My journey with self-hate started with being bullied in elementary and secondary school. Over time, it evolved into frustrations stemming from loneliness, negative body image, perfectionism, and expecting to have a clear sense of purpose in life.

When I made a mistake or things didn’t work out as I hoped, I would automatically think “I’m such a fucking idiot”, “I’m useless”, or “I don’t like myself at all”.

I felt like I deserved to be punished, so I hurt myself by hating myself.

Since I saw them as ‘just thoughts’, I didn’t share them with anyone or even consider that it was unhealthy to hate myself so much. But these thoughts formed the basis for depression in my early twenties, shifting to fantasies about escaping from life, to hopes of dying, to more active suicidal thinking.

In my early twenties, this self-hate played a significant role in triggering and worsening a period of severe depression that lasted for several months – which I was fortunate to survive.

I hope reading and incorporating the tips here can help you on your own journey toward self-acceptance.

10 Ways I Stopped Hating Myself

None of us are born hating ourselves – we learn how to do it, which means it’s something we can unlearn.

When our minds are free of self-hate, the world is a much kinder place where we can simply enjoy being.

As you work through the tips below, you will run into setbacks. Remind yourself that you too can be free from these thoughts. Be patient with your progress.

1. Acknowledge Self-Loathing

Once you begin to recognize signs that you hate yourself, you can start to work on them. Acknowledging self-hate is the first step toward liberating ourselves from its grip – by reading this article you are already on your way.

One pivotal realization for me was recognizing that, in a disturbing way, I enjoyed hurting myself with these thoughts. It gave me a sense of control when I felt I had no control in any other aspect of my life.

Once I was able to acknowledge these self-destructive tendencies, I was able to start breaking free from cycles of self-hate and rumination.

2. Forgive Yourself

Often, there are no clear reasons why hurtful things happen to us, or why we don’t get what we want or the things we feel we deserve.

Whenever things didn’t go as I hoped, I believed it must be because there’s something inherently wrong with me.

I would often have thoughts like:

  • ‘I should have known better’
  • ‘I should have done something different’
  • ‘Why didn’t I see this fucking coming’

When we are the subject of our own resentment, we can quickly become the scapegoat for everything that feels wrong in our lives.

 We turn ourselves into an object of ridicule and reduce ourselves to an obstacle standing between ourselves and happiness.

The easiest person to blame is the one we’re always around, and that’s ourselves. We need to forgive ourselves for falling into these traps.

3. Accept Who You Are

Whoever we are, we need to accept and not judge ourselves based on perceived or real expectations of friends, family or society.

When I joined HeadsUpGuys in 2014, I was deeply insecure about my fitness, attractiveness, confidence, and financial future. Again, I saw my struggles as evidence of something that was fundamentally wrong with me.

Understanding how these feelings were tied to stereotypes of ‘manhood’ helped me to let go of them. I realized I was judging myself by unrealistic standards—having to be strong, confident, and a provider, all while never showing ‘weakness’.

We all have limitations and we all will make mistakes. It takes time to accept that this is ok and to recognize what we can realistically change. For me, progress was slow, but being true to myself and recognizing my inherent self-worth was crucial.

Instead of aiming for ‘self-love’, which can be difficult when starting from such a negative headspace, start with self-acceptance.

4. “Treat yourself like you would treat a friend”

Building on the idea of self-acceptance, imagine meeting someone who has experienced the same pains, fears, and past as you. Would you hate them or extend a helping hand?

Learning to be kind to myself was a major step. Instead of berating myself for every mistake or perceived flaw, I started treating myself with the kindness and compassion that I would offer a friend.

Even today, simply reminding myself to “treat myself like I would a friend” helps me stop negative thoughts about myself. It allows me to step back, recognize how harshly I’m judging myself, then let those thoughts go and return to whatever I am doing.

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

In an age of social media, we’re constantly bombarded with images of other people’s adventures and success. However, we rarely see the struggles, failures, and effort it takes to reach these achievements.

Even outside of social media, comparing ourselves to others isn’t helpful. Everyone’s life is unique, with its own set of challenges. Other people’s achievements can inspire and motivate us, but they don’t need to make us feel worse about ourselves.

When we share something positive on social media or tell someone about a success, our intention likely isn’t to make others feel bad. Similarly, try not to let others’ successes contribute to feelings of inadequacy.

6. Don’t Place Your Self-Worth in Someone Else’s Control

When we place our self-worth in others’ hands, we allow them to control how we view ourselves, leaving us vulnerable to their moods and opinions. If their opinions of us change, we lack a solid foundation of self-worth to stand on.

I’ve long known that I rely too much on others for validation, but recently, I’ve been improving at recognizing my own self-worth. I now try to acknowledge my accomplishments and positive personal qualities without seeking external approval.

One helpful exercise is to imagine writing a resume for yourself. What qualities do you possess? What achievements have you made? Be proud of who you are and what you’ve done. This is the way we need to think about ourselves.

Cultivating inner strength and resilience will enable us to tackle life’s challenges without being so easily thrown off course.

7. Challenge the Generality of Your Self-Hate

This is a helpful technique that shifts more generalized and abstract self-hate to something much more specific and far less overwhelming.

Here are a few examples below:

General Self-Hate More Specific Thoughts and Feelings That Give Us Something to Work On
‘I’m worthless’ ‘Just because I don’t have a job doesn’t mean I am worthless. I still contribute to others’ lives in many ways.’
‘I hate myself’ ‘I hate how I feel right now after finding out my date was canceled.’
‘I will always be a failure’ ‘I may have failed to finish things on time, but I am not a failure as a person. I can do better next time, and it’s not a big deal anyways.’

Once we identify specific things we feel hate about, we can channel our energy into areas we can improve.

For example, if we made a mistake at work, it might be something we can practice and get better at. Or if we feel bad about a date being canceled, we can remind ourselves that there may be many reasons why they canceled, most of which likely have little to do with us.

The process is similar to what’s outlined in our Rewiring Negative Thoughts Course (if you haven’t read about or studied negative thinking patterns, I highly recommend it).

8.  Learn to Let Go

If you can’t pinpoint the source of your self-hate (or even when you can), sometimes the best approach is to simply let it go. Hate is like a fire – it needs air and fuel to burn. What fuels hate is the time we spend with negative thoughts and emotions.

Without our constant focus and negative energy, self-hate will eventually die out.

Our Mindfulness for Men course can help you to develop these skills so you can notice what self-hate feels like in your body and step back from it quicker.

9. Celebrate the Small Steps

Breaking free from self-hate is a journey that takes time and patience. Along the way, it’s crucial to celebrate small victories to maintain momentum and motivation.

Whether it’s something as seemingly mundane as getting out of bed or as significant as recognizing when we’re caught in a cycle of self-hate, each step is worth acknowledging. Even when it takes us a few minutes or hours to notice that our thoughts have turned negative, the key is that we’re becoming more aware—it’s a process, and we’ll improve with time.

As you go through this process, take the time to do something kind for yourself, whether it’s indulging in a hobby you enjoy or treating yourself to a favourite meal. These acts of self-kindness not only nurture your well-being but also serve as reminders of your self-worth.

As you navigate the path of self-discovery and growth, remember to go easy on yourself and celebrate the efforts you make toward progress. If we’ve been having lots of hateful thoughts about ourselves for a while, it’s going to take time to break these habits, so give yourself that time.

10. Why Do I Hate Myself? Explore Where Your Self-Hatred Comes From

When our thoughts and mood get darker, we can find almost any reason to hate ourselves.

Whatever the reason(s) behind our thoughts, understanding where our hate is coming from is essential to releasing it.

 Below are some common sources of self-hate. Use these to help reflect on what’s really behind your own feelings.

 Things that happened in the past

  • Past traumatic experiences (especially when tied to guilt, shame, or feeling helpless or worthless)
  • Painful childhood memories, like abuse, neglect, or bullying
  • Past mistakes or regrets we can’t let go of

Things happening right now

  • Taking criticism personally
  • Feeling jealous or constantly comparing yourself to others or societal expectations
  • Relying heavily on approval from others
  • Internalized stigma (mental health, expectations of ‘being a man’, other health issues, internalized homophobia, etc)
  • Feeling out of place and not fitting in
  • Current negative environments, situations, or experiences (e.g., abuse, neglect, bullying, or lack of affection)
  • Mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, personality disorders, or body image issues) that can feed into these thoughts

Anticipating negative things in the future

  • Anticipating ‘failures’ or mistakes
  • Projecting your current negative emotional state into the future

Negative thinking patterns

  • Using common cognitive distortions like:
    • All-or-nothing thinking
    • Perfectionism
    • ‘Shoulds’ and ‘musts’
  • Internal criticism that is rooted in unrealistic expectations
  • A consistently cynical or pessimistic viewpoint
  • Self-doubt or feeling out of place

 It can be difficult to work through these thoughts on your own, so working with a skilled therapist can be extremely helpful (in fact, it can be life-saving). For me, admitting how lonely I was to my therapist and how low my self-worth was, was one key step.

The process of learning to accept and care for myself came after months of severe depression. There was never a quick turning point or an ‘aha’ moment. It was a series of many small, but significant steps, lots of hard work, consistent work with my therapist, and going easy on myself. It took time, but it was worth every second.


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