Why Do I Hate Myself?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I grew up in a fairly loving, supportive environment, and I don’t understand why I’m so filled with self-loathing. I hate my appearance, my mannerisms, my personality—everything. Most of the time I don’t understand why someone would want to date me or even be my friend.

A bit about me: My parents got divorced when I was young, but it wasn’t the messy, hateful kind I sometimes read about. They both loved me and I remember spending equal time with both of them. We’d go on trips and I remember being happy. I’ve had friends all my life, and though I got teased a bit in school (like I think all kids do at times), I wasn’t tortured by bullies or scared to go to school.

But around the time I got to high school all of my jokes started being at my own expense, and my friends would get tired of my self-deprecating humor. A couple of people have told me it makes me difficult to be around—but, of course, that just makes me hate myself even more.

I’m nearing my 40s and am single, and would like to find a partner at some point, though I’m not sure I deserve it. Everything I see keeps saying, “You have to love yourself first,” and, “No one will love you unless you love yourself.” Is that true? I want to like myself, but I have no idea where to start. Any suggestions? —Accidentally in Loathe

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Dear Accidentally,

To some extent, yes, it is true that until you love yourself, you are unlikely to be able to receive love fully from another. It doesn’t mean others won’t love you; it means you might not be able to experience their love, might question their love, and ultimately may push their love away.

It sounds as if you have been struggling with this for a very long time, and I wonder if you have explored counseling as a way to learn more about where these feelings of self-loathing and dissatisfaction come from and how to combat them. If you haven’t tried counseling yet, I strongly recommend that you do so.

Those messages you’ve been giving yourself (and those around you) can change. It begins with exploring the radical notion that we all are worthy of love, even when we don’t feel worthy.

From your description, it sounds as if your self-deprecating humor may have started out as a bit of a defense mechanism in high school. It’s not uncommon to use jokes at our own expense to defend ourselves from feelings of insecurity and fears of rejection. A common thought is that if we can name our faults ourselves, nobody else has ammunition to use against us, and the sting of another’s insult will somehow be less painful. What often happens is this defense mechanism becomes a habit. Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We downplay our self-worth until we cease to believe we have any.

The good news is habits can be unlearned. Those messages you’ve been giving yourself (and those around you) can change. It begins with exploring the radical notion that we all are worthy of love, even when we don’t feel worthy. It begins with finding the things about ourselves that we do appreciate (even if they are small). Often, when I ask people in therapy to share their strengths, they struggle to identify any. When I rephrase and ask what their loved ones would identify, they are able to list several. Starting to see your gifts and strengths through the eyes of others can be a place to begin as you move toward eventually claiming your own value and self-worth.

Best of luck,

Erika

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
  • 10 comments
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  • Lottie

    Lottie

    July 15th, 2016 at 9:55 AM

    I am so sorry that you have all of this loathing and self doubt. That is sad because life really can be a beautiful thing but I think that until you see all of that in yourself you will never be able to fully appreciate the other beauty that surrounds and hopefully will one day fill you.
    I wish you nothing but the best, but I urge you to get some help, talk to someone who can help you see all of the beauty that really is all around you.

  • Tally

    Tally

    July 18th, 2016 at 11:26 AM

    It makes me think of myself a lot to hear this. I know that I have always had this thing about me that makes me not feel good enough even though I know that my parents raised me better than that. I just never really feel like I am living up tho their expectations even though I know that they would never tell me that or would never even imply that. There is just something in me that always feels like the odd piece of the puzzle if that makes any sense.

  • juan

    juan

    July 19th, 2016 at 2:03 PM

    I always have this feeling that people that feel this way about themselves must have been missing something critical when they were young.

    That doesn’t sound like it was the case in your life, but who knows? Maybe there is something that happened that you don’t remember or you could be trying to protect someone. I don’t know. It is like for me if you have been given this strong foundation about being loved and loving others when you are young then this might not be something that you would struggle with.

  • Matt

    Matt

    May 18th, 2017 at 4:23 PM

    I can relate. I feel like it’s not worth wasting other people’s time. Counselling is a bunch of feel-great, bullsh#t, behaviour rehearsal; sorry Cognitive Psychology, but if you were any good, but people would know about you.

  • Nobody

    Nobody

    March 18th, 2018 at 4:31 PM

    I can relate to the self hating. I was raised in a family who hated EVERYTHING about me! My father left when I was 7 and my mother took out ALL her anger on me. She raised my 3 siblings to hate me! I remember when I was 9 yrs old and I came home with a bad report card. She said, “I know this is a rotten thing for a mother to say, BUT, I can honestly say I hate you!” I died inside that day. I had no grandparents, father, aunts, uncles or cousins. My mother tormented me and raised not just my siblings to hate me, BUT she raised ME to hate me! I’m in my 50’s and have never married and no kids. NO friends or family. I spend EVERY day ALL day alone. EVERY birthday and holiday alone. I’m patiently waiting to die, alone! I already paid off my cremation and it’s private! They just pick up my corpse, refrigerate me, fill out the proper paperwork, cremate me and hopefully, one niece that kinda likes me will pick up my ashes. I’m NOT having a wake or funeral cuz I REFUSE to be humiliated in my death as I am in my life. YES, I see a therapist….. She’s a 31 yr old female and has been a therapist for less than 2 yrs. I did NOT request her, I have no choice but to have her. Ok, enough babbling…… In a nutshell, IF my own parents and siblings have ALWAYS hated me, HOW in God’s name can or could ANYONE else EVER love something as ugly as me? I’ve literally become a burden to the world the last 4 yrs. The older I get, the more I hate myself. ALL I can do is PRAY for God to call me home. But, if I’m right, God hates me too and will NEVER call me to his home…

  • Deb

    Deb

    April 11th, 2018 at 2:35 AM

    Nobody, I relate to you a lot. And yet your pain and anger and loneliness makes me feel very sad. I worry I am headed down that same path as you mainly because I feel that I am isolating myself more and more, and these feelings of self hatred I am ashamed of , and am actually afraid to share with anyone at all.
    I think when you are hurt by people, their actions and words for years on end, it can silence you even to yourself…you know? But inside, you are like a butterfly waiting to show your beautiful wings if just the right person would believe in you and give you the chance. You’re not ugly at all. I hope you succeed in healing somehow and begin taking back your power. I hope you use that power and sensitivity I see in your comments and do something good with it. I am rooting for you! You are not ” nobody”, you are indeed somebody!

  • someone

    someone

    May 24th, 2018 at 2:33 PM

    I HATE MYSELF NOBODY LIKES ME!!!!!! I’M LONELY MY LIFE IS SUCH A MISERABLE ONE!!!!

  • Deb

    Deb

    May 26th, 2018 at 12:39 AM

    Someone,
    Is this the same person that identified as “Nobody” before? If it is, it’s good to see “someone ” in its place.
    I am sure that nobody liking you is not true. It seems that’s how we perceive it though when we don’t feel good about ourselves. Once we go down that path it’s hard to see outside of it.
    I wonder if focusing just on yourself and who you want to be and not thinking about anyone else would help. It can be basic things like “looking good” and smiling everyday. It can be furthered by doing stuff you enjoy like taking a class about something that interests you. In doing that you may feel happier , have something new to talk about. You may even make a friend ,but honestly until you are feeling better I wouldn’t even focus on that. My next thought is doing something you find fufilling like working with animals ( if you like them ) at a shelter where you feel like you support the organization, you feel like you are making a difference, and it makes you feel happier.
    I honestly believe this most people are good and likeable and you just have to be patient , and keep being yourself. If you truly believe there is nothing likeable about you, then change that. Everyday is a new day to make what you want of it. I wish you lots of future happiness!

  • P

    P

    September 8th, 2018 at 7:17 PM

    Hi. I’ve been really depressed…I don’t know why. I have zero contact with friends, because of a certain incident with my family taking my phone away. I’m so lonely…I always get worried that I might be bothering people with my emotions…. I feel like an utter loser who can’t do anything with their life, except for pitying myself. I hate looking at myself in the mirror. All I see is someone so hideous and unlovable. I don’t know why people call me cute or that they would “date me”. Sometimes, I feel like they’re only just saying that jut to easily use me in certain ways. I just… don’t know what to feel or think anymore. I really hate myself… I hated myself for so many years and never once thought I was beautiful. I try to take pictures, but I always rush for a filter, because I always seem to find a flaw in my face when I take it without the filter. I don’t know who I can talk to… Hopefully, I’m not bothering anyone.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    September 9th, 2018 at 9:42 AM

    Dear P,

    I’m sorry to hear you are feeling this way. If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage, http://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area.

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    Kind regards,

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

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