Self-Loathing: Meaning, Causes, Effects & How to Deal

self loathing

Self-loathing is characterized by persistent feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and low self-esteem. People may constantly compare themselves to others, focus on the negative and ignore the positive, and believe that they will never be “good enough,” but everyone has worth and value—as well as the ability to cultivate self-love.

What Exactly Is Self-Loathing?

Self-loathing is the constant feeling of disdain for oneself, which can lead to serious conditions such as depression and substance abuse. However, with therapy and various exercises, you can alter your perception of yourself. Everything you need to know is right here.

Self-loathing is similar to self-hate in that it constantly reinforces the notion that you are not good enough. As a result, you may believe that you do not deserve love or that bad things happen to you for a reason.

Self-loathing manifests as recurring negative thoughts that are closely linked to excessive self-criticism. While self-criticism is a healthy part of life, it can begin to overshadow other thought patterns when you are experiencing self-loathing.

If self-loathing persists for an extended period of time, it can lead to more serious conditions such as depression or substance abuse. Similarly, it can lead to violence against others or feelings of inferiority to a lesser extent.

What Motivates Self-Loathing?

Over time, self-hatred develops. It is usually triggered by a combination of factors, such as past trauma, perfectionism, false expectations, social comparisons, and a variety of learned behaviors.


Many people who have extreme self-hatred have had traumatic and emotionally difficult experiences in the past. These experiences are frequently characterized by sexual, physical, or emotional abuse and neglect.

When children are traumatized, they begin to perceive the world and the people around them as dangerous. In an attempt to make sense of their world, they may create a narrative that makes them feel unlovable and unimportant. These hateful statements may have been said to them directly by a parent or other loved one, and they quickly became an all too familiar part of their inner critic.

Unrealistic Expectations

It is natural to want to fit in, be accepted, or do a good job. However, our expectations of ourselves can sometimes be so lofty that they are unattainable by any human. These extraordinary expectations frequently cause us to fall short and feel as if we have failed.

Our inner critic appears in these moments to shame us and remind us of how disappointing we have been. Even if our rational side recognizes that the expectations are unreasonable, our inner critic continues to make self-hating statements.

Efforts to Please Others

We may have learned over time that meeting the expectations of others works well in our efforts to connect with others. Through social experiences, we may learn that when other people are pleased with us, we can be pleased with ourselves. This unhealthy perspective on relationships may even result in significant patterns of dependent behavior.

Nonetheless, some people are devastated when they are unable to meet the needs of others or when they believe they have let someone down. Self-hatred statements imply that when we fail to meet the expectations of others, something is wrong with us; we have failed or we are unworthy of being loved or valued by others.


A perfectionist is often perceived as someone who leaves no room for human error or limitations. They expect themselves (and possibly others) to be perfect at all times and in all situations.

It is important to note that we frequently develop a perfectionist mindset in order to protect ourselves from pain and feelings of disconnection. The belief is that by performing flawlessly, you are somehow preventing yourself from feeling pain. Shame, embarrassment, loneliness, abandonment, ridicule, judgment, and other feelings may accompany this pain.

Social Contrast

While it is natural to observe what others are doing, it can be painful when you place a monetary value on that observation. When you have self-hatred, it is common to engage in what is known as “upward comparison.” This simply means that you have a tendency to notice and value people who perform “better,” while devaluing yourself with statements of self-hatred.


If you were raised by adults who were harshly critical of you, you may have developed low self-esteem as a result of your upbringing. There are other reasons your self-worth may have been harmed during childhood, particularly if you grew up in a volatile or stressful household, had parents who were tense or fought frequently, or were frequently in situations that made you nervous. Adults who were abused or neglected as children may develop a negative inner voice.


Bullying, whether at school, at work, or in a relationship, can have a long-term negative impact on how you perceive yourself. Replaying a bully’s words or actions in your mind can be an indication that you require assistance. You can (and should) work to overcome the abuse you endured, as it may be the source of your low self-esteem.

Environmental Triggers

Environmental cues can transport you back to a previous negative experience. This can sometimes cause an emotional reaction that is out of proportion to what is going on. If you notice this happening on a regular basis, it could be a sign that your self-hatred is contributing to the problem.

Relationships That Aren’t Working

Even in adulthood, difficult relationships can elicit a response that generates a negative inner voice. We often associate bad relationships with romance, but in reality, even a difficult work relationship or friendship can lead to negative self-talk that is difficult to break. When we are told repeatedly that we are something, it becomes easier to believe.

Mental Health Issues

A mental illness, such as major depressive disorder (MDD) or an anxiety disorder, can both contribute to feelings of self-hatred. Depression can cause intense feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and other feelings that you may internalize, eventually making you feel inadequate.

Negative Inner Critic

Your inner critic could be the source of your constant belief that you despise yourself. The more we listen to our inner voice, the stronger it becomes.

The Price of Self-Loathing

Many aspects of daily life are affected and influenced by self-hatred. Self-hatred can make it difficult to make important decisions, take risks, connect with others, and achieve your goals. If you struggle with self-hatred, you may notice its effects in a variety of areas and ways.

Relationship With Self

Self-hatred has a negative impact on both self-concepts (the image you have of yourself) and self-esteem (how you feel about yourself). It’s nearly impossible to see yourself positively when your inner critic is constantly putting you down.

The Working Environment

Because work is often based on performance (behaving a certain way, meeting job expectations, interacting with others), it is understandable that self-hatred can have an impact on your work life. When you feel worthless or incapable, you may be less likely to take on projects or work collaboratively with others. You may harbor resentment toward coworkers or criticize yourself for poor performance.

Social Situations

When you are plagued by constant and relentless negative self-talk and self-loathing, it can be extremely difficult to form and maintain friendships. You may even avoid meeting new people to avoid the pain of criticism, judgment, or abandonment. Alternatively, you may come across as cold or uncaring, which can make it difficult to connect with others.

Family Relationships

Because past social experiences such as abuse and trauma have a significant influence on self-hatred, family dynamics can feel very complicated for someone struggling with self-hatred. You may be in a situation that necessitates contact with someone from your painful past, causing distress and a desire to withdraw in order to avoid painful memories and emotions.

Even if you do not have a traumatic family history, your perfectionist mindset and unrealistic expectations of yourself can prevent you from enjoying family interactions. The pressure to “perform perfectly” in those settings can become too much, preventing you from forming and/or enjoying family connections.

Romantic Relationships

For someone who is self-conscious, romantic relationships can be complicated and perplexing. You may be opposed to the concept of closeness and intimacy.

Even if you want to be close to someone, the fear of someone seeing your perceived flaws, limitations, or lack of worth can be overwhelming and prevent you from having a meaningful relationship. The inner critic is painful enough, but the thought of someone close to you seeing or thinking those things about you can be devastating.


Self-hatred tells us that we are incompetent and will inevitably fail or fall short—and this way of thinking can make goals, desires, and dreams seem distant and impossible. You may observe others and believe they are doing well, while you are plagued by self-critical statements. This way of life is emotionally draining and can lead to a lack of motivation to set goals at all.


Self-loathing and negative self-talk can hijack or paralyze decision-making abilities. When you have a negative perception of yourself, you may be less willing to take risks that will help you grow. You may withdraw from opportunities to connect with others and become trapped in a cycle of self-doubt.

How to Get Rid of Self-Loathing


Putting all of your thoughts on paper in a journal can help you sort them out. Anxiety and self-loathing can be exacerbated by having an overwhelming number of thoughts in your head. You can get to the bottom of self-loathing thoughts by reflecting on your day and examining how certain situations or people may have triggered your emotions.

It is critical to maintain consistency with journaling in order for it to be effective. Only then will you be able to detect a pattern and become aware of how your emotions change over time. Furthermore, research shows that writing about your feelings can help you reduce psychological distress.

Talk Back to Your Inner Critic

In addition to becoming more aware of your emotions, looking at your thoughts in a negative situation can be beneficial. Examine your assumptions. Are they plausible? Do you believe in all-or-nothing thinking? Consider your inner critic to be a bully and try to confront them. Counter your negative thoughts and criticisms with an argument in favor of the opposing viewpoint. If this is difficult for you, imagine what a friend would say to the critical voice in your head and embody that. Regularly practice this.

Practice Self-Compassion and Self-Acceptance

As stated at the beginning of this article, the opposite of self-loathing is self-compassion or self-acceptance. How can you develop these abilities? It all starts with a mental shift. Is it truly the end of the world because of that minor error? Can you be a little gentler on yourself? When you start accepting and loving yourself unconditionally and cultivating positive self-talk, it will gradually become a habit. According to research, compassion-focused therapy can help improve self-esteem, which in turn can help reduce self-loathing.

Consider Your Inner Circle

with whom do you spend the most time? Are your friends fueling your negative self-talk? It is critical to spend time with people who lift you up rather than those who bring you down. It may be difficult to end certain relationships, but it may be beneficial to distance yourself from these toxic relationships while working on strengthening your relationship with yourself and other healthy relationships with others.

Mediation can help you detach from your negative thoughts if you find it difficult to detach yourself from them. This can assist you in separating your identity from your negative thoughts. Although it may be difficult at first, even five minutes per day can be beneficial.

Seek Therapy

While it is possible to shift your mindset on your own, a therapist can be extremely beneficial if you are seeking guidance in your healing journey. Do not be afraid to seek the help of a mental health professional. ​

Exercise Forgiveness

Self-hatred is frequently based on a painful memory or emotion, such as shame or guilt, anger or embarrassment, or a sense of powerlessness. There is no room in that space to forgive ourselves or accept who we are.

Try to stay in the moment and think about how far you’ve come. This may feel strange or unusual at first, but it will gradually help you to reduce self-hatred and gain self-compassion.

Self Loathing FAQs

What causes self-loathing?

A harsh inner critic, painful experiences from your past, terrible relationships, bullying, and other factors can all contribute to self-hatred. Environmental stimuli can also contribute to a profound sense of self-worth. Most significantly, mental health issues may be influencing how you perceive yourself.

Is self-loathing a personality disorder?

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and similar disorders often and painfully suffer self-hatred or self-loathing. However, none of the primary medicines target this condition directly.

How do you deal with feelings of self-loathing?

Recognizing your own abilities can help you overcome self-hatred. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas on your own, consider seeking assistance from others. It is nearly always simpler to see the strengths of others than our own.

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