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Is My Self-Hatred Getting in the Way of Love?

The short answer is: yes! Hating yourself puts you directly at odds with someone who loves you. You each have diametrically opposed points of view about you: your’s being negative and your partner’s being positive. So what can you do to resolve this dilemma? And why does this dilemma exist in the first place?

Let’s answer the second question first by looking into self-hatred and where our negative self-image comes from, and most importantly, why we hold on to it. We develop our identity during our childhood from the different ways that we were viewed, behaviors we imitated, and ways we were treated in our early family environment. Because no childhood can be ideal, in addition to any positive experiences in our upbringing, there were also negative ones. We may have been defined or labeled in ways that were harmful, for example, as “the wild one,” “the lazy one,” or “the shy one.” We may have taken on negative traits of our parents, for example, incorporating our father’s social awkwardness or our mother’s insecurity. Or, we may have been neglected or treated unkindly, for example, by being ignored or punished harshly. All of these can cause a child to develop a negative self-image.

But why do we hold on to it? Simply put: because we’re familiar with it. It’s how we’ve always known ourselves; it’s who we’ve always been. And most significantly, it’s who we’ve always been in our family.  In a way, it’s our connection to our family. It’s as though if we change our old identity, we’re afraid we’ll lose our place in the family. All of this is unconscious, but we get anxious when we start to change our negative identity. And we are very conscious of that anxiety.

A romantic relationship is often threatening to a negative self-image. Some people avoid the threat by choosing a partner who is critical of them; therefore their views are harmonious.  Other people protect their old identity by pushing love away. But, if we are brave and hang in there with someone who loves us, we can come to see ourselves through their eyes. It won’t be easy; we will be very anxious. There will be times when we will want to dismiss our partner or push them away. But if we give them the benefit of our doubt, if we trust that they see something in us that we don’t, we can learn from them. We can change negative ways of seeing ourselves that have been with us for a long time and come to regard ourselves with the same love and respect that our partner does.

In my upcoming book, Daring to Love, I go into more detail about how our negative identity gets in the way of our having love in our life. I explain an internal process, the critical inner voice, that supports the negative identity and how to challenge it and strengthen a positive, more realistic view of yourself.

3 comments

  1. Ive been dealing with depression since I was a very young boy.Alot of emotional abuse.It desroyed my life as far as how I perceive myself and the world.I was married for 28yrs and raised 3 great children.I felt close to my wife but never was in love.I lost her to cancer after 28 yrs of marriage its been four yrs now and I feel like the grieving process is done..I am on disability after 2 suicide attempts.I live alone no friends and am still fighting Depression .I recently met a woman.Things went well for the first 3 months and then started seeing red flags.Shes got a high powered job travels friends social life ect.I told her about my history with depression and she sez she doesnt care she wants to support me and is there for me.Were totally different.Im picking out flaws on her while im really the one with flaws.She sez she wants to spend the rest of her life with me only being together for 6 months.Im confused and am pushing her away.I just started therapy which I have been in before.Talked alot about my childhood but never really got any where.Dont know what to do.Shes the only one that truly cares about me.This artical was very intriguing.

  2. Don’t give up on therapy. It sounds like you have a lot of issues that you need to work to resolve no matter what you decide to do with this woman. Giving up on therapy would mean giving up on yourself and it sounds like you have some good insights so there’s no reason to give up at this point.

    And don’t give up on this relationship either. If she loves you and wants to be with you then this relationship seems like something worthwhile to pursue. But be careful–she can’t fix you. She can’t fix or resolve your issues for you. You have to do that yourself in therapy but she can be supportive of you.

    Please don’t give up on either therapy or the relationship. It can be hard to find the right therapist, someone that you have the right kind of give-and-take with, but don’t give up. It can give you some perspective on the abuse you encountered early in life and improve your life now. You already have some good self-awareness and it seems like you could get a lot out of therapy with the right therapist. And don’t give up on love whatever you do!

  3. Just wondering if it’s ‘only’ childhood influences that create this self hate? I was married for 30 yrs to a man that seemed to be ashamed of me. Telling me me to ‘look in the mirror’ before I went out ‘looking like that’. Actually taking a photograph of me to show me how much weight I had gained. These are just 2 examples of a continuous barrage of what I feel was emotional abuse over 30yrs. My question is .. did I choose this type of relationship due to my childhood. Or did this relationship bring me to my dilemma of today where I agree with all that my ex told me for 30yrs. . That I am a fat old woman that no one can possibly love.?

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