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Stop Hating Yourself Once and For All

stop hating yourselfRecently, we’ve called attention to the question of whether narcissism is an epidemic in our nation. Yet, I would argue that it is narcissism’s evil step-sister that is causing the most trouble in people’s lives. Self-hatred is something we may not often say out loud. We prefer softer-sounding terms, like “low self-esteem” or “poor self-image.” The reality is, much of the time we are downright hateful toward ourselves. Throughout a given day, we experience a barrage of sadistic thoughts so smoothly and so frequently that we hardly notice we’re under attack. Narcissism may be a compensation for insecurity, but deep down, we are our own worst enemy.

When it comes to self-hatred among younger generations, statistics say a lot. A study of more than 3,000 adolescent girls showed that seven out of 10 believe that they are not good enough. They feel they aren’t measuring up in terms of their appearance, academic performance and personal relationships. The same study showed that 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem have engaged in “negative activities such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking, or drinking when feeling badly about themselves.” Yet, contrary to what often gets reported, it isn’t just young women wrestling with serious self-esteem issues. In 2011, the American Psychological Association published a study posing that, while self-esteem increases during adolescence then slows in young adulthood, “there is no significant difference between men’s and women’s self-esteem during either of those life phases.”

In truth, we don’t need studies to tell us that a self-esteem deficit clearly exists in our society. Just talk to any teenager, or small child for that matter, and ask them if there is something that they feel critical of in themselves. The answers are sure to shock you. I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t have a laundry list of cruel self-criticisms they can immediately fire off. “I’m fat.” “I’m annoying.” “Other kids don’t like me.” “My parents are disappointed in me.”

These disturbing core beliefs don’t disappear as we get older. In fact, what my father Dr. Robert Firestone and I have found in our 30 years of research is that these thoughts go on to affect us in every area of our lives, making up what we refer to as our “critical inner voice.” We can even pass these “voices” down to future generations. Where this inner critic comes from, why it exists and what we can do about it are the subjects of our book Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice and of my Webinar “Stop Hating Yourself: A Method to Overcome Your Inner Critic.” Here, I will briefly outline the cause and effects of these self-hating thoughts and introduce a method for how to overcome them.

Where Self-Hating Thoughts Come From

There are two important influences on how we form our self-perception. The first is how our parents or other early influential caretakers saw and treated us. The second is the way these same influential figures saw themselves. Parents are people; they aren’t perfect. They both love and hate themselves, and they extend these reactions to their products (their children).

Our identity is heavily informed by how we were viewed in our early family environment. The healthy and supportive attitudes we were exposed to in our childhoods helped build the positive side of our self-image – our “real self.” This is the part of us that feels a sense of self-worth, compassion and confidence. However, the harmful attitudes directed toward us formed the negative side of our self-perception – our “anti-self.”  If, for example, we had a parent who thought of us as lazy or slow, we may have picked up on these attitudes from ways they acted: looks of annoyance or sighs of disappointment. Perhaps, they criticized us directly: “What’s the matter with you? Hurry up. You’re always making me late. Can’t you think for once?”

As children, we are further affected by ways parents speak or feel about themselves. In the study of young women mentioned above, over half the girls tested said they had a mother who criticized herself. When parents look in the mirror in disgust, when they vocalize what a failure they are or simply don’t feel good about how they’re living their own lives, they are serving as models for their child’s developing sense of self.

How Self-Hatred Impacts Our Lives

As we get older, we tend to internalize the subtle and not-so-subtle attitudes and actions of our parents. Without realizing it, we take these notions on as our own point of view toward ourselves. They become the foundation for our critical inner voice and translate into a running commentary in our heads. When we go on a date, it feeds us little thoughts like, “You sound so stupid. He is not interested.” When we land a job interview, it reminds us, “You’ll make a fool of yourself. Who would hire a nervous wreck like you?”

This “voice” creeps in at moments we may not expect it, right when we are achieving success or getting what we want. It can even sound soothing, telling us to take care of or protect ourselves. “Don’t worry about meeting someone. You’ll be just fine alone. Stay home, relax.” Yet, the critical inner voice is two-faced in the sense that it will also be there to punish us when we listen to its directives: “You loser! You don’t have any real friends. You’re never going to be happy.”

For each person, there are certain areas of life in which this inner critic is louder and more obnoxious. Sometimes, we can get a hold of and quiet this voice in one area, and it pops up in another. If unrecognized, its influence can be strong. It can sabotage our relationships, ruin our careers, impact our parenting style and undermine our personal goals. If we don’t deal with this inner critic in ourselves, it is also very likely to impact our children and lead to a cycle of self-hatred that passes through generations.

What to Do About Self-Hating Thoughts

The first thing to realize is that we are not our critical inner voice, and we are definitely not the person our critical inner voice tells us that we are. Just because we ourselves experience these self-hating  thoughts does not mean that they make up our real and honest point of view. Remember, every one of us is divided in our feelings toward ourselves. The critical inner voice should be seen as an alien point of view, an unwelcome overlay on our self-perceptions. It is truly an “anti-self,” constructed out of our darkest developmental experiences. This voice is not our friend. It is paranoid, hostile, suspicious and manipulative. It gives bad advice and never wants what’s really best for us.

Of course, we are all flawed in certain ways, but when we listen to our critical inner voice, we tend to exaggerate and berate ourselves for these flaws. We lose perspective and fail to exercise the self-compassion that is essential to pursuing our goals and living our lives to the fullest. Voice Therapy is a method developed by Dr. Robert Firestone that helps individuals identify their critical inner voice, understand where it comes from, separate from its point of view and respond to it from a more realistic and compassionate perspective. Challenging self-hatred is a key step to stopping self-limiting or sabotaging behaviors. It opens doors in our lives we didn’t know we’d shut and makes it possible to live a more unique and personally fulfilling existence.

Learn more in Dr. Lisa Firestone’s upcoming Webinar “”Stop Hating Yourself: A Method to Overcome Your Inner Critic.”

17 comments

  1. I just want to add this useful information, that the book by Don Miguel Ruiz – The four agreement is great in such cases! 🙂

  2. Not at all helpful, it’s basically just a long ad for some webinar.

  3. The article states voice therapy was developed by Dr. Robert Firestone. I believe it was actually pioneered decades ago by Hal and Sidra Stone.

  4. It is not enough to try to help people overcome what you refer to as their inner critical voice – what I call one’s inner bully. For it’s not just our significant others early on in our life, such as our parents, who construct this negative mental program into our minds. We all also live in so-called society, which I refer to as the bully culture. The bully culture perpetuates and reinforces this inner bully bad programming 24/7/365 that we were given by our care takers and/or care givers when we were young. This is in order that the bully leaders of human civilization can dominate the rest of us. The bully culture is set up so that there has to be a loser for there to be a winner in society. So there you go for why most of us regular common folk have already lost our innately endowed self-esteem. Unless and until we accept that our own inner bully is a by-product of the bully culture mechanism that we are all made to live in, we do not stand a chance at eradicating its virus from our mental computer known as our God-given Divinely inspired brain.

    From the Author of www.bullcrapbusters.com

    • I just saw this comment, and posted another one before this. Could you give me your thoughts on my other one, as it ties in to your idea of a bully culture?

  5. I believe a lot of self hatred is developed during our formative years. Interactions with other neighborhood children and classmates play a large part in how we view ourselves. If your peers tell you you’re ugly, then you feel ugly. Your parents can instill high self esteem in you, but it only takes one person your own age to destroy all of that with a few unkind words. This is a fact every school age child deals with on a daily basis. Children can be very cruel. Bullies have tortured other kids to such a point that they take their own lives. How about people teaching their children to not only love themselves, but to love others and treat them kindly as well?

  6. In my experience, society actually encourages self-hatred. While we may be all for promoting self-esteem in young people, look at the way we’re taught to think of confidence. “Be confident” they say, but not too confident. On many TV shows and in movies, the characters we’re supposed to hate share a quality: arrogance. As “bad” as we make self-hatred out to be, we hate arrogance even more. No hates the quiet boy, sitting in the corner of his classroom and quietly acing tests and quizzes even though he posts on psychology websites in class. If he were to be brash and confident about his abilities, people would dislike him. It’s an excess of humility. We are taught not to be proud of what we do well, lest it offend someone who can’t perform as well as we do. If we’re not allowed to be proud of what we are good at, then how are we expected to be confident? If we’re not confident, how can we like ourselves?

    • Dear Ryan, you make a great point. However, just because a person is better than someone else in a class at doing something, doesn’t give you the right to put them down for it.

      A put – down of someone else does not truly boost oneself up.

      However, in some other cultures, such as some Eastern cultures, people are supposed to be proud of what they do well, and what they can do.

      Thus, it is perfectly OK, and in fact, _healthier_ to be cognizant and proud of your own abilities, so long as you are also realistic about them, AND most importantly, as long as you acknowledge that other people also have things at which they are good.

      As long as you are not actually putting other people down, you should be OK.

      Again, the healthiest people not only recognize their own self worth, but also the worth of others.

    • +Ryan Hunt, you stated in your reply, “I just saw this comment, and posted another one before this. Could you give me your thoughts on my other one, as it ties in to your idea of a bully culture?”

      It looks like you were addressing me??? My apologies for not replying sooner!!!

      You pose an excellent question.

      Think of the word “balance” for a moment. The Bully Culture is all about programming us to believe in half truths and half lies so that we lose our God given sense of mental equilibrium. So the Bully Culture has conditioned you to be confused about for instance what you mentioned in your post, which is that both the word “brash” and the word “confidence” mean the same thing. They do not. Brash means sure but in an arrogant or disrespectful way. Confident means sure but in a humble or respectful way.

      You also mention that we are not taught to be proud of what we do. You are right. The word pride means a feeling of satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements. Pride is a positive thing. Yet the Bully Culture makes the following negative cliche’ out of it: “Pride comes before a fall.” When it ought to be saying “Arrogance, haughtiness, conceit comes before a fall.”

      One of the ways the Bully Culture confuses us in order to control us is thru semantics – word usage. Words are very powerful things. And knowledge is power. The Bully Culture tries to take your power away from you by giving you double messages. On the one hand love confidence. On the other hand hate arrogance. As if arrogance and confidence are actually the same thing. When they are really opposites.

      I notice that when I praise people many of them laugh as if I am joking. They do this thanks to the Bully Culture, which thru its perversion of semantics has trained them to feel ashamed of their accomplishments.

      So Ryan Hunt if you are not already doing so when someone praises you say “thank you” instead. Be proud of not only what you do but of whom you are. But be humble about it not arrogant. Do not think you are offending anyone. You are not, for God gave each one of us our own one-of-a kind genius to benefit both ourselves and in so doing we benefit others as well. As long as you do it with a humble versus an arrogant attitude, any one who is offended by your beautiful contribution to life is a bully coward. And bully cowards support the Bully Culture’s agenda of preventing you from being yourself.

      And yes society encourages self-hatred. But it is not really civilization that is doing it. It is the Bully Culture, which has infiltrated society that is motivating us to hate ourselves.

      Thank you for your insightful question. Wishing you all the best.

      From the Author of http://www.bullcrapbusters.com

      It is a free comprehensive anti-bullying website here to serve humanity. So feel free to visit us anytime to learn more about bullying, to find answers to your questions about bullying, to find anti-bullying solutions to your bullying problems.

      Andrew answered it very well also.

  7. “Just because we ourselves experience these self-hating thoughts does not mean that they make up our real and honest point of view.”

    Really? Who says? One thing I am really good at is judging character. I know most people don’t like me and they think I am an idiot….whether I really believe myself to be one is another point entirely. However, it doesn’t matter what I think. The person who’s opinion matters is the one who decides whether or not I get the job.

    Because I never get the job I hate myself. I don’t mean that I get turned down for some. I mean I get turned down for every job I have ever applied for. I have never gotten a job based on an interview. If that is not reason for self-hatred, I don’t know what is.

    • To pigbitin

      You stated that you truly always hate yourself because you never get the job.

      You also stated that you are really good at judging character. And herein lies your value. Every single person has what I refer to as a one-of-a-kind-genius – something to contribute to this world that no one else can.

      It is not your fault if people do not hire you to do a job if you are doing your very best to get the job and have the qualifications for the job. And by the way that you write it sounds like you are.

      Please don’t loathe yourself! Hang in there!

      Explore yourself some more. Maybe the kind of job you are looking for is not the type of job you are meant to do. Maybe it is your destiny to do something else.

      From Elana Laham the Author of http://www.bullcrapbusters.com

  8. I know all this and I still hate myself.

    • To Jess

      In order to overcome self loathing…

      It is not enough for us to know that we have self hating thoughts.

      We also have to challenge them and on three levels.

      First, we have to acknowledge them by being visually – consciously – aware that they exist in our own head by realising that they are NOT our own but rather a bad program others have implanted in our brain.

      Second, we have to accept them by being willing to emote them thru our own heart by not fleeing from the INTENSE feelings they are going to cause one to sensate now that one is listening to them.

      Third, we have to release them via the tangible deed one is going to have to perform of returning them to their source – the bully – by CONFRONTING bullying.

      THANKS TO THE BULLY CULTURE WE HAVE OUR WORK CUT OUT FOR US.

      You were not born hating yourself. Please remember this.

      From Elana Laham the Author of http://www.bullcrapbusters.com

  9. The bully is one displaying an overcompensation of his/her fears of being humiliated or bullied in public, most likely as a result of being on the receiving end of that behavior by their parents/siblings/family, without a source of comfort.. If the father bullies, for example, and the mother just submits or piles on. Those targets of the bully are usually “weak”, have a disability, and pose no threat in the bully’s view. Bullies are cowards who, almost always, go running away screaming and crying to the teacher or adult/authoritative figure when someone shows their aggressive side standing up and even getting up in a bully’s face to contest their fear fueled attacks. Stand up to a bully and see a wimp emerge.
    Parents can be abusive without the child even knowing they’re being abused. The most damaging abuse takes place at an emotional level. Parents can say demeaning things with a smile in a soft tone, invalidate a child, imply that the child might be doing something wrong to deserve the bullying or abuse by others, and other insidious and despicable tactics that create the self hatred in their children that they obviously have for themselves or they’d display support, comfort and help the child overcome any sign of low self worth/esteem that eventually develops into a self loathing adult who has a lifetime journey to fight the demonic self talk their parents implanted firmly in the psyche. It is 100 percent a parental prophecy. If the abuse is from another individual, chances are, the child was already conditioned to be a receptacle for this treatment, and the failure of a parent to see this and correct it by protecting their child from the abuse others impose on him/her and snap out of it themselves by becoming emotionally present in a supportive way, then that makes them Abusers of the most hideous kind. I don’t care if they were abused. They KNOW they’re doing wrong. No mercy for parents who overtly or covertly abuse their child or children. They’re as guilty as pedophiles as far as I’m concerned – both impose abusive actions stealing the lives of children who spend the rest of their lives suffering from their low self worth and self hatred. Those who are self aware and want to get better have to expend so much energy, time, and even money for therapists to help get past something that takes decades, if not an entire lifetime to manage… It’s never cured, just treated. If they don’t seek treatment, they usually become burdens on society, sociopaths, and violent criminals. We have a huge problem, as this has peaked as an epidemic in this time of epic Narcissistic Personalities in positions of power in every niche– parental units, teachers, and politicians. SAD, very sad.

    • To LDee

      You are very insightful.

      “The bully is one displaying an overcompensation of his/her fears of being humiliated or bullied in public, most likely as a result of being on the receiving end of that behavior by their parents/siblings/family, without a source of comfort.”

      Yes…the bully bullies because he has been bullied, and bullies innocent others since he is too much the coward to confront the bully(s) who bully him.

      “Stand up to a bully and see a wimp emerge”.

      Yes…watch the bully coward gang up on you one versus many because he does not have the strength to finish his own battles that he starts and gossip behind your back not in front of your face since he lacks the courage to confront you with his BullCrap.

      Yes…parents give us our damaging conditioning. But it is the Bully Culture as I call it that has implanted the sick programming into our parents and that reinforces it via every facet of our lives.

      And yes…parents know they are doing wrong. Hence, they are to be held accountable for their actions. Thus, any one of us individuals including parents have the free choice to start doing what is right instead of continuing to do what is wrong. But it will not be easy. For the Bully Culture will punish you…even try to murder you for defying it.

      “…develops into a self loathing adult who has a lifetime journey to fight the demonic self talk their parents implanted firmly in the psyche”.

      Yes…and it is especially difficult when that demonic self talk that I refer to as one’s inner bully affects us emotionally – thru unrecognised emotions that we cannot discern what they are conveying to us like some buggy man we cannot see in the dark.

      “Those who are self aware and want to get better have to expend so much energy, time, and even money for therapists to help get past something that takes decades, if not an entire lifetime to manage…”

      Yes…but there is another way. To override bad programming one has to hone the mind and shape the heart by doing the deed – by become an individual who fights back against bullying. I have spent 22 years being a BullCrap Buster and though it’s a lifetime endeavour I am so much better than I was before. Just knowing that I am willing to do my best to be there for myself and for others when no one else is and do what is right because it is the right thing to do as it makes sense to gives me tons of self esteem that I never dreamed of having before I embarked upon my victim-no-more journey.

      “It’s never cured, just treated”.

      Yes…However such a cross is not for the victim to bare as it is not the victim’s fault that the victim is a victim of bullying. The way to overcome the bitterness is thru acceptance. When a loved one dies there is nothing we can do about it. So we mourn them, which allows us to accept what is by acknowledging it, which lets us move on. My parents were so physically abusive to me that they deformed my spine and feet when I was but a child. And this is just one of the many forms of abuse and neglect they inflicted upon me. I have to live with these anomalies for my entire lifetime. I simply accept what is and do not judge myself that I can do nothing about it. Nor do I forgive my parents. For one cannot forgive another who is not sorry as such a person is unwilling to make one whole again. But I do not waste my hate on them either. As such emotion will not change a thing and instead rob me of my life by trapping me in the maelstrom of their self hatred.

      “…an epidemic in this time of epic Narcissistic Personalities in positions of power in every niche– parental units, teachers, and politicians. SAD, very sad”.

      Yes…and it is the Bully Culture as I call it that has produced these kinds of personality disorders that have taken over our humanity. And they have infiltrated all positions of power because decent people do nothing to stop them. If they continue to get away with bullying the human race will seize to exist. We have to wake up now and fight back against the bullying. Let us take our SAD and become MAD so we can turn it into GLAD by over throwing the SICKO Bully Culture of BULLYING.

      From Elana Laham the Author of http://www.bullcrapbusters.com

  10. This thread of comments and theory is very informative and gives as me plenty to ponder but my reason for googling this topic was to find some way to get out of this dark hole. If anyone has some adviice I am all ears. Yes, I wake up and give myself the pep talk. Yes, I try to put on a happy exterier. The overwhelming depression is about to bury me. I have narrowed it down to the fact that I hate myself and I thrive on being miserable. It is hard to realize these facts. I would much rather be able to find one traumatic event to dig out like a pimple but that is not to be. How do I overcome this. I just want to be mediocre. Not looking for elation

  11. I found reading this article and all of your comments very interesting so thank you everyone for taking the time to write and try to help… having said that I’m not sure I fit into the issues mentioned. I had a good childhood with supportive parents, grandparents, etc, I have a good job that I like and friends that I love. My problem is despite all of this I NEVER feel happy! Sure I have moments where I laugh and smile and have fun, but they are hugely out numbered by the amount of days I have where I feel like utter shit and can’t face leaving bed. I’ve always had a feeling that I’m a f***-up, not good enough, should be better and some days that feeling just overtakes me to the point where I start crying uncontrollably or doing something stupid like getting drunk and waking up in a park! I’ve spoken to my mum about it and she says I’ve always had moments of depression and thinks I might be bi-polar? Any suggestions?? Thanks

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