People throw around the term self-loathing a lot these days, but what actually is self-loathing?
You might actively feel like you either hate, dislike or loathe yourself. Or you may not directly feel that way, but thoughts run through your head that are critical and mean.
There might be an inner dialogue that says things like
"look what you did"
"you can't do anything right"
"this is why no one loves you"
Does any of that sound familiar?
It's not just thoughts though. When there are critical thoughts, the result is often heavy, difficult emotions. Sometimes you can name them, sometimes you can't, the list below may help you identify some of these emotions.
Emotions that often accompany self loathing are:
Now, take the thoughts and emotions let them simmer for a moment, what happens? It begins to affect how we behave, what we do, how we cope, how we treat ourselves and others. It takes a toll on usually every significant part of our life.
What does self loathing look like?
difficulty sustaining healthy relationships
consistent unhealthy or co-dependent relationships
low self esteem
Where does self loathing come from?
So now you know what it looks and feels like, are you wondering yet why this is happening to you? Knowing why can be an instrumental first step in healing.
Self loathing can come from things like
painful unequal relationships
childhood emotional neglect
rigid world views
extreme hierarchical family and societal pressure
When there is a system in place that makes you feel like you arenot enough, nor will you ever be enough, it takes its toll on your psyche. And when this system is either created or perpetuated by people you respect or even love, the message is often confusing and painful.
It creates an incongruence which alters your inner dialogue to reflect the messages you've received either as a child or throughout whatever circumstance you've been through. Sometimes that person's love or societal success becomes dependent on you taking on that "less than" role, and self loathing becomes familiar. The pain becomes either numb or comfortable, sometimes it cycles between the two.
Self loathing is a painful, lonely weight to carry.
Self care is what we do to help and care for ourselves.
Self loathing and self care do not often naturally coexist. But it is something that we can intentionally do with some awareness and some support.
What can I do?
Figure out what brings you peace, relaxation and joy.
Take a moment to notice how your body feels when you are at peace and/or happy.
Notice what situations or relationships/people bring up feelings of anger or sadness.
Begin noticing the critical words you say to yourself and what you'd rather believe about yourself
Do 1 relaxing thing from the list above every morning when you wake up and one thing every evening before bed.
Avoid or limit stressful situations and people if you can.
If you cannot avoid them, allow time before and after the situation/seeing the person for a peaceful or joyful activity.
Keep an eye on how your body is feeling (relaxed/tense shoulders; pit in the stomach; constricted throat; open chest/breathing, etc) when practicing mindfulness
When the critical voice appears, imagine what it would feel like to say kinder things. Try changing that dialogue to a more positive one. The positive words may not feel true right away, but not hearing the critical words will be a relief.
Where are my boundaries around things that I find stressful?
When do I feel peaceful and worthy? How does my body feel during these times?
When do I feel unworthy? Where does this feeling sit in my body?
When is my first memory of feeling unworthy?
Psychotherapy is a way to free yourself from the power self loathing has on you. It can help you truly feel the worthy, enough and peaceful. And the tips above can help you daily while you are learning set down the weight of it.