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What is self-loathing?


Sophy

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This may seem like a weird question, but the concept of self-loathing really confuses me.

I'm don't understand how the self can loathe the self?

I have always assumed that was a paradox.

But I know from my ex and from reading people's experiences here on DF, that self-loathing does seem to exist.

I really struggle to understand it, tho.
 

I went through a difficult break-up recently (I'm still a bit tender and shaken by it) and my ex had:

depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, very low self-esteem (which he admitted to)
and a mix of BPD, PTSD, OCD and possibly BDD (which he did not admit to).

Although I've met tons of people with mental illness by having depression, anxiety and PTSD myself and by doing mental health activism volunteer work and by just being an open minded person who likes having interesting and unusual friends... I found my ex's issues really challenging.

One reason was that we were in a relationship and it's harder to deal with big fall-out from mental illness when it's someone very close and when a relationship is meant to be equal and not a kind of carer/ co-dependent thing.

The other reason was that his issues where a lot bigger/ deeper than I could really grasp.

One thing that I struggle to understand is self-loathing.

My ex is an amazing person - gifted, intelligent, creative, kind, charming, gorgeous - so the infintessimally low self-esteem made no sense to me - but his self-loathing makes even less sense to me.

Even tho I've suffered from depression, anxiety and PTSD since I was seven years old, I don't think I've ever experienced self-loathing.

Low self-esteem, yes.

But self-loathing - I don't understand it.

I don't even understand how it works.

It's like my brain can't even make sense of the concept.

Normally, I would assume that every living being on the planet "likes" itself or thinks that it is "good".

I've certainly never come across an animal or plant that self-loathed. Those creatures are what they are and seem to like being themselves, more or less.

So how does self-loathing work?

I understand sometimes being upset with yourself or being angry with yourself or thinking poorly of oneself.

I don't go around all the time thinking I'm wonderful, or anything.

But, even with all my flaws (and there are plenty!!) I still LIKE myself.

And I feel friendly and caring and supportive towards myself.

I want me to be happy and comfortable and I think that I deserve to feel okay.

I have always assumed that "everyone" feels like this.

And I have always assumed that's kind of a given/ kind of a necessary part of being alive.

I mean, how can the self not like the self? The self is the self...

That's like saying the number 4 doesn't like being the number 4.

Or the sun doesn't like itself.

Or that the wind hates the wind.

What does that mean?

Self-loathing seems like a Zen riddle to me.

I mean, I kind of understand that say if a child is treated horribly and grows up in an environment where others are loathing towards the child, then the child could grow up to kind of internalise that loathing.

But surely the self tries to rebell against that?

Surely there's something deep down inside that says "no" to people being mean?

And so even if external loathing becomes internalised, surely there's an inner resistance by the self to fully accept that?

If anyone feels like explaining the nature of their self-loathing, I'd listen attentively and if there's any support I can offer, I certainly will.

Also, if anyone's overcome self-loathing in therapy, I'd be very interested to hear how and I'm sure people who struggle with self-loathing might find it helpful.

Thanks for any thoughts/ ideas!

 

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OK, this won't be a very logical or well crafted response. Sorry in advance.

I just fell into another round of "self loathing" or whatever you want to call it. I messed up the most important thing in my life and confronted myself with it again. In hindsight, it's obvious my arrogance and obliviousness caused everything to go to hell.

She tried to give me hints but I was too much of a m0ron to pick up on it. The result is that I will suffer because of it for the rest of my pathetic and useless life.

I have f u cked up everything for 58 years on this planet. It's time I put an end to that.

Edited by JD4010
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Hey JD,

First and foremost: I am so sorry you are feeling like this.

Can you try spreading the blame a bit more widely instead of focussing it all on you?

I'm sure your ex contributed to the dysfunction in the relationship, so she's to blame too. (I just read how dismissive she was in another post of yours, so she's definitely to blame too).

What about your parents, can we give them a share of the blame for not teaching you better relationship skills?

And can we blame her parents a bit too, for not teaching her better relationship skills?

And can we blame society a bit, for not teaching anyone good relationship skills? And for thinking that relationship skills don't matter?

And can we blame everyone a bit for not being kinder and more supportive when people struggle with a relationship or when a relationship ends?

And can we say that despite everyone getting a share of the blame, everyone also gets some credit for having done their best under challenging circumtsances?

And can everyone get a bit of slack for having not lived up to expectations and for having gotten some stuff wrong and for not being perfect?

And can everyone admit that they are not perfect and that they carry a small part of the blame?

And can everyone try to learn from their mistakes and try to grow and do better next time?

And can everyone be given a second chance because life is tough and we need second chances?

I don't think you carry all the blame in this JD. Nor did you make all the mistakes. Nor is it your imperfection that caused things to be difficult.

We're imperfect beings living imperfect lives in an imperfect universe.

Imperfect outcomes is just part of the deal.

It's like a song in a minor key, it's like Charlie Chaplin slipping on a banana peel.

Life is a big cosmic banana peel and we all slip on it all the time, from the cradle to the grave.

That's not failure. That's LIFE.

It's messy.

For all of us.

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And now to my questions about self-loathing.

So is self-loathing a symptom that comes and goes?

You said you were having a bout of it, JD.

Is it something that happens and you try and fight it? You struggle to get out of the bout of self-loathing again?

If so, that would kind of make sense to me.

That there is a lapse in liking oneself, a bout of it, but that the self does try and get back to a more self-liking state again...?

So if self-loathing isn't a constant thing, or at least isn't always intense, then I think I can understand it a bit better.

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To clear one thing up: I was referring to my girlfriend post-divorce, not my ex.

Yes, self loathing does ebb and flow. I never have much good to say about myself, but in situations like this, the floor drops out and I plunge down into the pit.

Oddly enough, I distinctly remember despising myself when I was around 5. I hated my appearance (red hair and freckles). I hated that I was "weird" (didn't want to do sports, play "army men", or whatever). As bad as I hated myself, I had to keep myself company.

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Oh, okay : )

But seeing as your girlfriend is human and hence also imperfect, she gets a slice of the blame cake too : )

Everyone does. You don't get to eat it all by yourself! : )


I'm shocked when people say they felt self-loathing as early as 5!

I'm sure that when you think of other children (your daughter, or any children) the idea of them hating themselves like that at age 5 seems painful and terrible too...?

How can a child of 5 live with hate? I mean it's terrible even for a 5 year old child to have to live with external hate!

But to have to live with internal hate at age 5?

I guess it is a learned thing, huh?

You would not have disliked red hair or freckles unless others had told you those were non-good things.

Or you being "weird" - that must be a value judgment others made, else you couldn't have felt that way.


By the way, for all ex-children with red hair I would like to say that I adore red hair.

I've been madly in love with some very gorgeous red-haired lads over the years.

And I will always have a soft spot for red hair.

And freckles are excellent too!

It's almost funny the random crap we are taught as kids (like freckles are dumb)... but only almost, cos it's actually too sad to be funny.

Edited by Sophy
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JD is right the self loathing does seem to maybe not come and go but ease up at times, it's more a learned thing i beleive, we learn through constant mistakes or bad treatment to loathe ourselves and once we beleive we deserve it it's hard to stop, kind of like a bad habbit on steroids

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Yeah. I'm not sure where the appearance hatred came from. But it was definite and real.

Now I'm a big fan of redheaded women. The more freckles, the better.

I used to get beat up frequently because I didn't want to do the usual guy stuff like football or playing "army". Even as a kid I did not like violence.

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3 minutes ago, surfcaster said:

JD is right the self loathing does seem to maybe not come and go but ease up at times, it's more a learned thing i beleive, we learn through constant mistakes or bad treatment to loathe ourselves and once we beleive we deserve it it's hard to stop, kind of like a bad habbit on steroids

Yes. I am a walking, talking example of Murphy's Law. So much has gone wrong that I simply cannot appreciate the few things that have gone right.

I blame the fact that I'm alive for all of it and self loathing is the result.

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5 minutes ago, surfcaster said:

JD is right the self loathing does seem to maybe not come and go but ease up at times, it's more a learned thing i beleive, we learn through constant mistakes or bad treatment to loathe ourselves and once we beleive we deserve it it's hard to stop, kind of like a bad habbit on steroids

Thanks for your reply : )

I think it sounds absolutely harrowing.

Doesn't self-loathing totally eat away at your soul? It sounds like a cancer eating up everything positive.

Or like a form of self-cannabalism, destroying yourself.

Is it a form of masochism? Of feeling like you should be in pain?

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4 minutes ago, Sophy said:

Thanks for your reply : )

I think it sounds absolutely harrowing.

Doesn't self-loathing totally eat away at your soul? It sounds like a cancer eating up everything positive.

Or like a form of self-cannabalism, destroying yourself.

Is it a form of masochism? Of feeling like you should be in pain?

Yes, it does eat away at your soul. It destroys any small bit of enjoyment you might find in this craptacular life.

I don't see it as masochism as much as "learned helplessness." No matter what I do, I'm still going to suck and cause others pain. Why bother getting out of bed in the morning?

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Self-loathing. When will I ever get out of it.i feel it’s really part of our illness, and imbalance of hormones that causes this.

Yes, for the average normal people, their self will easily deny self-loathing to survive. But for people like me, it’s kind of become our comfort zone since we kinda “learned” it since young, and getting out of it takes a HUGE amount of effort. 

Self-loathing is illogical to an average person’s mind. It only kills a human from the inside, so it’s necessary to get rid of it for one to function normally. It’s a cognitive distortion resulting from my illogical thoughts.

I tend to think in black and white, I overgeneralise, I focus only on the negative and not the positive, I expect the worst from possible scenarios, I predict negative outcome before the event happens, i magnify the negative and minimise the positive, like no matter how much good u say that I am, Its very hard for me to accept that cos of all the bad that I had done. I take the blame cos it happened before cos I had always done stupid things.

And for me, it kinda become my comfort zone cos when bad things happen, I have this feeling in which like oh yeah I expected this to happen and see it did, just proves how im right to have predicted this and proves how stupid I am from the beginning. And this feeling grows as we grow older and accumulate all the negative things we had done, while forgetting about the good that we have done. 

I know all this and yet they say I need practice to remove these kinda thinking, but I dunno why it feels like such a big hurdle to get over.

”i want me to be happy and comfortable and I think that I deserve to feel okay.

i want to want that too. I just need to make that huge effort to get out of my “comfort zone” and change my mindset and thinking. 

Thanks for your post it shows how a logical mind should be working, which is something I need 🙂

Edited by nirah007
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I hate myself because I'm so far off.  I've always been an extreme outsider.  Most people are normal. I have to put out huge amounts of effort to appear normal.  The only thing that comes naturally for me is I'm always the craziest one in the room.

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Hi @nirah007 thank you for your post. You worded that beautifully.

I am kind of getting an inkling of an idea of how self-loathing works now.

It still seems like a shocking thing for someone to do to themselves.

Like kicking someone when they're down, or pushing someone further under water when they are drowing.

Except it's doing that to oneself and not to someone else.

I can kind of understand tho, that if it's a learned pattern, then it can become almost automatic, even if it's damaging and makes no sense.

Intuitively I still struggle to grasp it. Especially as concerns my ex.

How he could ADD to his own pain, when he was in pain, by adding self-loathing to it...

He had a similar pattern where when he wanted and needed help most, he'd push me and others away super hard.

I guess there were a lot of paradoxical, self-contradictory patterns going on.

I hope you and everyone experiencing self-loathing can grow beyond that pattern and break free of it.

It sounds really heart-breaking.

It would be interesting to find out how people have successfully outgrown this in therapy, as I am sure it is possible.

I wish I could offer some kind of helpful thought or advice, from someone who isn't suffering from self-loathing as to how to overcome it.

But as it's so hard for me to understand - it's like something from a foreign land, or a foreign planet - it's also hard for me to think how to go about escaping it.

Maybe all I can say is that it sounds like a terrible pattern and that I'm sure you can break out of it one day and that you certainly *deserve* to be happy and to overcome this.

Maybe if you can't believe that right now, then I can hold that belief for you.

 

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21 hours ago, sober4life said:

I hate myself because I'm so far off.  I've always been an extreme outsider.  Most people are normal. I have to put out huge amounts of effort to appear normal.  The only thing that comes naturally for me is I'm always the craziest one in the room.

Hey Sober,

I'm so sorry to hear you struggle with this too.

Self-hate sounds like a terrible punishment to add on top of pain and anguish.

I think outsiders deserve compassion. I have a lot of friends who are outsiders. I think they are very interesting people and they have amazing perspectives on life.

Normal is overrated : )

I hope you can find some compassion for yourself.

We are who we are. Self-compassion is what lets us heal and grow and live.

Self-hate just adds to the pain and makes the burden greater.

Sometimes accessing self-compassion is really hard, I know.

A trick than can help us is saying: What would I say to/ think of/ feel about *someone else* who was in my position.

Usually we are about a million times kinder, more compassionate, more caring, more forgiving, more gentle on someone else than we are on ourselves.

So if you knew someone who was an extreme outsider, would you react with hate towards that person?

Seeing as you seem like a pretty nice person, I bet you wouldn't.

I bet you would react with kindness and compassion.

So if someone else deserves kindness for being an outsider, so do you.

At first, it's hard work to use that trick to remind ourselves that we deserve self-compassion.

But over time, it becomes easier. It becomes a new habit.

I bet for anyone else who had to struggle as much as you to cope and to overcome hardship - I bet you would feel compassion for them.

So try and genuinely treat yourself as you would treat others.

I think you deserve a lot of compassion for feeling like an outsider and for struggling so much.

Compassion and self-compassion is like cleaning a wound and putting a bandage on it - it's what helps a wound heal.

Self-loathing is like rubbing dirt into a wound - it makes it worse.

Please try and find some self-compassion to heal, even if it's just tiny scraps of self-compassion at first.

And use that trick of "How would I treat someone else in the same situation as me" as much as you can.

It's surprisingly hard work to *really* make yourself feel the same compassion for you as for someone else!! : )

Edited by Sophy
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I used to take pride in being the outsider but it's very lonely.  I'm not an outsider by choice.  I would love to fit in and be like average people but it's not possible.  There is no place for me in this world and no real reason for me to be here.

Edited by sober4life
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I've always dealt with feelings of rejection.  It's been really bad lately.  I really try to be a good person, but I've messed up at times thinking I was doing the right thing but later deciding I was wrong.  I have had really bad self-loathing for that.  So even though I try to be a good person, since hardly anyone likes me and everyone rejects me eventually, there must be something bad about me.  I just don't know what it is.

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Hey @StillStandinTall and @dude333

Thanks for your replies!

Would you say the term "self-loathing" is too strong?
I mean, loathing is defined as "an intense feeling of hatred, strong dislike or disgust, intense aversion".
That sounds suuuuuper full-on to me!

Is it a term people use in depression to just say "I feel crap about myself" ?
Or do they literally mean "I feel an intense sense of hatred, dislike, disgust and aversion towards myself" ?

I understand feeling crap or critical about one's self, or doubting yourself, or low self-esteem.
But self-LOATHING just seems incredible.

@dude333 your example of "I try to be a good person but hardly anyone likes me and everyone rejects me eventually, there must be something bad about me" is an interesting one. I understand your frustration with that, but it's interesting that you turn the anger and disappointment inward, against yourself.

You could just as easily be angry at others for being negative toward you without explaining why. Or you could be angry at your parents for not having taught you better interpersonal skills. Or you could be angry at society that it doesn't offer enough support to people who are struggling with these issues, like you are. Or you could be angry at everyone for being superficial - often people reject other people for really crappy/ superficial reasons which have NOTHING to do with whether that person is a good person or not.

There are plenty of external places your anger/ hurt/ disappointment could go, but you have learned to turn it inwards against yourself.

@dude333 it's very hard to say something useful via Internet regarding what you've said, as we don't know you or your situation well enough. Are you doing therapy? Have you spoken to a therapist about feeling rejected and not knowing why? If so, was your therapist able to give you any useful feedback?

If not, feel free to tell us more about the situation and we can try and come up with some useful feedback for you.

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I don't like the victim mentality.  We are adults, and are responsible for our own actions.  I think that if something needs to be changed, then it should be changed.  Also blaming others for our own failings I see as a refusal to take responsibility for one's own actions.  There is too much of that in my nation on both sides of the political spectrum, and I don't want to take part in it.

I also don't want to be angry.  Anger leads to doing things that might hurt others, and it can lead to hate.  I don't want to be hateful, there is too much of that in the world on all sides also.

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I keep coming back to this discussion because I'm the king of self-loathing. 50+ years of it has made me the world's expert on it.

Everything @nirah007 said is spot-on. I focus on the negative because that's primarily the state of my life. Right now I have a steady flood of memories of stupid and harmful things I've done. I try to convince myself that I didn't do them intentionally...but quickly cave in and accept all of the blame.

Why fight it? Truth is, I'm a horribly negative influence in this universe. Maybe it's to balance someone who is a wonderfully positive influence.

 

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