Why Do I Hate Myself, And How Do I Stop?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated May 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Hating yourself, also called self-loathing, consists of problematic thought patterns that can significantly impact mental health. For example, you may feel that you are not as good as others or that you are not worthy, lovable, or "good." You may feel like you make mistakes constantly or fear that you mess everything up all the time. You may also think that other people hate you.

If you are living with feelings of self-loathing, know that hating yourself does not have to be permanent. Studies from Mental Health America show that self-criticism is treatable with compassionate therapy. Learning to love yourself and recognize your good qualities may also come from practicing self compassion and reframing negative thought patterns.

Here, we’ll explore why we may experience self-loathing and offer helpful strategies for developing a healthier sense of self.

Why do I hate myself, and how do I stop?

Self-loathing may start suddenly, or you may have been living with these feelings for a long time. No matter how long these feelings have been going on, the emotional consequences of not liking yourself may feel devastating to your mental health, leading to a downward spiral in your sense of self-worth. Here are some common reasons people may experience self-loathing:

  • Childhood experiences: Negative experiences in childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or lack of affection, can lead to feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing in adulthood. Criticism or high expectations from parents and caregivers can also contribute.

  • Trauma: Experiencing trauma at any point in life can significantly impact one's self-esteem and lead to self-loathing, especially if the trauma leads to feelings of guilt, shame, or helplessness.

  • Mental health disorders: Conditions like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders can have self-loathing as a symptom. The negative thought patterns associated with these disorders often exacerbate feelings of worthlessness and self-dislike.

  • Social comparison: With the prevalence of social media, comparing oneself to others has become more common, and research has linked social media usage with poor self-image. Constant comparisons can lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and ultimately self-loathing when individuals perceive themselves as falling short of societal standards or peers. 

  • Failure or rejection: Experiencing failure or rejection in various aspects of life, such as careers, relationships, or academics, can trigger self-loathing, especially if one's self-worth is closely tied to success in these areas.

  • Internalized stigma: Facing stigma, discrimination, or bullying for one's identity (e.g., race, sexuality, disability) can lead to internalized negativity and self-loathing, particularly if these attitudes are encountered repeatedly. 

  • Perfectionism: High levels of perfectionism can result in self-loathing when individuals fail to meet their own unrealistic standards or expectations. 

  • Body image issues: Negative body image, fueled by personal insecurities or societal pressures, can be a significant source of self-loathing, especially in cultures that emphasize physical appearance.

If you're troubled with "why do I hate my body" or "why do I hate myself" questions, it might have something to do with your childhood or how other people interact with you. Self-esteem and inner voice are often developed in childhood. According to recent research by the University of Washington, self-esteem fully develops when children are five years old. The primary source of a child's self-esteem and negative thoughts is usually environmental triggers, including interactions with and behaviors of caregivers. Attachment issues can result from an insecure connection with a caregiver.

Are you ready to stop self-loathing from holding you back?

Children often think in a self-centered way, as they cannot care for their own needs in many ways. This process may cause them to manifest guilt or shame based on the behaviors of their primary caregivers. For example, if you had a parent react with extreme anger to you as a child, it might have made you feel like their anger was your fault. It may have led you to believe that your behaviors were incorrect or that something was inherently wrong with you, making you feel bad.

Messages communicated to you throughout your life may also have strongly affected your self-esteem and overall mental health. For instance, if you have been repeatedly told that you are a failure or will never amount to anything, you may think of yourself negatively and develop a strong inner critic, focusing on past mistakes.

Being insulted or given negative input from others could lead to feelings of self-hatred or chronic mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. If instead, your primary influences repeatedly praised you as a child, you may gain solid self-esteem and think positively of yourself, even after failure.

Treating self-contempt is possible despite your childhood or the messages you receive from others. Making sure to practice self compassion and to spend time on self-care can help combat self-hatred and improve your mental wellbeing.

How to deal with feelings of self-loathing

If you find yourself regularly thinking, "I hate myself," or doubting the affection of your close relationships, learning to cope with and reframe this thinking may benefit you. Realize that negative events and emotions tend to skew our perception of reality. Practice meditation to gain insight into the root causes of these feelings. If untreated, feelings of self-loathing might cause emotional dysregulation, contribute to mental illness, and negatively impact your relationships, aspirations, and self-worth.

Set some goals

Often, self-loathing can be rooted in feelings of inadequacy or failure, making it essential to engage in activities that boost your sense of accomplishment and self-worth. By setting realistic goals and achieving them, you create positive experiences that can counter negative self-perceptions. 

Whether it’s mastering a new skill, completing a project, or simply sticking to a personal commitment, these achievements can foster a sense of pride and confidence. 

Recognize your successes and achievements

Recognizing your successes is vital in combating self-loathing, as it shifts your focus from what you perceive as failures to the achievements you've made, no matter how small they may seem. This practice encourages a more balanced view of yourself, highlighting your strengths and capabilities. 

Take time to reflect on your accomplishments regularly, whether daily, weekly, or monthly. Celebrate progress in any area of your life, including personal growth, overcoming challenges, or reaching milestones. 

Acknowledging your successes reinforces your sense of self-worth and helps break the pattern of negative self-talk. By valuing your achievements, you nurture a healthier self-image and foster a more positive internal dialogue.

Start a journal

Writing down your feelings may help you accept your emotions, meaning it could be one step toward learning how to not hate yourself. In one study of college students, students' belief in themselves increased after journaling throughout the course. Other recent studies show that expressive writing can improve your mental health and help you notice patterns of negative thoughts.

Journaling can help you explore the reasons for your negative self-image. Try and recall when you first started thinking of yourself as a bad person. Was it as a child or more recently? You can begin reframing your self-image by identifying the potential triggers of your self-hatred and learn from a past mistake.

Practice aromatherapy, exercise, and meditation

Activities that help you relax may help you emotionally. You might try:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Exercise
  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Taking a bath
  • Meditation or mindfulness
Getty/Halfpoint Images

Once you feel more relaxed, you may be able to view yourself more positively than before. You may also be able to gain some perspective about specific incidents that have negatively influenced your self-image.

Talk about your feelings

When you're experiencing negative self-talk, it may feel easy to imagine others think the same bad things about you that you feel about yourself. Some people struggling with self-hatred might believe that other people hate them. Being vulnerable and speaking your thoughts with someone else can help you to gain perspective and see the reality of the situation.

Some individuals struggle to talk to friends about their feelings or mental health. They might be worried about how their loved ones will perceive them or that telling their history may come across as blaming others, like their parents.

Studies show that social connection is essential for your health. Expressing your feelings with a mental health professional such as a counselor or therapist may allow you to obtain support effectively without worrying about judgment from your loved ones. You could also join a chat room or support group for others with persistent self-loathing, as people in these groups tend to understand your struggles.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Are you ready to stop self-loathing from holding you back?

Assess your thought patterns

Negative thinking is one creator and perpetuator of poor self-esteem and self-hatred. Do you disqualify positives and maximize negatives about yourself? Does your inner critic make unfavorable comparisons between yourself and others in the world? Do you have rigid or unrealistic expectations of yourself, or focus on every bad thing or fail point? If so, you may be sending yourself messages that are negatively impacting your self-esteem.

It is critical to identify, challenge, and replace negative self-talk. Once you recognize your harmful thought patterns, journaling or discussing your feelings with others can help you reframe them more positively. You might also try writing or repeating positive affirmations, such as the following:

  • "I am lovable."
  • "I will continue to try to heal from my past."
  • "I promise to try to do what benefits me, even when I feel negative."
  • "I am worthy of self-love."
  • "Others love me, and I will work to love myself."

Licensed counselors are often experts at helping individuals address their negative inner voice. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that online therapy can benefit those with a negative self-concept.

Marvin Bellows, LPC
Marvin has really helped me trust my own judgment and instincts in areas where I was least confident. He has helped me accept myself and respect myself. In addition to that, he has explained how I can communicate more effectively and how I could be more practical in matters where I'd become unnecessarily emotional. What I appreciate most about Marvin is the amount of time he has dedicated to helping me. He is very supportive and understanding.”

Get support with online therapy

One study found that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help treat symptoms of depression related to self-image issues. The study examined the effects of CBT on the self-conception of individuals ranging in age from 13 to 18 and found those with low levels of self-esteem showed noticeable improvement in their mental health condition after treatment. According to a study by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, 71% of people in online counseling felt it was more effective than face-to-face counseling, and 93% preferred online therapy over face-to-face therapy.

Online therapy may help you learn to value yourself instead of feeling self-hatred. Supportive counselors can discreetly provide you with various tools that will help improve your self-image and mental health. If you are already dealing with low self-esteem, you may want to avoid any perceived stigma over seeking treatment at a therapist's office. Through platforms like BetterHelp, you can reach out for support from the comfort of your own home.


It may be difficult to know where to turn when you feel like you hate yourself. While there are a few self-care activities that you can try to alleviate your feelings, in some cases, the help of a professional is beneficial to overcome thoughts of self-hatred.

If you're ready to talk to someone, consider taking the first step by reaching out to a counselor. You're not alone.

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