We’ve all criticized ourselves before. That’s normal.
However, self-criticism can become a problem when it leads to self-loathing.
Self-loathing refers to an extreme dislike or hatred of oneself. When it reaches that point, it can wreak havoc on your emotional and personal life.
So today, we’re going to talk about 7 signs you have a self-loathing mindset. After that, we’ll discuss 14 practical ways to stop self-loathing and explain how to love yourself instead.
1) You’re self-loathing because you’re setting your goals low to decrease the chances of failing
Be honest with yourself: Do you have a fear of failure?
Don’t worry, nobody likes to fail, but if you avoid it completely you’re going to struggle to grow.
By setting the bar low on what you can achieve, you’re also telling yourself that you’re not good enough to achieve anything big.
So, how can you change this?
Simple: Set difficult but achievable goals and learn to be comfortable with failure.
Now I know that’s easier said than done, but there’s a way to be comfortable with failure.
You need to change your mindset about what failure really means.
Instead of beating yourself up for doing something wrong, learn from it and see it as a stepping stone to success. According to Albert Einstein, “you never fail until you stop trying.”
2) You apologize for every little thing that goes wrong
Do you feel the need to apologize for even minor mistakes?
Not only does this show that you’re not comfortable with failure, but it also shows that you think you’re always at fault.
The bottom line is this:
Everybody makes mistakes and you can’t control everything.
In fact, in many situations, we have very little control. You can’t control someone else’s mood or actions, and you don’t need to apologize for it.
Apologizing all the time shows a lack of self-worth. Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself and let others know that you’re trying your best.
You also need to save your apologies for when you really mean them. Otherwise people are going to view you as a walkover.
3) You motivate yourself by using tough love
It’s common to use self-criticism as a way to motivate yourself.
For example, if you want to lose weight, you might keep telling yourself how “fat” you are so you can push yourself to continue exercising.
In fact, some studies shows that this can work.
But the fear and criticism that comes with this type of motivation isn’t really healthy. It can lead to anxiety and worry.
You’re only doing it because you’re afraid you won’t be motivated enough.
But if you can get over that fear, you can motivate yourself in a more healthy way.
If you have a higher purpose like cultivating your relationships with your family, you’ll want to lose weight because that will mean you’ll live longer to spend more time with them.
4) You’re envious of others and think that you’ll never be able to replicate their success
Are you always comparing yourself to others? Think that you’ll never measure up?
It’s common for humans to compare, but when you do it often and in a negative way, it can damage your self-esteem.
This is a habit that you’ll need to consciously stop. Instead of comparing yourself to others, start to focus on how you’re measuring up to your own personal goals and values.
Everybody is different and we all have vastly unique circumstances. There’s really no point in comparing.
These words from a spiritual guru will help you to see how pointless comparing yourself really is:
“Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky, because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking to what people are saying about you. And you are always following other people, you are always trying to satisfy them. You are always trying to be respectable, you are always trying to decorate your ego. This is suicidal. Rather than being disturbed by what others say, you should start looking inside yourself…
Whenever you are self-conscious you are simply showing that you are not conscious of the self at all. You don’t know who you are. If you had known, then there would have been no problem— then you are not seeking opinions. Then you are not worried what others say about you— it is irrelevant! Your very self-consciousness indicates that you have not come home yet.”
5) You’re using social media for approval and validation from others
Are you constantly checking your social media accounts? Regularly posting about the best things in your life?
If you’re living your life for likes and views and forgetting your real relationships, then you’ll be unhappy in the long run.
Social media is a great way to keep in touch with your friends, but it can be extremely self-serving when you worry about your appearance and how your reputation is stacking up.
It’s not real and you’d be better served focusing on more meaningful things in life that will actually lift your self-esteem.
A self-esteem boost from social media will only last a short period of time and you’ll get yourself lost in a loop of desiring approval from your Internet friends.
6) You can’t accept compliments
If you’re struggling to accept compliments, or believe them, then it could be a sign that you’re self-loathing.
There’s no need to always question compliments that come your way. People are more genuine than you think.
And if you’re really struggling with this, why don’t you ask your closest friends and family what they consider your strongest traits?
You might be surprised to find out what good qualities they think you have.
7) You’re afraid to fall in love
Falling in love can be scary because it means you’re giving part of yourself to someone.
It’s showing vulnerability and you find it hard to show them who you are because you believe that you’re not perfect and you’re struggling to accept yourself.
But what you need to know is that nobody is perfect. In fact, it’s our imperfections that make us unique.
As soon as you truly accept you are, you’ll open up all sorts of energy that you’ve been wasting on your insecurities.
Stop Self-Loathing: 14 Ways to Love Yourself Better
As children, we’re soft, sweet, and innocent. We’re filled with happiness and the only thing on our mind is how to have more fun with ourselves and those around us.
We seek out new adventures and learn new things with an unmatched eagerness for as long as we can.
But as we grow older, we tend to develop nasty and toxic attitudes—self-doubt, insecurities, body image issues, and more.
We start to loathe ourselves in dozens of small ways, until all the happiness we once knew is sucked out of us.
We let others convince us that we’re not good enough, that we’re small and pathetic and sad, until eventually those are the only traits you believe you have.
But this cycle of self-hatred doesn’t have to continue just because you have it now. You can rediscover how to love yourself again with a few simple techniques. For example:
1) Treasure Positivity
There is one curious habit about people that we can’t seem to get over that makes our life much more difficult than it has to be: we emphasize negativity while ignoring positivity.
When someone insults or criticizes you one time, you take it to heart and let it fester within.
But another person can give you compliments all day long and you won’t let it sink in at all.
It’s time to turn the tables and start collecting the positivity, not the negativity. Write down all the good things that happen to you—everything from little acts of kindness to major life events.
Show yourself that your life is great and that people around you love you. The more you write down, the more you will remember: life is good.
(To learn 5 science-backed ways to be more positive, click here)
In everything you do, it’s important that you focus and absolute concentration. This is sometimes referred to as “the flow”, and it is only in this state of mind that we can produce the best work possible.
All your distractions just fade away, from your self-doubt to your self-consciousness, and the only thing that matters is the task at hand.
3) Ask Yourself
Quick: what’s one opinion or stance that you’ve believed in your entire life? Now ask yourself—have you ever questioned how true that belief actually is?
When we learn something at a young age, we tend to believe in it for the rest of our lives without question.
This is because it makes up the foundation of our reality; it’s part of that initial platform where we built the rest of our knowledge and mindset on.
But sometimes these “obvious truths” aren’t as true as we believe, and the sooner you ask yourself these important questions, the sooner you can open your mind to newer things.
4) Become Intimate with Those You Admire
We all have our personal heroes. These could be historical figures, politicians, or even celebrities.
But as much as we admire them, we also have the tendency to turn this admiration into a kind of self-doubt.
We start to believe that someone like Steve Jobs was such a brilliant and innovative man, that we could never achieve even a fraction of his greatness because we’re filled with so many flaws and imperfections.
But the truth is, everyone is wracked with flaws. It’s time for you to learn about your heroes: read about them in books or online, and find out the person behind the achievements.
You will see that no matter which person in history you study, you’ll find that they had their own insecurities and personal demons to deal with. But they still achieved success anyway, and you can too.
5) Now Get to Know Those You Envy
After studying your heroes, now it’s time to study those you envy. This is because self-loathing usually comes from a dark place of comparisons.
We see the prettier or smarter person at school or work and we think about how great their life must be, and horrible yours is in comparison.
But get to know them. Learn about them, understand them, and figure out the issues going on in those minds.
You will see that as soon as you get a bit of perspective from their eyes, you will learn that their life isn’t as perfect as you hyped it up to be.
6) Be Compassionate
Everyone tells us to be kind to others, but how often are we reminded to be kind to ourselves?
The first person you must be compassionate towards is yourself. The more you push yourself excessively, the more you judge yourself, and the more you raise your expectations so high just to fail them once again, the more you will hate yourself as you go to bed every night.
So be kind. Realize that as much as you want to achieve your dreams, you are only human with a set amount of energy and time per day.
You will get there, wherever it is you want to be; just be patient, and let it come one day at a time.
7) Find Peace with Your Demons
Finally, let’s talk about your demons.
The nasty voices in your head that keep you from falling asleep; the dark memories of mistakes and regrets that haunt you and call you out in your darkest moments.
It’s time for you to stop shutting your eyes and turning away from these voices. Instead, you need to face them once and for all.
Accept that they exist within you, and give them a place in your mind to rest. Don’t deny them their existence just because you don’t like them; they are a part of you, and the sooner you learn to be kind to even your worst inner voices, the sooner you will find peace and quiet.
8) Pay Attention to the Now
One way to perpetuate self-loathing behavior and thoughts is to constantly be focused on the past.
Feeling bad about what you did before is not going to change the outcome. In the same vein, many people wish away their lives hoping that things will just get better.
Without putting in the work, they remain surprised that things don’t magically work out.
Rather than worry about the future or focus on the past, pay attention to what is going on right now and what you can do with yourself right now.
9) Learn How Others Overcame Obstacles
Be inspired – not jealous – of others who have found their way to success. Don’t measure yourself against them. We are all different.
But do use them as the bar for realizing that you can overcome your struggles and find what you want in life.
Create the life you want and stop asking for others to do it for you. When you zero in on what you want and learn how others got it, you can start taking steps in the right direction.
10) Make Friends With Fear
Rather than be intimidated by what you don’t know, be curious and go find out.
Fear is just a sense we have when we don’t know the answer to something. As soon as we have an answer or a direction, we can make new decisions.
So get good at facing fear and you’ll find yourself out of the rut you’ve been in for a while. It’s a great place to be. Even if you are afraid, do it anyway.
11) Question What You Think You Know
Self-loathing is often learned. We picked it up along the way. We don’t come into this world with a sense of self-loathing.
We see others feeling sorry for themselves and we feel sorry for ourselves.
With our social media lives, it’s easy to compare what others are doing that you are not, but remember that you only see the pictures people want you to see.
Ask yourself what you think you know about your own life and focus on getting clear about what you want – not what society says you should want.
12) Do Things You Love
We live in a world where everything has to be a business opportunity. So many people turn their hobbies into businesses hoping they’ll strike it rich.
The truth is that the people who are happiest are the ones who don’t put that kind of pressure on their hobbies, or themselves.
Having something that you can turn to, whether it makes you money or not, is an important part of ending the self-loathing process.
Do things you love for the sake of doing them. Who cares what it looks like or what the end result may be? Do it anyway.
13) Find Something Good in Someone You Don’t Like
If you want to end the cycle of self-loathing, turn to someone who you don’t particularly like and find something about them that you can admire.
Perhaps it’s an old friend or partner, boss or even someone close to you like your father.
If you have unspoken thoughts and feelings about someone that isn’t particularly positive, find something good to think about them instead.
14) Practice Gratitude
Gratitude provides you with more things to be grateful for.
When you are trying to get out of the cycle of self-loathing, taking stock of what you already have is a great way to make meaning in your life and recognize that things are not that bad.
Write it down and record it in some way.
Return to your gratitude notebooks from time to time to remind yourself of how far you have come throughout your life and be proud of what you have done so far.
It takes effort, but if you practice changing your mindset around failure and your successes, then you’ll begin to see that you’re doing a lot better than you think you are.
You’ll also learn to accept yourself and raise the bar higher with your goals, which help you realize your incredible potential.
Do you want to live a mindful life?
The simple fact is that learning about Buddhism and other eastern philosophies can empower genuine lasting change in our lives.
In my new eBook, I unwrap these iconic teachings and detail specific actions you can take to improve your daily life. Together we're going to work to strengthen your relationships, increase your emotional resilience, and systematically train your mind.
After reading this eBook, you’ll be equipped with all the tools you need to live a happier and more satisfying life.
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.