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How to stop hating yourself: 7 steps to believing in yourself again

Woman sitting on top of mountain. If you want to change your life, you can.

It is natural to hate yourself sometimes. You are totally not alone.

How many people have hateful thoughts about themselves?

On the website of this Helpline are two articles about hating yourself and how to stop. During one year, these two articles received 432,000 views.

And that’s just one website in the entire world.

Self-hatred could have something to do with the way in which our society is developing. Recent research suggests that younger generations might hate themselves more often than older ones.

The Pew Research Center (U.S.) studied four generations: Silent, Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennials. Their data indicates that Millennials (people born between 1981-1996) tend to have the most negative thoughts about themselves. 

That’s a lot of people. And that’s just in America.

So, the first and most important thing to realize is that you are normal. 

Everyone hates themselves sometimes.

The solution is two-fold:

  • Reduce thoughts about hating yourself to a minimum, managing them successfully when their ugly heads pop up into your consciousness.
  • Increase thoughts about loving yourself to the maximum, encouraging them to populate your mind more frequently and for longer.

How to reduce your self-hating thoughts to a minimum

1. Compare less

Think about it: How old were you when people taught you to compare yourself to others?

Most likely as soon as you could understand this idea.

Researchers Matthew Baldwin and Thomas Mussweiler explain that for humans, comparing ourselves to others is very important.

Humans live in large social groups. To be successful, these groups need to agree on behavior norms and stick to them.

Self-checking by frequently comparing ourselves to others keeps us on track.

When comparing gets out of hand

The downside of comparing is that it can damage our self-esteem. 

Definition of self-esteem from the Dictionary of Psychology (American Psychological Association): the degree to which the qualities and characteristics contained in one’s self-concept are perceived to be positive. It reflects a person’s physical self-image, view of his or her accomplishments and capabilities, and values and perceived success in living up to them, as well as the ways in which others view and respond to that person.

In short, self-esteem is how much value or worth you give yourself.

Interestingly enough, self-esteem is a cycle. The higher your self-esteem, the more positively people deal with you (in general), which leads to an increase in your self-esteem, and so forth.

An example of comparisons gone wrong

Have you posted a selfie recently? Did you feel happier and more positive or anxious and more nervous? Did you have any thoughts about your body image?

A study of a multicultural group of 113 Canadian females

In this study, the participants answered some questions about mood and body image. Then, they took a selfie and posted it onto their Facebook page or Instagram account. Some of the women had the opportunity to retake and touch-up their selfies. Afterwards, all the women answered more questions about mood and body image.

The Results

  • Posting selfies on social media put these women in worse moods. It also lowered their self-images. In other words, putting a picture online made them feel bad.
  • Retaking and touching-up their selfies did not significantly make things better.

Why could posting selfies put us in a bad mood?

Putting your body out there for comparison is scary for two main reasons—general opinion and unrealistic competition.

General opinion

Once it is out there, virtually anyone can comment on your appearance, not just your friends.

Internet trolls are always looking for someone to upset. This time, it could be you.

Unrealistic competition

It’s a fact that social media is full to bursting with fake images. In this case, those images are digital creations of female bodies.

As we know, it’s more than gentle touching-up. These images have been enhanced and reworked to create a woman who doesn’t exist…and even some who naturally could not exist.

These carefully crafted, excellently presented images have nothing to do with real life.

Where is the bad hair? The pimples? The stretch marks and cellulose? 

Where is the failure? The tears over the contest which was lost? The sadness over the job which was not gotten?

Not surprising then that this unreal happiness is going to cause us to doubt ourselves, to cause thoughts of self-hate, and to do damage to our self esteem.

Comparison takeaway

Choose when and how to compare. Your comparison should serve you well, not make you feel bad.

If you really need feedback, go to reliable sources such as: 

  • family members who support you
  • friends who’ve got your back
  • colleagues who want to see you succeed
  • professionals such as doctors
  • members of the clergy

(Mental toughness isn’t necessarily an innate trait⁠⁠—it’s something that can be learned and developed. To learn how to develop your own mental toughness, check out our eBook: The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness)

2. Spend less time on social media

Social media has important, positive benefits. However, there is the other side of the coin.

There are clear links between the use of social media and rates of depression and suicide. Basically, the more a person uses social media, the higher the chances of that person committing suicide.

Sobering thought, right?

Why the connection?

Data shows that young people who self-harm tend to be more active on online social networks in comparison to those who don’t. It appears that self-harming youth go online to find support for their actions.

This means that any young person who frequents online social networks will be overly exposed to the idea of self-harm and messages which promote self-harm.

As a result, even young people who had not thought of self-harm before will think of it now…and be more likely to harm themselves.

Social media takeaway

Know your networks. Positive social networking sites can have many benefits. Dicey sites can harm you through negative social comparisons.

New to a social network or forum? Take a moment to check out:

  • Who’s on there? Are they ‘your tribe’?
  • What’s the general vibe? Affirmative and supportive or petty and insulting?
  • How’s the content? Is it information which is going to help you have a better life or stuff that will help drag you down?

If anything seems off to you, get out and stay out.

3. Rein in your negative thoughts

Thoughts and feelings about hating ourselves happen to us all. The question is: How much power do we give this inaccurate self-hatred?

Science has shown that a huge part of our reality is based on our thoughts and that our reality influences our emotions and behaviors.

Proof for this idea

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a research-supported method for dealing with a wide range of problems. Simply put, CBT works on changing a person’s mindset in order to fix their issue(s).

For example, CBT is used with great success in cases of chronic pain, schizophrenia, and depression.

The goal here is not to push you toward investigating CBT to reduce self-hating thoughts (although some people find this effective). The purpose is to show scientific support for the fact that your thoughts go a long way towards creating your reality.

Change the thoughts and the reality changes.

Negative thoughts takeaway

The following process can help you manage your thoughts when they turn towards hating yourself.

Step 1: Realize that your current thoughts are not facts, nor are they physical reality. These thoughts are simply ideas you have in your head at the moment.

Step 2: We know that ideas can be true or false, good or bad. It is only when we test an idea can we find out whether or not it is worthwhile.

Step 3: Put your negative thoughts to the test. Ask them to explain themselves more or prove themselves right. 

Example #1: You are thinking that you are an idiot because your work meeting did not go well, dive into that a bit more. 

Were you the only one there? Chances are, others at the meeting also had some responsibility for how things turned out. 

What exactly did you do to make things turn out badly? What can you learn from this for next time? Experiential learning (aka learning through failure or learning through mistakes) is a powerful tool. Here’s your chance to make use of it and grow. 

Example #2: Thoughts are running through your head that you hate yourself. When you look more closely, it is because you think you look fat in that sweater.

Have you gained weight since you wore that sweater last and loved it on yourself? If you haven’t, then what’s the deal today? Why are you feeling unhappy about your appearance? 

Dig deeper for the root cause. It may surprise you by being totally disconnected from you and your sweater such as a recent breakup with your partner.

If you have gained some weight, OK, it happens. Perhaps it is time to consider a new eating plan and add more exercise to your weekly routine. 

Step 4: Make an action plan to deal with whatever your test results from Step 3 have shown you. Action plan examples include a list of meeting do’s and don’ts, a commitment to socialize once a week or an exercise schedule.

Step 5: Conclude your process in a positive way. Here are some ideas from our examples above:

  • Using what I now know about myself and meetings, I will be able to handle them more smoothly. My list of do’s and don’ts will guide me to do better next time. I will learn from my mistakes and if I make new ones, learn from those as well.
  • I look fine in that sweater. I was feeling bad because my partner left me. It is ok to feel bad, but I am going to stick to my action plan to bring joy into my life.
  • The sweater is a bit tight on me, true, but I can turn that around quickly. I will cut down on those beers and chips during TV time. I will hit the gym twice more per week. Soon, that sweater and I will be friends again.  

Step 6: Give yourself a well-deserved hug for being brave and proactive!

How to increase self-love thoughts to the maximum

1. Meditate on a regular basis

Research shows a positive correlation between meditation and self esteem. In other words, people who meditate frequently have higher self-esteem.

Just as a reminder, self-esteem is a person’s assessment of self-worth or personal value.

The higher our self-esteem, the lower the amount and frequency of thoughts about hating ourselves.

How does meditation increase self-esteem?

The data indicate that meditation is influential because it trains the mind to focus.

You’ve probably seen those images of brain neurons and activity. You know, a seemingly unorganized bunch of connections with electrical activity (like lights) running around all over the place.

Think of that as the uncontrolled mind.

Consider meditation to be a single-beamed, pinpoint laser. You can take that laser and light up one small area, keeping everything else in relative darkness.

The other parts are running around as before, but you don’t see them or pay them any attention. You are just concentrating on the one, pinpointed area.

This concentrated focus is often called ‘mindfulness’. So, meditation increases your ability to be mindful.

The more mindful you are, the more you can choose what you pay attention to.

Inaccurate, self-hating thought? Don’t shine your laser on it, and send it on its way.

Accurate, self-loving thought? Shine your laser on it, light it up, bathe in its empowering energy. 

Positive effects of meditation and mindfulness

Here is a short list:

  • Meditation has improved the self-esteem of women who have had a mastectomy due to breast cancer.
  • Long-term practitioners of meditation have fewer self-conscious feelings after a situation of social stress and also recover more quickly from any stress they do have.
  • Early results suggest that mindfulness may help keep a person’s self-esteem more stable. In other words, their self-esteem will depend less on day-to-day events.
  • Meditation can reduce negative emotions, increase positive ones, improve life satisfaction, and raise the feeling of well-being. It can also improve the alpha wave levels in the brain (these waves maximize creativity and minimize depression) as well as lowering heart rate. (source)
  • Mindfulness meditation helps in overall management of emotions and stress, boosts the ability to accept oneself as is and pursue one’s goals, supports inner growth, and helps in forming positive relationships with other people. (source)

Meditation takeaway

Meditation is not complicated. It does not need special equipment or a teacher.

The most important requirements for meditation are your desire, willpower, and perseverance.

You need to want it enough and stick to it enough. The results have no choice but to follow.

Tip #1: How to sit

Choose an upright, seated, comfortable position. 

If you can do a cross-legged position, great. Do that. If not, sit another way.

Sitting in a chair is totally fine; so is using pillows or a meditation seat/cushion. 

Tip #2: Location

At the beginning, your thoughts are going to be distracting enough. You won’t need other distractions.

Choose a place that is as quiet and peaceful as possible, a place in which you won’t be disturbed.

Tip #3: Length

Start with 5 minutes. This is most likely going to seem like a very long time.

Set a timer to ring when 5 minutes is finished. When you start the timer, pay attention that it moves from 5:00 to 4:59 and then 4:58.

Now you know it is working, so no need to check it again.

Tip #4: What to do

Place your hands in a comfortable position. Perhaps on your thighs or knees.

Gently close your eyes.

Begin by noticing how you are breathing in and out. Spend a while just saying to yourself: “I breathe in. I breathe out.”

Since you are using meditation as a tool to decrease self-hatred, begin saying the positive thought you have chosen for this meditation session.

These positive thoughts are often called ‘affirmations’. You can find lists of them on the internet or you can create your own.

Here are some ideas:

  • I am a strong, successful, positive person.
  • My inner light is powerful and keeps me safe always.
  • I am beautiful/handsome no matter what I wear or what I weigh.

Tip #5: Evaluation/Reflection

Even after years of regular meditation, practitioners report the distraction power of their thoughts. 

You have just begun. It is natural (and expected) that your thoughts will go wild.

Experienced practitioners also speak about physical discomfort. Feet/legs fall asleep. There are body aches.

You are a newbie. Just sitting still for 5 minutes in such a position could be a big challenge.

So no matter how you felt or how long you lasted (in case you didn’t manage the entire 5 minutes), congratulations. You are on the way.

Try to meditate on a regular schedule of 2-3 times every week. By the end of 30 days, you should see positive changes.

When 5 minutes becomes relatively easy, increase the time by 1 minute. Keep increasing as often as it is comfortable.

Remember though that it is the quality of the meditation session which gives the benefits, not the length. There is no competition to sit longer than someone else.

(To learn more about meditation and practical eastern philosophy wisdom, check out Hack Spirit’s most popular eBook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy for a Better Life)

2. Assess your superpowers

How can you hate yourself if you are full of great skills and wonderful qualities? 

You can’t really. So, fight darkness with light.

Everyone has superpowers

Your superpowers are your character strengths. They are called ‘personality strengths’, too.

So, your superpowers are all your positive abilities.

An article on the website MYRKOTHUM has a thoughtful list to jumpstart your thinking:

Action-Oriented Adventurous Analytical Artistic Athletic
Authentic Caring Clever Compassionate Communicative
Confident Courageous Creative Curious Determined
Empathetic Energetic Entertaining Flexible Good-Looking
Helping Inspiring Leadership Motivated Optimistic
Open-Minded Organized Outgoing Patient Precise
Responsible Spontaneous Social / People Skills Strategic Thinking Team-Oriented
Thoughtful Trustworthy Visionary Willpower Wisdom

You can find more ideas of superpowers on the internet or come up with your own names such as: 

  • can say ‘no’ when needed
  • feels good about decisions
  • takes risks and tries new things
  • believes success is achievable
  • keeps other’s opinions in proportion
  • creates boundaries as necessary

Superpowers takeaway 

Superhero time. Let’s borrow an idea from art therapy and create a personal superhero.

How well you draw is not the issue. A stick figure is fine…but don’t forget the cape.

The point is to label your superhero with superpowers.

Step 1: The minimum requirements are a blank piece of paper and a pen/pencil. But feel free to let your creative spirit have fun. 

Step 2: Draw your superhero in the middle of the page. Your superhero can be as plain or as detailed as you wish.

Step 3: Think of your superpowers. Your only limit is the space on the page. For each superpower, draw a short line (like a sun ray) from your superhero towards the edge of the page. Write your superpower on that line.

Step 4: Rate your superpowers. Write a number from 1-5 after each superpower on the same line—5 is the highest amount, 1 is the lowest. For example: Curious (3)—this would mean a medium level of this superpower.

Step 5: Stop and reflect. Look at all the superpowers you have. Truly, there’s very little room for self-hating thoughts in this superhero’s mind. 

Step 6: At the bottom of the page, write down 2-3 superpowers which you feel your superhero could use but doesn’t yet have.

Step 7: Think about ways to get those superpowers. You could make it an affirmation and say it during your meditations (see Idea #1 above in this section). Some people find personal coaching or empowerment courses/training to be helpful. 

3. Spoil yourself rotten

You are wonderful! You deserve the best of what this world has to offer.

Actively treating yourself with self-love is a compelling way to stop hating yourself.

None of these treats involve money. They are available to everyone, no matter what your budget is.

Spoiling yourself takeaway 

The following ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Give your self-love spirit permission to come out and play.

Gratitude

Did you know that according to a recent study, “the most powerful people are also the most grateful”? And the key to that equation is self-esteem.

As often as you can, take a moment to be thankful for something.

Did you wake up this morning? The day is already blessed. 

Is your body relatively healthy? Not all are so lucky.

What about your mind—more or less sharp and clear? It’s a gift.

Did you just have a birthday? That was one more than many people.

Do you have enough for the basic necessities of shelter, food, and clothing? You know others wish they were in your shoes.

What about those amazingly beautiful flowers on the way to work? Stop and admire the wonder of nature.

Remember the kind words someone told you when you were in need? How wonderful. Do the same.

The list is endless…as are the opportunities to say ‘thanks’.

Seeing our glass as half full rather than half empty gives little space to self-hating thoughts.

Develop your tribe

You can no longer let negative people near. Sorry, but those energy vampires and people with snarky opinions have got to go.

Surround yourself with people who love and support you.

You might not have too many at first. Once you pay attention, many of your ‘nearest and dearest’ may fall by the wayside.

Be prepared that some of them may be family. Family members are sometimes the most toxic.

Gather around you those with whom you love spending time; those people who lift you up and cheer you on.

As you get better at identifying them, your ‘tribe’ will grow.

Remember: people, like plants, need care. 

Spend time with your people. Invite them for tea and cookies at your place or go for a group walk on the beach or in the forest.

Ask them for help, and give help in return. Needing and being needed are both natural and universal sides of the same coin.

Socializing with the right people will keep your mental health in great shape.

Be compassionate…to yourself first

In this case, self-compassion means accepting yourself as you are, mess and all.

It means forgiving yourself your imperfections, mistakes, occasional meanness, and any other faults you can think of. 

People with high self-compassion feel less shame and have fewer symptoms of depression. 

Being self-compassionate helps people feel more authentic and live lives which are truer to themselves.

Be gentle with yourself. Be your own best friend instead of your own worst enemy. 

Respect your vessel

Our bodies are often compared to ‘vessels’—containers for our minds and spirits.

If you think about a container, you know that you have to keep it in good shape. Broken or cracked containers will let the soup out and the vegetables spoil.

This roundup of quotes gives some great advice on how to keep our physical vessels in top form: 

“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”—Buddha

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”—football player Ralph Marston 

“Wellness is associated with happiness. When you’re happy, you’re feeling good in your mind and body. That ties into being healthy, eating well, and exercising regularly. It also ties into being excited about things – like getting up in the morning and having a healthy breakfast.”—model Stella Maxwell

“True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.”—philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt

“The body needs its rest, and sleep is extremely important in any health regimen. There should be three main things: eating, exercise and sleep. All three together in the right balance make for a truly healthy lifestyle.”—film director Rohit Shetty

“Wellness is the complete integration of body, mind, and spirit – the realization that everything we do, think, feel, and believe has an effect on our state of well-being.”—author Greg Anderson

“Your body is your temple, it’s your home, and you must decorate it.”—actress Gabourey Sidibe

The Big Picture

To stop hating yourself effectively, it is best to take a two-sided approach.

Side one

Fewer unnecessary comparisons, less time on social media, and a firm hand on the ‘thought reins’ will reduce the amount of your self-hating images and feelings to the lowest possible number. 

Any worrisome images/feelings that do succeed in creating themselves will be kept under tight control and not allowed to expand themselves or even hang around too long. 

Side two

Mindfully meditating, recognizing and enjoying your superpowers, and spoiling yourself rotten increases your self-esteem, your feeling of self-worth and value.

This, in turn, nurtures positive, self-loving thoughts on a more frequent basis. Since these thoughts are powerful, they are able to stay in your consciousness for quite a long time. 

Are you ever going to be able to stop hating yourself 100%?

Probably not. All of us have doubts sometimes.

But if your desire is great, your willpower is strong, and your perseverance on this two-sided path is mighty, you will most likely get to 99.99% self-love.

Really, who cares about the other 0.01%?

Read more articles here:

How to love yourself: 15 steps to believing in yourself again

How to find meaning in life (it’s easier than you think)

18 no-nonsense steps to (finally) getting your life together

 

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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