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4 Ways to Stop Self-Loathing

Tips on how to reframe negative self-thoughts.

Toa Heftiba / Unsplash
Source: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash

by Arasteh Gatchpazian and Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.

Self-loathing refers to the underlying belief or feeling that one is simply not good enough. This comes hand in hand with having low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. Self-loathing can influence how you view the world. You may ruminate on the negative things and minimize the positive things in your life.

Whether you want to be able to recognize it in yourself or a close friend, it can be helpful to learn how to pick up on the signs of self-loathing. Here are a few:

1. All-or-nothing thinking. This type of thinking often involves the use of absolutes or extremes: You see your life as good or bad, without any nuance or shades of gray. This can be problematic because it makes it difficult to find alternative solutions or ways of coping.

2. Negativity bias. You put too much focus on the negative aspects of a situation and don’t consider the positives. Even if you experience something positive, you may discount it and find some way to view it negatively.

3. Low self-esteem. Self-esteem can also be thought of as how much you like, approve of, or value yourself. Having low self-esteem corresponds to negative evaluations of yourself.

4. Difficulty accepting compliments. When someone says something positive about you or shares a compliment, you discount what they said or think that they’re just being nice. Instead of accepting their words graciously, you brush them off and question them.

5. Overly critical of yourself. If you make a mistake, you are overly critical of yourself and attack your own character (“e.g., “I’m a failure who will never amount to anything”). It can be hard for you to forgive yourself, even if others have already done so. ​

How to Stop Self-Loathing

1. Journaling. Daily journaling can be a useful way to unravel all of the thoughts in your head by getting them on paper. By reflecting on your day, you can examine how certain situations or people may have triggered your emotions, and get at the root of self-loathing thoughts.

In order for journaling to be effective, it’s important to be consistent. Only then will you be able to sense a pattern emerging and gain awareness about how your emotions shift over time. Plus, research shows that expressing your feelings through writing can be helpful in reducing psychological distress (Marković, Bjekić, & Priebe, 2020).

2. Talk back to your inner critic. In addition to becoming more aware of your emotions, it can be useful to question your thoughts when in a negative situation. Are they realistic? Think of your inner critic as a bully and try to stand up to this bully. Counter your negative thoughts and criticisms with an argument supporting the opposite side. If you find it hard to do this, imagine what a friend might say to the critical voice in your head.

3. Practice self-compassion and self-acceptance. Is it really the end of the world because of that small mistake? Can you be a bit more gentle with yourself? When you begin to accept and love yourself unconditionally and cultivate positive self-talk, you will slowly make it a habit. Research suggests that compassion-focused therapy can help improve self-esteem, which, in turn, can reduce self-loathing (Thomason & Moghaddam, 2020).

4. Consider the people in your inner circle. Who are you hanging out with most? Are your friends contributing to your negative self-talk? It’s important to spend time with people who uplift you, not those who bring you down. It may be hard to end certain relationships, but at the very least it may be helpful to distance yourself from these toxic relationships while you work on strengthening the relationship you have with yourself and other healthy relationships with others.

In Sum

Self-loathing can be difficult to deal with. Luckily, there are things you can do to feel a bit better. Hopefully, this post has offered some strategies that help you feel better about yourself.

Adapted from an article published by The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.

References

Marković, M., Bjekić, J., & Priebe, S. (2020). Effectiveness of expressive writing in the reduction of psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic: a randomized controlled trial. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 2936.

Thomason, S., & Moghaddam, N. (2020). Compassion‐focused therapies for self‐esteem: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice.

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