Step One: Recognizing perfectionism and self-hate.
This post is the second one in a series about overcoming self-hate and connecting with love. You can read an introduction to the series here.
Self-Hate and Self-Love
If we want to understand how to overcome self-hate and connect with love, it is helpful to know what self-hate is. Self-hate is often an automatic response to an inability to love ourselves. People in general are pretty bad at loving themselves authentically.
Certainly we are often good at being selfish, narcissistic, and egocentric, but these are not forms of authentic self-love.
Recognizing self-hate can help us learn to practice healthy self-love.
Authentic self-love is the ability to show ourselves respect, kindness, compassion. This helps us to flourish by nurturing the good in us (the Wise Self) and by healing the wounded and diseased parts of us (the Wounded Self). We all have both of these parts.
Authentic self-love heals both our self and others because it teaches us to value the unconditional dignity and worth of human beings.
This automatically leads us to honor the dignity and worth of every other human being.
Recognizing self-hate and its sign helps us better understand its opposite: self-love.
Why is Self-Love So Hard?
Developing self-love can be really difficult. It requires that we respect and accept ours self unconditionally because of our intrinsic value. This is hard for us to do sometimes because we receive all sorts of messages on a constant basis telling us either that we have no worth at all or that our worth is based on extrinsic standards.
For instance, bullies and abusers often try to convince people that they have no worth. Exploitative advertisers, economic systems, distorted religious institutions, or other institutions might try to convince people that they have no intrinsic worth. Such messages suggest we are worthless unless we buy a certain product, earn a certain amount of money, believe a certain thing, etc.
Trying to Meet External Standards
In other words, we receive many messages telling us we are worthless unless we meet an external standard.
All these pressures make it hard to love ourselves and much more easy to hate ourselves. Self-love can become even more difficult when we see our failures and mistakes and do not know how to deal with them effectively.
When Self-Hate Becomes a Coping Mechanism
Most of us experience self-hate at one point or another, but for some of us, it can become a constant habit or a coping mechanism we use to bully ourselves into being good enough to deserve love.
The first step to recovering from self-hate is to realize how much we suffer from it and how much it pervades our life. Often, we do not even realize that we are stuck in patterns of self-hate.
Sometimes, in fact, our self-hate masquerades as good behavior.
Only you can figure out if you truly struggle with self-hate, but here are some signs that you might struggle with it.
You are extremely hard on yourself and are a constant perfectionist.
And you try to control your life all the time and, perhaps, the lives of the people around you as well.
Failure is generally unacceptable to you.
You constantly worry that you are not good enough in some or many ways.
And you feel like you have to earn love by doing or being more.
Criticism feels unbearable to you.
And you constantly feel ashamed or embarrassed for normal mistakes or for no real reason at all.
You are constantly cruel, mean, and/or picky towards other people. This is largely because you feel badly about yourself, and you are taking it out on them or trying to make yourself feel better by pointing out people’s flaws.
It can be hard to let go of self-hate.
When we have been caught up in patterns of self-hate for a while, it can be hard to let go of them.
Therefore, the first step in recovering from self-hate is to recognize our patterns for what they are and to realize that we do not really understand how to love ourselves.
Once we realize this and understand this, we can work on the next step, which is remembering love.
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My name is Shelly Johnson, and I am a writer and philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy. One of my primary personal and philosophical interests is how we can learn to love ourselves and each other better in order to cultivate personal and political resilience. I teach ethics and a variety of other courses at a local college. I am the author of the blog Love is Stronger. I am also the author of three logic and critical thinking books for high school and middle school: _Argument Builder_, _Discovery of Deduction_ (co-author), and _Everyday Debate_, published by Classical Academic Press. You can reach me at email@example.com.
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