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Why you don’t really hate yourself

MarmorherzLots of people struggle with self-hatred. They find they constantly judge themselves, talk to themselves harshly, and even do things to themselves that are harmful. It’s very painful to be this way.

But I want to tell you: you don’t really hate yourself.

In the deepest core of your being you love yourself. In the deepest core of your being you want everything for yourself that you want for those you hold most dear. In the deepest core of your being you want to be happy, to be well, and to be at peace.

And everything you do — everything — is a strategic attempt to find happiness, wellness, and peace. That’s the motivation behind every action you take, including your acts of self-hatred.

If you hate someone else, your motivation is usually something like this: by being unpleasant to them they’ll go away and not bother you any more, and then you’ll be at peace, and you can get on with being happy. Or they’ll stop doing that thing that annoys you, and then you can go back to being happy.

Those motivations of ours aren’t usually very conscious, because conscious self-examination is a relatively recent arrival in our being, evolutionarily speaking, and so many of our strategies are not clearly thought out, but are automatic and habitual. And so we often use strategies that just don’t work. The person you’re unpleasant to often can’t or won’t go away. They may be unpleasant back at you. And so your strategy to find peace and happiness ends up destroying your peace and your happiness even further.

If you hate some aspect of yourself, then usually the motivation is similar to those above. Maybe you messed up: “Oh god, what an idiot I am!” you yell at yourself, in the privacy of your own head. You treat yourself like a child who needs to be punished so that it won’t repeat an error. You do something good but you tell yourself it wasn’t “good enough.” If you can just be unpleasant enough to yourself, then maybe you’ll stop making mistakes. You’ll do better. Then you’ll be happy.

This is also a strategy that doesn’t work. You can’t find happiness through being harsh on yourself. You can’t create a sense of inner peace through setting up a conflict with yourself. But we get stuck with our failed strategies of self-hating behaviors — repeating them over and over. Hating yourself didn’t work that time? Try a bit harder at hating yourself next time!

But the key thing is that self-hatred is a strategy. And it’s a strategy for meeting a deeper desire for well-being, peace, and happiness. And that deeper desire for well-being, peace, and happiness is the love you have for yourself.

Self-hatred is self-love gone wrong. Self-hatred is your natural desire for happiness expressing itself in a strategy that can never work.

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This is, I hope, encouraging. Because it’s not you, in your core, that’s the problem. It’s your strategies. And you can change your strategies. Strategies, in the great scheme of things, are relatively superficial. When you mess up, you can learn accept that you messed up without recrimination. You can learn that you don’t need to be harsh on yourself to prevent yourself making mistakes. You can learn, as animal trainers well know, that rewards are more important motivators than punishments like harsh self-talk. You can learn to be kind to yourself. You can practice lovingkindness, and learn the arts of being patient, accepting, and kind toward yourself. You can learn to be compassionate to yourself when you’re suffering.

It’s not necessarily easy to do all this. In fact it’s not easy. It even can be very painful in the short-term (we’ll often give ourselves a hard time for giving ourselves a hard time), although in the long-term learning to be kind to ourselves brings great happiness. You can expect a bumpy ride at first. But the only thing more painful than learning new strategies for finding happiness is to keep going with strategies that never have worked and never can.

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About Bodhipaksa


Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author. He founded Wildmind in 2001. Bodhipaksa has published many guided meditation CDs and guided meditation MP3s.

He teaches at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. You can follow Bodhipaksa on Twitter, join him on Facebook, or hang out with him on .

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Comment from LEm
Time: September 12, 2014, 11:27 pm

Thank you- When I read the above post, it instantly clicked in my mind and soul. I really dont hate myself.
I want good things for myself and the ones I hold dear. I have considered meditation. I am a Christian and dont know if that matters or not. I am going to try and apply some of these techniques. Thank you again for your kind and gentle post. I really needed it.


Comment from Tank
Time: October 27, 2014, 11:27 am

I am pretty sure I hate myself. I do not even want to “do better” anymore because I know I cannot do better, be better, and even when I do succeed at some task, it does not make me happy. It benefits whomever I am doing it for, and I obviously care very much for those people….which is why I am still here, but if they were not here, and the moment they do not need me any more, I am sure I will go away and end myself.
I am alone–not “different” or “excluded” or “isolated” but just “alone” within a midst of people. To leave those people with whom I am alone would hurt them because they do not know that I am alone. They think I am with them. I do not understand how I can hate myself as much as I do, and still love other people so much that I fear hurting them. I think I might enjoy being alone if I were physically alone, if I could leave these people without hurting them, but to be physically present, and so alone is dreadful.
I wasn’t always like this. I was happy once. In my ignorance, I loved myself and was happy that I had my life. Then I realized what I am, and I began to hate myself.


Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 27, 2014, 1:55 pm

You’re obviously depressed, Tank, and I hope you’re seeking help.

You say you hate yourself, but I suspect you’ve slipped into not acknowledging the love that every person has for themselves. Your worth as a person has nothing to do with “succeeding at tasks” or “being needed” or even “benefiting others.” The very fact that you are a living, conscious being is miraculous.

Take a close look at one of those unpleasant feelings inside of you, or one of the self-critical thoughts that pass through your mind. What substantiality do those feelings and thoughts have? What is it, really, that they are passing through?


Comment from Mike
Time: October 30, 2014, 9:05 pm

I found this page by searching ” What to do when you hate yourself”. To an outsider or family member, they see something positive in me that I don’t see. I’m 32 so I figured I would have figured out what they were talking about by now. I do know that I have achieved many goals of mine including my latest dream, a commercial pilots license. Make no mistake though, during every phase of succeeding in my goals, my mind would run it’s favorite script on repeat, ” You can’t do it, your a joke!, move aside and let the real people do it, you don’t know what your talking about, your a loser!, you deserve a shitty job and nothing more, you’ll never achieve this dream, your a dreamer…nothing but a stupid little dreamer, go back to living your life online etc.” That is a brief preview of what I tell myself on a daily basis, its exhausting. I have only been to a few different states, never out of the country. I even have my damn pilots license and I still hardly leave my town. Women show interest in me, but I never pursue them because I have nothing to offer. I’m like a cardboard box. No, more like a piece of paper, because at least a box has some dimension to it. I purposely talk myself out of social events, even though I know I might have had fun. I do most things alone, fly, jog, Jet Ski etc. I am terrified of looking stupid because I lived a childhood of getting laughed at every damn day. Now it bites me in the butt because I avoid situations where I don’t know what I am doing, I.E. traveling. It blows my mind how people can just pack some bags and visit another country and make it just fine. I give it 15 minutes of trying to put a plan in order before my negative mind soundtrack kicks in and shuts me down, just to end up surfing the web like a mad man for the next 8 hours, looking at who knows what. I care about other people, but I generally just don’t like my myself, especially seeing myself in a mirror. I am trying to forgive my dad, but he never taught me anything. My entire childhood was spent doing yard work while the other kids were playing. He used to make me mow the yard twice in a row because the first time was not good enough, meanwhile he is doing speed and other drugs behind our backs. It was a real mess. So here I am at age 32 with nothing. I know it’s my fault. I wish more than anything that I could change my negative nature toward myself, but I highly doubt it.


Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 30, 2014, 10:44 pm

We all have those doubts about whether we can change. What I’d suggest, Mike, is starting with your painful memories of childhood, noticing where you feel the pain in your body, and sending that pain your compassion. You might want to read some of the article on this blog about self-compassion, and also start working on lovingkindness meditation, which teaches the key skill of cultivating love and compassion.


Comment from Mike
Time: October 30, 2014, 10:47 pm

Thanks for your fast response. I will read those links you sent. Thanks again, Mike


Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 30, 2014, 11:30 pm

You’re welcome.

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