“I hate myself.
“I can’t stop it. Other people say nice things about me but I am having a hard time. Yes I was abused but that is not the problem. The problem is I just wish I was someone….nicer….more competent…..better looking….smarter. I hate being me.”
Hating yourself is like stepping onto a down escalator. Once it starts, it seems to drag you down without an easy place to jump off.
Self-hatred is a byproduct of helplessness and shame. Both of these can be caused by trauma. Often victims may not realize the trauma made them hate themselves, but the feeling of being helpless creates shame, which leads to self-hatred. Whether you could or could not stop it is not the point. It doesn’t matter.
Common acts of self-hatred:
In a way, self-hatred is an attempt to prevent more pain.
One late afternoon I was rear ended by a truck when I was stopped at a red light. My reaction? “Why didn’t I go the bank instead?”
It is illogical. I was not hit because I did not go to the bank. By changing my itinerary in retrospect, I assumed control. But realistically I cannot predict I would’ve been more or less safe. I could have had a more serious accident. We will never know.
When we have been hurt we assume control over things that we cannot control. We begin the “what ifs…”or “if onlys”. If I take on the blame, I can prevent it. This is good only if you are at fault!
A crime victim? Fault-free! Date rape victim—fault-free. How many times I’ve heard “I guess that was my mistake.” “Did you say no?” I would ask. “Yes” is always the answer. The correct answer is they were not at fault. Did they feel at fault? Yes. Because if they can assume blame then they can prevent it from happening again.
Being molested by an uncle or aunt is NOT the child’s fault. Having a partner hit you? Not your fault. Lots of unhappily married people do not hit each other.
When we are hurt, it is easy to feel ashamed and be angry at yourself.
The important thing is to cancel all self-blame for things that are beyond your control. If it is chronic, you feel trapped (like domestic violence, continued sexual assaults, such as those perpetrated on minors) then self-hatred becomes a nasty symptom of trauma and a secondary injury that will prevent you from getting help. It’s a trap. Avoid it.
It’s an injury that needs to be healed. It is bad enough to suffer once. Adding self-blame and self-hatred is simply another unnecessary suffering.
If the self-hatred lasts more than a week, find someone to talk to. If it doesn’t disappear, look for a professional.
Self-hatred may keep you from asking and receiving good things in life. It prevents you from enjoying the good person you are and setting boundaries with those around you. When you feel less than, you accept less than from the world.
You may not feel as though you deserve better, but you do.
If you have been abused, enslaved, raped, molested, beaten, talking to a therapist who understands trauma can help you trade self-blame and anxiety for a sense of peace.
For those interested, read more about trauma recovery on our website, follow the links and finally, I highly recommend Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, MD.
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