An important question
Here’s a question I get asked a lot: “How can I hate myself more?”
It’s a useful question to consider at some point in your Journey, so here’s my take on it, broken into 8 easy steps for you.
This is just a guide; there are other paths you might take, but this is a pretty common one.
And look, you can choose from either the video or the print version:
1. Be different
This might be different from what your parents expected or wanted in a child, or different from what society expects or is trying to shape people into.
Some differences show up from birth, like being colicky, having difficulty eating or sleeping, having medical needs that are different from what is considered “normal” or “healthy.”
Some differences start showing up in the baby or toddler years, in personality, temperament, sensitivities.
Others will show up in school years, like dyslexia, ADHD or other learning differences, communication or socialization styles, possibly gender. Or if you attend a school in which you are a racial or ethnic minority.
Yet others might show up closer to puberty, like gender or sexuality differences.
Again, the timeline here is very loose. Some people will begin to experience these much earlier some much later.
But at some point you’ll need to identify a difference from your family’s expectations or the standard norms of your culture.
2. Get a lot of negative feedback about your difference
This can either be subtle or overt. Both are excellent paths towards hating yourself. The results are going to look a little bit different, but they’re both quite effective.
Subtle feedback might be little “comments.” Teasing from family members about quirks or preferences.
Your parents sighing when you do something that you like, or when you express yourself.
It could be exasperated comments. “What am I going to do with you?” “Why can’t you just be normal?”
It could involve lots of trips to various professionals, like doctors or therapists to try and figure out “what’s going on,” or “what’s wrong.” “Why is my child like this?” To get help “so that he can have the best possible future.”
More overt negativity could include emotional, psychological or physical abuse, therapies designed to correct “behavioral issues,” to teach compliance to social norms or expectations, being punished for doing things differently, or for being yourself.
Conversion therapies, or even talk about conversion therapies, any kind of talk around the house about how people who express your kind of difference are going to meet a violent end, be destined for a negative place in the afterlife, or how that difference will secure eternal punishment, are all excellent ways to develop self-hatred.
It could involve family expressly telling you to keep you difference a secret. Because “we can’t let the neighbors know.” Or not admitting that it’s real.
3. Internalize the pressure to conform
So far you’ve got a particular difference and familial or social pressure to ignore, hide, or overcome that particular difference. The third step is internalizing that need so strongly that you start to provide pressure to yourself, so that even when family, friends, school, social organizations, religious communities, or other people aren’t around, you become so scared or worried about your difference that you go out of your way to hide it, cleanse yourself of it, overcome it, or get rid of it on your own. Possibly to the point of convincing yourself and everyone around you that it was just a phase, and it’s over now.
Depending on the difference this could look wildly different.
It could look like becoming very shy, quiet, anxious, timid. It could look like behavioral outbursts, getting in trouble a lot. It could look like bringing attention to something else as a way to distract from the main issue, like becoming the class clown.
By the way, you need to become known for this other thing, like being the shy one or the scaredy cat, or for being the problem child, the loud one, the troublemaker, the free spirit, the nerd, the intellectual.
Whatever form you take, that identity needs to become more prominent to either distract from your difference, or to spin your difference as conforming to a socially recognized role.
4. Don’t have healthy role models
In parallel to all of this, it’s important as you’re growing up to not have people in your life who are good models for dealing with emotions, relationships, other people, and work in healthy ways.
For proper self-hatred, make sure that your parents have a lot of their own traumas and wounds, and project their fears, hopes, and dreams for their own lives onto you.
If one or both of your parents weren’t there for you, don’t worry, there’s another option. Being ignored can be just as effective, though in different ways, as outright abuse.
If the people who should care about you genuinely don’t give a fuck, ignore you, more or less pretend that you don’t exist, or only take care of you enough to meet basic needs, or they disappear at some point in your life without any explanation and whoever’s left implies that it was your fault, or you develop a belief for whatever reason that it was your fault, those are all excellent ways to develop self-hatred.
5. Choose a social role
Depending on what your distraction technique is, you’ll have different life paths available to you, often starting around adolescence and going into early adulthood.
If you’re the troublemaker, the problem child, the rebel, it might be anything from more hands on, physical, or technical work, like learning how to repair cars and becoming a mechanic, going into the military, it could include doing drugs or drinking to excess, getting involved in gang activity, breaking the law and either getting away with it for a while or, depending on how successful you are, not getting away with it and ending up in legal trouble or potentially prison.
If you went towards the shy, anxious or nerdy pathways, your future could include anything from staying at home longer than what’s socially acceptable for your culture, to becoming reclusive.
Or it could include working low wage, entry level jobs, like at McDonald’s, far longer than usual, so as to invite questions about your plans in life, or comments about your wasted potential.
By the way, that’s a particularly effective way to hate yourself; to have been told that you have a lot of potential and taking very low wage, entry level jobs that don’t garner much social status, not just at the beginning of your working life, but for years.
Alternately, people in this path might continue their education and go on to college, but because this is the more socially rewarded path, to truly hate yourself it’s important at this stage to feel like you’re always the outsider. Don’t make many friends, wrap yourself up in either your own anxiety or in your studies.
Some people will take another option, which is skipping college, prison, or mediocrity altogether, and making a stab at working in non-standard career trajectories.
This might look like getting odd jobs or making their own employment, traveling, working for nonprofits, even trying to save the world (self-hatred will be especially effective if the organization you work with has lofty goals yet accomplishes very little practical good, or is so tied up in bureaucracy that you can’t get much done).
This non-standard career trajectory will lead to a lot of questions, a lot of comments, complaints, unsolicited advice, or demands to conform already, from everywhere and anywhere; from family, strangers, even others in this alternative arena.
“Why would you do that?” “Where’s that going to get you?” “You need to think about your future.” “Are you saving enough for retirement? Those kinds of jobs don’t do that for you. You have to look out for number one.”
Sometimes the comments are sort of backhanded compliments. “I could never do that; I’d be too scared.” “All the more power to you.” “Well, it’s your life.” “Whatever makes you happy.”
Sometimes these are genuine compliments, but it’s important to ignore those. For the path of self-hatred, pay attention only to the ones that are veiled insults portraying that the speaker actually thinks that it’s a crazy thing to do, but they’ve been socialized to say something nice.
Sometimes you might be able to tell from the tone of voice or the context which is which, sometimes you won’t be able to tell. When you can’t tell, always take it as if it’s meant in the worst possible way.
6. Be unfortunate in love
This self-hatred is going to feel pretty bad, granted, but it’s also going to be so familiar that when you start looking for love or relationships it will be easy to find people who will help you feel more of the same, and that familiarity will feel like you’ve found home.
At first, your partner might make you happy, or hopeful, but don’t worry, anyone who hates themselves is likely to attract the kind of person who will, sooner or later, use that for their own ends.
They’ll put you down, tell you you’re wrong, make you doubt yourself. They may hurt or scare you at times; probably not enough for you to leave, but it will be enough to reinforce the self-hatred, and the more that builds up, the more crap you’ll take from your partner, and the more they can say and do things that reinforce that self-hatred spiral, and that could potentially last a very long time.
If this relationship results in children, welcome to another key source of self-hatred: the comparison and shoulds of parenting.
Everyone will have their own opinion about how you should raise your kids, and is likely to foist it on you, unasked for, everywhere from the grocery store checkout aisle to visits from your in laws, and such sources of comparison, criticism, or advice will highlight all the ways you are insufficient, doing it wrong, and messing up your child for life. All excellent sources of more self-hatred.
Alternately, if you don’t go down the path of romantic partners and/or children, the comparisons and criticism will strike in the form of expectations that you should be partnering up and procreating.
Everything from, “are you pregnant yet” or “your biological clock is ticking” to comments on “what you’re missing out on” and every baby post from friends, classmates, and acquaintances on all your social media.
7. Keep on keeping on
Continue this trajectory for years, or even decades, going through the motions of life, trying your best to meet others’ expectations.
You may find a growing sense that something is wrong, that life sucks, that there’s no point. Squash and ignore all these thoughts and feelings.
Alcohol, smoking, junk food, eating disorders, drugs, work, children, are all excellent ways to keep your mind so preoccupied that you won’t have the time or resources to pay attention to those concerns.
You might develop a variety of medical challenges or unexplained symptoms. Autoimmune conditions are a popular one in the self-hatred community.
You’re probably not going to spontaneously break a bone but when you hate yourself, bodies respond to that in all sorts of ways that are quite self destructive.
You might spend years chasing down symptoms that doctors don’t believe are real, or can’t explain even if they can see evidence of them.
And you might get more flak from the medical community that adds to the whole, “Well, this is just another way that I’m messed up,” belief, which is another key to a doorway of self-hatred.
8. When you come to a choice
At some point, you’re going to face a choice. It might come in the form of burnout, a major medical crisis, a personal crisis, a midlife crisis, a feeling of “I can’t do this anymore,” or “What the hell is going to happen to me if I keep doing this???”
It might be a spiritual crisis (don’t call it a spiritual awakening if you’re committed to the self-hatred route), a psychological breakdown, or a personal breakdown.
Now, the words crisis and breakdown sound very dramatic, and sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s a growing, creeping feeling that builds up over years.
But at some point, it’s going to come to a head.
And you’re going to have to make a more intentional choice about whether you want to continue down this path or make radical changes.
Those radical changes are super scary. It means walking away from the self-hatred path that you’ve been on for so long. You probably won’t think about it in quite that way at the time, but that is one of the underlying aspects to it.
Let me warn you in advance, that giving up the self-hatred route is scary for a reason.
It’s not predictable, and it’s not particularly safe. You’re going to find a lot of people who disagree with your choices and they’re going to be very vocal about it. They’re going to push back, they’re going to complain, comment, question, push all your buttons, trigger you, and do everything they can to try and keep you in line. It’s not going to be easy.
It’s not a path for the timid.
And it’s going to destroy your whole self-hatred thing that you’ve been working on for your whole life.
Admittedly, it might also make everything feel so much better and get you to a point where you like yourself, your life, where you can break free from all the things that are currently awful, so that you actually enjoy your days, but it’s going to take a long time and be really hard.
It will be hard psychologically, you’re going to have to get more in touch with emotions, come to terms with body stuff, and with all the crap you’ve been ignoring, pushing down, or dissociating from.
It’s going to do a number on you and on every relationship that you have. It’ll change how you live your life, possibly even where you live, what jobs you do, potentially everything, eventually.
So think about the sunk costs. You’ll be giving up years of effort with a clear and predictable return on investment.
If you kind of want to give it up, but don’t want all that chaos, no worries. You can make some surface changes, call it good, and continue on the path of self-hatred, complete with a fancy new car or a younger partner to take your frustrations out on and teach to hate themselves.
Now, as someone who pledged allegiance to that path for a long time, I can tell you that if you just buckle down, dig deep, and continue on doing exactly what you’ve been doing forever, your life will be predictable. You’ll be protected from ever not knowing what the future will hold. It’ll feel safe and secure.
Whereas the other path is scary, hard, and uncertain. There lies danger.
So if you want to stay nice and safe and secure and know exactly what the future looks lie, stick with self-hatred. It’ll always be there for you.
(Okay, quick disclaimer for people (like me) who don’t always pick up on sarcasm. Everything here is meant to be sarcastic, and yet it is also, unfortunately entirely honest.)