Self-hatred is one of the defining issues of our times. It is all over the place in Western society. It is speaks in millions of voices and is seen in thousands of different ways. It all speaks in the discordant, grating chorus that says, ” You are not okay as you are.” Or perhaps more truthfully, each individual is saying, “I am not okay as I am.”
From that core rejection, hatred of others, fear, and depression drive individuals to great lengths to feel okay and to feel good. But people don’t understand what is really driving them. They don’t understand the thorn in their hearts that’s causing them to bleed and to feel so much pain. Instead, people blame others. Yes, it’s Congress’s fault I’m unhappy. It’s my boyfriend’s fault I’m unhappy. It’s my boss’s fault that I’m unhappy…. And on and on and on.
But when we turn inwards, we finally can grapple with this issue. It can be a particularly dark one depending on the person. It is not a fun thing to feel all the feelings of self-rejection, isolation, anger, fear, sadness, and hatred itself. However, until you get to core of this issue where you started believing that you are not okay, then self-hatred will be one of the things the defines your entire life no matter what you do, how noble you are, how “spiritual” you are, how much you insulate yourself from upsetting people and situations, or whatever your means of avoidance, numbing, and self-soothing are.
The belief that “you are not okay” isn’t just a belief. I think it’s also a feeling. I think the two are inextricably tied together. Take a moment to sit with this. See if you can see what it feels like to not be okay.
Does your stomach clench? Do you shoulders tense? Do you feel like you can’t breathe? Where is self-hatred hiding in your body?
That’s always as the great thing about the body. It does not lie. If you think about self-hatred and your stomach turns over making you feel nauseated, then you’ve found where some of it is lying inside of you. And you may notice that this is much more than an idea.
Truthfully by the time any of us get around with confronting self-hatred, it’s grown up into a vast inner network throughout your heart, body, mind, and energy right on into the whole of your life. That’s why this kind of spiritual work can be so transformative and destructive. All this other stuff in your life is reflecting back and offering negative feedback loops on ways of living that perpetuate your self-hatred. Those “great friends” you have will soon be revealed to be toxic abusers and codependent users, and that’s why you don’t want to hang out with them anymore. They are not inherently bad people–no one is. They are, however, quite sick, and until people address their inner sickness as I hope you are doing or are now ready to do, they will spread sickness.
The Expansiveness of Self-Hatred
When I take an issue down to its core–to its tiny little seed–it can see impossibly simple. But that’s the horror of core issues. They are simple, and that simplicity is profoundly powerful. Here let’s simplify further to unleash even more power. Let’s take the core belief: “I am not okay.” Let’s remove one word. Just one. Let’s remove the not. Now what does it say?
“I am okay.”
Breathe into that one. See if you can be with it. See what comes up if you say to yourself, “I am okay.” Do you hear a chorus of objections? Do you not believe this?
Or are you ready to hear this? Does your body relax and release? Do you suddenly feel a profound sense of relief and ease? Whenever we release an issue, relaxation in the body tends to follow (assuming another issue doesn’t immediately spring up).
We can simplify the statement further and become more profound. We can say:
Ahhhh. Relief. Relaxation. Peace. There’s no judgment here. Whatever way our life is going, is what is.
But this is not where most people are. This seems like a fairytale because self-hatred has rooted so deeply and been watered and nourished so thoroughly. That’s why people invest tons of time and energy into being successful in careers, winning awards, looking a certain way that society wants you to look, not speaking your truth, speaking to manipulate others to be like you in someway, and a whole host of other ways, including seemingly “spiritual” ways. I could list the kinds of ways we reject ourselves and then we reject others for the rest of this post. Instead, I encourage you to go to your journal or even a sketch book. Start to diagram out how you reject yourself. Look at all the ways that you think you’re not enough, and look at what you do to avoid, numb, or overcome that feeling. Be honest. You’re the only one who can do this work, and this issue won’t go anywhere until you do it.
The Long List of Self-Destructive, Self-Hateful Habits
So far, I’ve been fairly benign (or at least it looks that way) about what I’ve listed out in regards to self-hatred. But we have to really look at how miserable people are. The more self-hating someone is, the more violent to themselves and others they become. People self-sabotage themselves in a variety of wonderfully artful and exquisite ways. The more self-hating someone is, the more they avoid or sabotage the things that would bring love to them from the external world. Because if they feel love from the external world, then the issue of self-hatred gets illuminated. It’s gets pushed out of the darkness where it wants to live and pull the strings, and that’s a deeply uncomfortable and painful process. It’s the start of healing, but most people don’t understand this.
So when a beautiful lover comes, a deeply self-hating person goes the other way. When a dream job is offered to them, they turn it down. When an amazing new roommate comes to live with them, they find a reason to get the person kicked out. The list goes on and on.
And still it gets worse. Drug abuse and alcoholism are ways to further bury the deep pain of self-hatred. Acting out by getting in verbal and physical fights with others is another way that self-hatred pulls the strings, and at the same time, the issue is clearly announcing itself. It is screaming and swinging its fists saying, “There’s a HUGE FUCKING PROBLEM HERE!”
But in this society, that statement falls on deaf ears.
And the more deaf we are to our own pain, the greater likelihood we become abusers. The abuser then continues the cycles of pain and suffering inflicting their self-hatred on others through physical assault, sexual assault, intellectual assault, emotional assault, and many other kinds of battery. It is not a pretty sight, and it leads one deep into the abyss of despair where it seems that there’s no way out.
A Light at the Bottom of the Abyss
Sometimes if you’re extraordinarily lucky, a light appears at the bottom of the abyss. People call this hitting rock bottom, and it is not something I recommend to anyone. But it does happen from time to time that you realize a little piece of the truth in the depths of an unconscious crash-landing into your unconsciousness and self-hatred. You realize how made up all this pain and suffering really is, and something inside moves. A little candle is lit, and you start to look at all this suffering that you’ve created. You stop blaming the world for being a hateful, scary, and otherwise uncomfortable place. You realize that you’re in charge of your internal state of affairs. You’re in charge of what you feel.
This doesn’t feel very liberating at first, but it’s a start. It, too, is a simple truth–that you choose your feelings. But there’s not much space for truth amidst all that pain, and most people just want the pain to end. Unfortunately, that’s not how healing typically goes. Opening this wound tends to unleash a huge amount of pent up energy and pain. It will require a lot of attention and love and self-compassion–the very things your self-hatred issue says you don’t have and aren’t worthy of. So, it’s a kind of a chicken and the egg situation. But at some point, you have to say, “Enough is enough,” and get to work.
The Long Road Ahead of Spiritual Work
As I said, self-hatred is a seed that tends to have grown into every aspect of ourselves, and coming into love of this self-hatred is the first step. What is love? you ask. It is acceptance of what is. Hatred is rejection of what is. By its nature, hatred of any kind is false. It says that something shouldn’t be there. But if something is there, it is there. If there is atrocity in Syria, then it is there. Hating it won’t fix it. It will tend to fuel the fires. Loving something doesn’t mean approving of it. It simply means you accept that it exists. Once you accept something, you can address it.
Such is the nature of working with self-hatred. You have to notice where you reject yourself and accept that you are doing this. I did not say justify why you are doing this. Your justifications are primarily wrong and all growing up out of this self-hatred seed. Because everything is so dominated in your life by self-rejection, the idea of not wearing make-up or not going to the gym to work on your abs seems crazy. This is what you have to do to look good, right?
As I said, we live in a society that is constantly self-hating and reinforcing all these lies. So step one, is to notice. In noticing, you have to accept how you are rejecting, hurting, or abusing yourself because you don’t love yourself. In this way, you love your self-hatred. It’s the only way to truly address it.
Breaking Out of Abusive Situations and Addictions
If you are really early in your attempts to heal, then you may have to take more dramatic actions. You may quickly notice that you are in an abusive situation, and by abusive, I mean physically abusive, emotionally demeaning, and things of a serious nature. Having regular arguments with a spouse probably doesn’t count. No relationship is perfect, and there’s tons to learn in romantic partnership about yourself and to do spiritual work. But if it’s nightly drunken screaming fits, then you need to take action. You need to join an Alcoholics Anonymous group if you’re addicted, and if the violence is being directed at you, you need to leave the relationship and get to some place physically safe. That’s how you can start to heal the deeper issue of self-hatred. We cannot go deep into the issue particularly well, until there’s a certain level of calmness and safety at the physical level. It’s kind of like trying to do an archaeological dig while being bombed. Sure, you can uncover stuff. But it’s really intense and very confused until the dust settles.
For other abusive situations and addictive patterns involving drugs, alcohol, over-exercising, eating disorders, sex, and more, the encouragement is the same. You have to get clean and get clear of those harmful situations/patterns to start to do any kind of self-introspection. Fortunately in the Western World, we have lots of helpful support groups, therapists, and programs. I encourage you to use them and consider them to be the first steps of building your spiritual practice.
No One Can Love You But You
Ultimately, no one can really love you but you, and it’s your love you crave the most. It’s your love that you don’t allow yourself to have. People are expending huge amounts of energy to try and do something to get social approval, but that external approval is simply an excuse to give yourself your own approval. It’s a terrible game because social approval is fickle, and not everyone will love you. Many people are caught up in their own self-hate that they’ll hate you even if you’re super kind and noble and caring. There is no relief out there. The space of release, freedom, and true love can only be found inside of you.
That’s always the good news. It’s that the love you really want is inside you, and you’re the one holding all the cards on that score. It’s up to you to choose it, however. No one else can, and in so choosing love, a lot of upset emotions and old pains that were being avoided and repressed start to come up. In this way, it starts to look blacker and bleaker at first. This is why I encourage you to build a spiritual practice, find spiritual community, and connect with a therapist, teacher, or healer to support you if things are really tough. This kind of spiritual support can be critical for a lot of people, and there is never anything wrong with reaching out for help.
Yet, no one can do this work for you either. We can support you and point you towards the truth, but you have to walk this path. You have to step into your own abyss, and you have to wrestle with that “not” stuck in the middle of that feeling and belief of “I am not okay.” And if you do, that “not” will have to come out. It cannot stay there if you do not believe in it. As you drop deeper into this space of being and love, the “okay” may go too. Which leaves you with “I am,” and you are as you are. And you are perfect.