I hate myself.
I said those words with as much sincerity as I could muster up. I was sitting across from my husband at a dimly lit restaurant. His job had recently relocated us to another state and we began to frequent the nearby establishment. It was dark, located in a basement, but none of that mattered because their jalapeño burger was heavenly.
Although I already had a propensity toward self criticism, my personal portrait was at an all time low. What diminished my outlook even further was an unsuccessful job hunt post-college and the loneliness I was feeling from living in a new place.
My negative self-talk continued. I hate my personality. I hate that it’s difficult to make connections. I hate that I can’t get a job. My rant continued and I rattled off every other flaw I could think of.
I said these words with conviction, but my husband didn’t seem as convinced. He couldn’t believe that anyone could have such angst against themself—but at the time I did.
What started out as standard external circumstances eventually began to work their way into the very core of my character. Perhaps the problem wasn’t just the position I was in, maybe it was actually me.
As if my own voice of accusation wasn’t enough, I had a mix of “condemning consolation” coming in from other sources. Their advice sounded something like, don’t worry, you’ll find a job eventually! Yet, in the very next breath began offensive remarks about other unemployed individuals who were clearly missing the mark in life.
That conversation with my husband happened more than five years ago, yet it still saddens me when I think about how lowly I looked upon myself. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this mindset was not only detrimental to my mental and physical health, but it was also damaging to my relationship with God. In my ignorant oblivion, I not only began to exalt man’s opinion and expectations over his, but I also began to exalt my own.
The change in my mind didn’t come until I adjusted my view of what self hate really is—sin. I wasn’t just carelessly criticizing someone or something that didn’t really matter. I was speaking negatively of God’s creation. Even more, I became my own judge; in some ways I was trying to be my own god.
Thankfully, I am no longer in that place and those dreadful words—I hate myself—haven’t departed my lips in years. The change, however, did not happen overnight and the revelation didn’t come on my own accord. The enlightenment eventually came from a mix of God’s Spirit in me and a trusted mentor. Because of my own experience, and needing an outside advisor to help me see my error, I’m writing this blog to hopefully shed some light on someone else who finds themself wrestling with negative self-talk.
4 Mentalities That Can Cause Self Hate
The first step to stopping self hate is to identify if and where it is showing up in your life. Although self hatred manifests itself in many different forms, I think it typically falls under a few similar causes: comparison, pride, shame, and the fear of man.
Self hate that comes from comparison typically sounds like this. I hate myself because I’m not as _____ as _____ . I don’t like myself because I’m not as outgoing as my best friend. I don’t like myself because I’m not an influencer on Instagram. I don’t like myself because I’m not as far ahead in my career as my college roommate. There are endless amounts of standards we can measure ourselves against, but I think we should ask ourselves one question. Whose standards am I copying? God’s or man’s? Romans 12:2 is very clear about what we should do with the world’s standards—don’t copy them!
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Well, what are some of the behaviors and customs of the world? How about, if you’re a stay at home mom you add no value to society. If you don’t attend college you’re not going to be successful. I’ve encountered people with all of these mentalities, but I still have yet to find these ideals stated in scripture. And if anyone got it right, I’m betting on Jesus.
So again, whose standards are you copying? And while you’re taking inventory, here’s another great question to ponder. Whose timeline am I following? Culture tends to tell you that you should have your calling figured out as soon as possible. If not, something’s probably wrong with you. However, if we look to God’s word, we see a very different narrative. Moses didn’t accomplish God’s plan for his life until he was 80. John the Baptist lived most of his life in obscurity. Jesus didn’t carry out his purpose until what some historians suggest may have been the end of the end of his lifespan as a Jewish male.
What can we learn from these accounts? Visibility does not equal importance and early arrival does not equal success. God’s will—nor his timeline—is the same for every individual. Whenever you notice yourself following a certain ideology, I recommend revisiting Romans 12:2. Ask yourself, is this a custom of God’s Kingdom or is this a custom of popular culture.
Pride is subtle, sneaky and somehow finds its way into our lives as a root issue for almost all of our problems. Self hate is no exception. In this case, pride secures a spot as one of the top causes because it creates a wrong directional focus. Instead of focusing our attention and service outwardly toward others and God, it focuses everything on ourselves. In a culture that emphasizes self-love and self-discovery, this seems like the right way to take, but remember the previous point we just covered? We are not to follow the ways of the world. So in which direction does God’s word actually point us?
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3 (ESV)
Scripture positions us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Pride, however, tries to position us as the greatest of all. And what happens when we’re not the greatest? We begin to condemn ourselves. The safest place we can stay is in complete reliance on God’s power. Let’s not forget what we can accomplish apart from him anyways—ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (ESV)
All of us fall short and none of us have what it takes. Compared to God, we all lack. So instead of striving to build our own kingdom, let’s aim to live our lives selflessly serving God and other people.
The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:11 (ESV)
Some people dislike themselves because they think something is inherently wrong with them. This disgust comes from something called shame. Shame, which is defined as a “painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior” can result from a few different scenarios:
- The person has committed a sin they deem unforgivable.
- The person has been violated in some way and they feel it’s their fault.
- The person has a physical or emotional flaw that makes them feel detestable.
Once these feelings of self contempt anchor themself in the person, these distorted self views often get projected onto those around them. The thought process might sound something like, if I don’t like myself, certainly no one else will either. This can further perpetuate feelings of self loathing as the person might begin to isolate themselves.
When combating shame, I think one of the most effective scriptures to reference is Romans 8:1 which states:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
When we are tempted to feel shame about who we are or what we have done, it’s important to remember that Jesus bore our sin and our shame on the cross. That unforgivable sin you committed? Jesus remembers it no more.
As mentioned earlier, in some ways I became my own god. By that statement I mean I took God’s place as judge in my life. He had ruled me as a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) yet I was still deeming myself as unworthy. I was hanging on to what he had already taken away.
Fear of Man
Another way self hatred can come into someone’s life is through the fear of man. This category is closely related to pride in that the primary focus is on self. Instead of focusing our efforts on pleasing God, we begin to work to gain our approval from others. This was one of the factors that also appeared in my own story. As I heard the negative remarks about people who were unemployed, I began to attach them to myself. If they think so lowly of these people, what do they think of me? As I began to exalt their opinions (even if they were unscriptural) I simultaneously began to lower God’s. Instead of putting the ultimate importance on what God said about me, I began to worry about what others thought. Then, I began to criticize myself because I wasn’t meeting their standards.
One truth I have to remind myself of often is that I do not belong to this world. Serving God typically will not make sense to others and more than likely it will make you seem foolish. Especially once you stop adhering to the aforementioned customs and practices of the world. As servants of Christ, we have to come to terms with not fitting in. We are not meant to belong to this world, we are made to be set apart. If you find yourself tempted to fall into this snare, remember these wise words from the apostle Paul in Galatians.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 (ESV)
Self Hate is Sin
Do you fall into any of these categories? Self condemnation isn’t something to take lightly. It is contrary to God’s Word. Therefore, all self hate is sin. It is a blatant contradiction and disregard of God’s feelings toward his creation. Satan has tried marring the identity of man since the Garden of Eden and make no mistake, he’ll try to corrupt yours. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that there is a way out.
How to Get Free From Self Hate
- Repent: Once you realize you’ve been walking contrary to God’s will, it’s time to repent. If you’ve already repented in general for your sins for salvation, this is different. This type of repentance is to restore fellowship with your father, not to obtain salvation.
- Forgive: The Bible speaks of the importance of forgiveness, yet we tend to forget one person. Ourselves. Sometimes the person that we hold the most resentment towards, is us!
- Renew: If you’ve been in a pattern of self-loathing talk for quite some time, it’s time to renew your mind. This process takes patience. You did not come to this behavior overnight and it likely won’t go away overnight. Make it a daily practice to speak scripture over yourself until your thoughts start to align themselves with the word of God.
Pray: Father God, I come to you in the name of Jesus and I thank you for your faithfulness to forgive. God I repent for partnering with a spirit of lovelessness toward myself. You made me in your image, yet I have mocked, belittled, and rejected your very own creation. God I ask that you would forgive me for rejecting myself even though you say I am accepted. I also ask that you would forgive me for exalting the ways of the world and the opinions of man above you. God I ask now that you would help me to comprehend the vastness of your love so I might extend it to myself and others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Write: This week I challenge you to download this sheet and use the space provided to write out a list of every negative word you have spoken and/or believed about yourself. Take time to pray over each of these individually and ask God to forgive you for believing these lies. Then, go over the list and begin speaking what God actually says about you. Below is a link to some scripture cards if you need help.
Replace: This week begin to replace the cycle of self criticism by speaking scripture over yourself. Click here to download and print a set of scripture cards designed especially for you.