Do you hate yourself for the things you’ve done? Maybe you feel like Judas – someone who betrayed his best friend for a few pieces of silver.
You’re not alone.
I’m an expert in self-hatred. When I read my old diaries from when I was 11 – 30 years ago! – I’m shocked that I hated myself back then. I read my journal from two months ago, and am shocked afresh that I still hate myself. I’m deeply spiritual, yet I can’t forgive myself for the big and little mistakes I’ve made. I want to start fresh but I keep beating myself up, like a dog returning to her vomit.
My first tip for overcoming self-hatred and forgiving yourself is to read books about self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and freedom. Healing Your Emotional Self: A Powerful Program to Help You Raise Your Self-Esteem, Quiet Your Inner Critic, and Overcome Your Shame by Beverly Engel is an excellent place to start – it’s for adult survivors of childhood abuse (which is sometimes the root of self-hatred).
My second tip is to see a play like The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, at a place like The Cultch in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I saw it yesterday, and think it perhaps should be my first tip for overcoming self-hatred! The play is about the hell we put ourselves through, keep ourselves in, and refuse to let ourselves out of. Plus, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is incredibly entertaining, F-bombs and all – it’s one of those shows that keeps you riveted, laughing, and thinking.
What is your self-imposed hell?
Judas betrayed Jesus, and couldn’t forgive himself – even when Jesus reached out in love and forgiveness. Judas put himself in hell, according to this play, and would not let himself be set free.
Instead of hating yourself, use these tips for overcoming self-hatred to forgive yourself and start fresh.
How to Stop Hating Yourself
Maybe getting to the root of our self-loathing (why do we hate ourselves so much?) is necessary, but I think not. I’d rather focus on love, forgiveness, self-compassion, and setting myself free from the hell I keep putting myself in.
Realize that self-hatred, self-contempt, self-loathing are self-imposed prisons
“If heaven and hell are a mindset, as the play seems to suggest, it seems fitting that purgatory is really a place called Hope,” writes Sarah Szloboda in her review of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.
Judas put himself in hell and refused to accept the love and compassion of the saints. He did not want Jesus to touch him, even when Jesus professed his love and acceptance. Judas could not let Jesus forgive him because Judas could not forgive himself.
Before you can overcome self-hatred, you need to realize that you are putting yourself through hell and keeping yourself there – unnecessarily! Further, you have the power to let yourself out of hell. Take a deep breath right now, and start forgiving yourself. This doesn’t happen overnight, so have patience. Self-forgiveness and freedom are choices you have to make, perhaps several times a day.
Persevere, my friend, because the peace you’ll find is worth the pain of forgiving yourself.
Be honest about your pain
You found this article about overcoming self-hatred, which means you’re aware of your pain. But have you talked about the shame you feel because of the things you’ve done? Have you asked other people if they ever hate themselves, and how they deal with those feelings? Sometimes it helps to talk about it – because the hidden secrets are the ones that have power over us.
When we bring our dirty deeds into the light, we take away their power.
This doesn’t work all the time, though. I’ve written and talked about my sister, and how terrible I felt that she doesn’t want to talk to me ever again (I didn’t do anything wrong! She just wants to cut all ties with her past, and I’m part of her past. Hurts like hell, but I’m tired of beating myself up over it). Talking and writing about my self-hatred with regard to my sister didn’t help, though. I saw a counselor, who explained that it’s all about my sister – it’s not about me.
Talking to a counselor helped, but what really helped me forgive myself and start fresh was eye movement “therapy” (more like a two-minute exercise than therapy – see the next tip for forgiving yourself).
Explore eye movement therapy to heal self-hatred and torturous memories
I recently wrote Are You Stuck in the Past? – it describes Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR Therapy, which is a fantastic book by Dr Francine Shapiro. Basically, you think about a bad or painful memory while moving your eyes back and forth. You don’t need a therapist, but it definitely helps to have Getting Past Your Past handy.
I tried EMDR to help me forgive myself for being such a bad sister that my sister can’t even talk to me anymore, and I’m shocked that it worked! I actually feel better about myself. There’s something physiological and psychological about moving your eyes back and forth while processing memories – it’s similar to what happens during REM sleep.
If you want to forgive yourself and start fresh, try “crazy” new things like eye movement therapy.
Remember that self-hatred leads to self-sabotage
If you hate yourself for the things you’ve done – if you can’t forgive yourself – then you’ll set yourself up for failure. For instance, people who believe they don’t deserve to be in a healthy relationship will act in ways that sabotage or defeat good relationships (eg, they’ll choose needy, weak, unhealthy partners and then wonder why their relationships fail).
You’ll never achieve your goals – or even allow yourself to dream big – if you keep yourself imprisoned in a cell of self-loathing. You’ll never fulfill your deepest desires if you act like Judas. Not the Judas before the Big Betrayal — the Judas afterwards, who hated himself so much he couldn’t accept Jesus’ forgiveness and love.
To stop sabotaging and defeating yourself, you need to stop believing things about yourself that isn’t true.
If you keep putting obstacles in your own way, you might find What is Self-Sabotage? How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself helpful.
Are you like Judas, condemning yourself to hell by refusing to accept love? Will you overcome your self-hatred and allow yourself to move into forgiveness, peace, and freedom?
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.