Many emotionally sensitive people seem to dislike and even hate themselves. The reasons vary but seem to fall into certain categories: self-blame, negative self-attribution, believing myths, not living values, treating yourself as if you don’t matter and experiencing emotional pain.
Many people look for someone to blame when things go wrong and bad things happen. If you burn yourself by spilling a cup of hot coffee, then someone made the coffee too hot or jostled your arm. If you don’t finish school, it’s because your teachers didn’t encourage you.
Blaming is different from taking responsibility. Blame assigns fault with a negative twist, perhaps a nuance of accusation. Responsibility means that the person played a part in what happened and has accountability for it. Responsibility seems more factual while blame seems more emotion-based.
Emotionally sensitive people sometimes blame themselves for all the negative events that occur in their lives. They don’t allow themselves any room for human error. Often the blame is based on the fact that the event occurred, not a factual evaluation of what happened. If your daughter is angry, it’s because you must have spoken too harshly to her or done something awful. If your boss rejects the report, it’s because you did a horrible job. Perfectionism can add to the problems here. For example, if the boss asks you to revise one paragraph, you decide you messed up the assignment.
Fundamental Attribution Error
Fundamental attribution error describes the tendency to use personality-based explanations for behavior instead of situational explanations. For example, when someone cuts in front of you in traffic, you decide he is a thoughtless, reckless jerk. You don’t consider the situation he might be in, you go straight for a character flaw.
Doing this to yourself would distort your view of yourself. If you have a really difficult week and then berate yourself for being too lazy to do the dishes or if you are ill and judge yourself as a loser because you do not meet your deadlines that week, you would be ignoring the situation you were in and attributing negative personality characteristics to yourself based on the situation. You could develop a long list of negative characteristics for yourself in this way.
Some of you may see looking at the situation as the reason for the behavior as making excuses. The definition of excuses is a reason put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense. The issue is whether the excuse is accurate. It is not reasonable to expect yourself to function at the same speed and accomplish the amount of work when you are ill as when you are well. That is a fact. When excuses are factual reasons why something happened, then it is about accepting the truths of life. Looking at the facts and finding the truth is not letting yourself off the hook.
Your parents and your family members all had their own issues and values. Everyone does. You may have grown up with their views of you ingrained in your mind. You may not even be aware that some thoughts you have about yourself originally came from others. If you see yourself as a burden, maybe that idea came from a parent who had little to give or was overwhelmed with tasks. Maybe that view was more about them than you. Have you checked the facts of that idea?
We can have myths that come from our experience. If you don’t find a lifetime partner by a certain age, you might decide that you are unlovable and unwanted. If you weren’t skilled in softball or soccer when you were a child, you may have decided that you do not have coordination skills or the ability to do any physical activities well. Maybe your partner repeatedly tells you how worthless you are or how you deserve to be punished and you believe what he or she says.
You can view these as reasons to dislike yourself, when in fact these ideas are likely untrue. Even if they are true, not everyone has the same gifts and therapy can help you learn to develop better relationship skills. Hating yourself accomplishes nothing and adds to the problem.
Not Living Your Values
Part of how we see ourselves comes from what we do, how we behave. When you don’t live your values, you may be disgusted with your own choices and hate yourself for your actions. Maybe you value family yet you rage at your spouse or your children. Maybe you value honesty and you are lying about important issues in your life.
Treating Yourself As if You Don’t Matter
Part of the way we think of ourselves comes from the way we treat ourselves. If you don’t take care of your physical hygiene, that’s a way of saying you don’t matter. Maybe you let others make your decisions or you are a doormat, always paying attention to the needs of others and ignoring your own. Maybe you hide from the world, believing that you don’t deserve happiness or sleep with people when you don’t want to. All these patterns create or strengthen self-hatred.
Emotionally sensitive people experience intense emotions that can be challenging to manage. The pain of life is magnified and some people hate that they are emotionally sensitive. Reacting with sadness or fear to events that don’t seem to affect others can be discouraging. Knowing they react more intensely than others is uncomfortable for many. They may get angry at themselves for being emotionally sensitive and have difficulty accepting the way they were born, even though there are positives to being emotionally sensitive.
This list is not exhaustive–there are many more ways to develop self-hatred. If you are engaging in any of these patterns, then consider whether these patterns are effective in your life. Is what you are doing helping you achieve your goals or experience peace in your life?
In a future post, I’ll discuss radical self-acceptance and give some ideas about how to give up self-hatred.
Hall, K. (2013). Developing Self-Hatred. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/emotionally-sensitive/2013/03/developing-self-hatred/