Self-hatred is an underlying feeling that we are not good enough and worthy of love from another or ourselves.
This causes us to be in a constant state of comparison, often pulling us into a downward spiral of negativity and self-abuse.
In this podcast, we will explore where self-hatred comes from and practices to find liberation from this dark imprisonment.
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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of “The BE ULTIMATE Podcast.” Please note that this is direct from Travis speaking unscripted and unedited. ]
Welcome to “Dealing with Self-Hatred.”
This week’s podcast was inspired by an email that I received from a student that was inquiring about how to handle self-hatred, and we know that self-hatred is an issue that many, many millions of people on this planet face and deal with.
So I want to dive into what self-hatred is. I want to share stories and insights and some wisdom to give you practical tools and takeaways, whether it’s yourself or a loved one that you know that is struggling with this, so that you can alleviate yourself from this darkness that can often feel inescapable. You can feel like you’re trapped, that you’re a prisoner to this. And in many, many severe cases, we know that this can lead to suicide. So it’s my hope that you receive the light of wisdom that comes, not from me, but really from the great ancient teachings of yoga and mindfulness and we now see in modern-day psychology.
What is self-hatred?
Well, self-hatred is often described as a constant underlying feeling that we aren’t good, we’re not good enough, and that who we are really matters, that we’re lacking a purpose and we’re leading a meaningless life.
Sometimes, these feelings can be subtle, it’s like an underlying frequency subtly in the background of our mind. And other times, it can be brutally obvious. And, of course, very often, it goes back and forth between the two. Some days, it’s more subtle and we barely notice it. In other days, it’s like this blaring horrible voice inside of our head that will not quiet down.
We often find that when we suffer from self-hatred is we compare ourselves to other people all the time. We often feel like we’re not good enough, so we’re always looking at, “Oh, that person over there has this or has that or looks like this and we don’t.” We feel like we’re in this state of emptiness like we’re lacking and we’re missing the joy and the health and the power and the happiness we often think that others feel.
Of course, when we throw in the whole social media element into this conversation, this exasperates this issue even more. Because most of the time, people on social media are only posting their peak moments. They’re only posting the pictures that are the best of the best. They may have taken 50 pictures to get that one shot, that one angle where they look amazing and they look beautiful, and so we’re often comparing ourselves against something that is not even real. It’s just a big illusion.
“Comparison is the thief of joy,”
Very often when we feel these emotions of self-hatred, it’s also bundled with a constellation of other things. We might feel shame or guilt or depression, negativity, toxicity. It all comes in like a tidal wave of negative emotions.
Also, within self-hatred, we feel overrun by what’s called the ‘inner critic.’ The inner critic is that voice inside of the head that scolds us, it berates us, it puts us down, it beats us down and abuses us through its negativity. It tells us how worthless we are and it’s this negative loop going on over and over again.
You can see this within physical behavior where the head is hanging low, the chest and the heart are sunken, or sometimes we actually see the opposite effect where people puff their chest out and they put on this false sense of bravado that they are the most perfect human being to ever walk the face of the earth. But deep down inside, they know that they are miserable. They know that they are living a lie. They know that they are living a complete illusion.
If you can relate to any of this, you’re definitely not alone. We often feel like we’re the only person suffering from this. But the reality is, is that being a human being is often very challenging, it’s very difficult, and it’s what the Buddha called the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows.
In Western society, we are often plagued with self-hatred way more than some of the older Eastern traditions. In too many cases, this self-hatred can lead to severe depression and even suicide.
There’s a story that my meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield, talks about when him and many other teachers met with the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama comes to visit and these Western teachers have an opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama some questions, and one of the main questions that they wanted advice and insight on dealing with was this widespread plague of self-hatred and unworthiness that was pervading Western civilization. It took some time for the Dalai Lama to have this question translated. So he’s going back and forth between him and the translator. Because in Tibet, there’s actually no word for self-hatred. It doesn’t even exist. And the Dalai Lama, completely perplexed, asked the teachers in the room, he said, “How many of you are dealing with this?” Almost every teacher shot their hand up, and the Dalai Lama exclaimed, “But this is a mistake!”
This is an issue that exists very prevalently in our modern-day society which shows you that a lot of the constructs that we have created in our society are leading to our own suffering.
In the West, we often are infatuated with things of the ego. One person said that ego stands for ‘edging God out,’ or we could look at it as edging happiness or edging joy out.
When the EGO becomes eradicated, the SOUL becomes liberated.
We’re dominated very often by ego, and vanity, materialism, physical stuff that’s fed to us from since the days that we were born through advertising and marketing that’s telling us that we need this thing in order to be enough, to be worthy. And if we don’t have this thing or we don’t look this certain way, that we are somehow lacking.
We also get these programs from family, community members, coaches, especially when we were children. Any trauma, any abuse that we experience as a child, is a program that is installed within the circuitry of our brain. Very often, this plays itself out through the decades of our life where we go on because of the way that we are treated when we are children to not feel that we’re worthy. And so we have disdain for our self, especially if we had somebody in our life that berated us, scolded us, criticized us, and judged us all the time.
Naturally, unless we deal with this trauma through therapy and through tools I’m going to share with you, then it continues to play itself out for the rest of our life.
Before the age of six, we are in this state within our brain where we soak up everything. We’re very vulnerable early on. If you’re a parent or you’re a teacher or you have any children in your life beneath the age of six, you want to do your best to very mindfully plant these really powerful, uplifting, benevolent seeds within the brains of those children under the age of six.
I want to share with you something from Dr. Lisa Firestone and Joyce Catlett from their book, Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice.
They write, “The nature and degree of this division within ourselves depends on the parenting we received in the early environment we experience. Parents like all of us have mixed feelings toward themselves. They have things they like about themselves, and they have self-critical thoughts and feelings. The same negative feelings that parents have toward themselves are unfortunately often directed toward their children as well. In addition, if a parent has unresolved feelings from either trauma or loss in his or her past, this will impact his or her reactions to his or her children. Because of their acute sensitivity to pain and negative circumstances, children of all ages pay particular attention to and are more affected by even small incidences of parental anger. They may experience a parent’s anger, whether acted out or not, as being life-threatening. Under extreme circumstances, they may be accurate in their perceptions. In any case, children in stressful situations often feel threatened to the core of their being and frightened for their lives. During times of stress when children are afraid, they stop identifying with themselves as the helpless child and instead identify with the verbally or physically punishing parents. The parent is assimilated or taken in as he or she is at that moment, when he or she is at his or her worse, not as he or she is every day. The child tends to take on the anger, fear, self-hatred, in fact, the whole complex of emotions the parent is experiencing at that time.”
So I wanted to share that passage with you. Because it goes to show that if you experienced self-hatred in your life, very often, it’s not because of anything you did wrong. It came from a parent or it came from somebody that was in your life that acted in a way that installed these programs inside of your brain.
When we begin to recognize and become aware of that, very often, that begins to give us a little bit of peace because we recognize, “Oh man, there’s actually nothing wrong with me. I’m not doing this the wrong way. This isn’t even my fault. I was a victim to something that was passed down from my parents which was probably passed down from their parents and their parents.”
This is very important if we are now parents, that we deal with our own traumas so that we break the cycle of passing down this trauma from one generation to the next.
These programs get installed at an early age and then they get reinforced through repetition until the program starts running us instead of us running the program. So it’s a discussion on no longer being the victim, but now being the one who is empowered to create the programs we want to live and the programs that are in alignment with who we want to be.
The way it works is we have a thought and your thought sends a signal out, and then that signal produces an emotion or a feeling within the body.
So if I was to say, “Where do you feel self-hatred in your body,” and you quieted your mind down and you turned your attention in, you may feel it in your chest, in your heart. This is why people that suffer from self-hatred often walk around with a collapsed heart, or you may feel it in your gut.
The thought sends the signal out, the emotion is then produced and then the brain is monitoring the emotion that’s experienced. And what it does is it sends out more chemistry, more thoughts to support the emotion. So now we’re in this negative cycle, this negative loop where the thought creates the feeling, the emotion, and the emotion creates a thought. And then that just runs itself over and over, wiring the neural nets in our brain until we create this pattern that’s called our state of being.
And so now we have this state of being that is the victim. We have these thoughts that says, “I’m not good enough. I suck. I’m worthless. I’ll never amount to anything,” and then we feel that emotion of self-hatred and then we produce more of those thoughts, and now we have this state of being where we’re just swimming in this all the time and we’re not going to be attracting positive uplifting people, things, experiences in our life.
Because our state of being is a magnet, it’s an electromagnetic signature, sending a frequency out into the field and then we’re drawing these events and these people into our lives. When we are wired for self-hatred we end up in very unhealthy relationships, we end up in accidents. Often, car accidents are when two people with pain bodies collide.
These negative programs get reinforced by the stories that we tell. We tell these stories inside over and over until we get dominated by the voice of destruction, this is the inner critic. The inner critic is the voice that judges, criticizes, and it just goes on and on creating suffering and pain.
There are two types of pain. One pain is the pain that’s created in the present moment. The second type of pain is the pain from the past that keeps getting perpetuated over and over.
Hatred is a form of pain. And this hatred, it feeds what we call the pain body.
The pain body is the unfinished business of the heart we haven’t dealt with and healed. The pain body needs fuel to survive. This fuel comes from complaining, blaming, and negative emotions. And if it doesn’t have fuel, then it begins to starve.
See, there’s a law in the universe that says, “The things that you feed become stronger. The things that you starve become weaker.”
There’s a fantastic story in the Native American tradition that talks about a grandfather sitting around a campfire one evening with his two grandkids, and he’s telling them this dramatic story of these two wolves that are in a really intense fight with each other. He explains that one wolf is reflective of the soul: compassion, kindness, goodness, forgiveness. But the other wolf is reflective of the ego, and this symbolizes hatred, judgment, criticism, resentment. And the grandkids, they ask their grandfather, “Which wolf wins the battle?” And the grandfather replies, “The one that you feed the most.”
You see, as human beings, we all on some level have a good wolf within us and we have a bad wolf within us. But the beautiful thing is you get to choose which wolf you’re going to feed. The idea is that we want to feed the good wolf so much that the good wolf is way stronger than the bad wolf. The bad wolf may never go away. Maybe even as it gets depleted and weakened, it may be lurking around just trying to scavenge, trying to sneak itself back in, sometimes being sly and devious. But anytime push comes to shove, the good wolf is there to take down the bad wolf. It’s like a muscle, and this muscle needs to be strengthened.
So it makes sense then, if we want to rise out of our pain body of self-hatred into happiness and joy, we need to stop fueling the pain body.
“When greed, hatred, and delusion are given up, we no longer cause sorrow for ourselves or others.”
So how do we stop feeding this pain body? How do we no longer cause suffering for ourselves and for others?
One of the most powerful effective ways to do this is by bringing kindness and compassion to our self.
So I would ask you, how would you treat a vulnerable child? A child that was suffering? A child that was hurting? A child that was in pain? A child that, like you, felt self-hatred?
You see, this child, it exists and it exists inside of you. It’s called the inner child, and this inner child needs to be honored. This child needs to be listened to. This child needs to be respected. And most importantly, this child needs to be loved.
When that inner critic is firing off day in and day out, inflicting it’s abuse, you’re abusing your own inner child.
Now I want to share a story with you from Jack Kornfield’s book called “The Wise Heart.”
Philippa, a Buddhist hospice nurse, told me a story from the county hospital where she worked. A patient she was helping to care for had been brought to the hospital under guard from the local prison. Bill was 44 years old, serving a long sentence for armed robbery and dying from complications of HIV and hepatitis C. He had not wanted his mother to visit because he was so ashamed of his life, but Philippa saw beneath this shame. After a heartfelt conversation, she convinced him to make contact with his mother. Several days later, his mother arrived, frail, over 80, with a grief-stricken expression. When Bill’s mother entered the room, she saw her son who had not spoken to her for years, in prison garb, handcuffed to the bed. Philippa was afraid that the dignified and stern mother would look at her son with judgment and disappointment. Instead, she just stood there with a deep stillness and they looked at each other all over. Then their eyes locked and the circumstances and sufferings, the roles and costumes, all dropped away. Philippa said that Bill’s mother gazed at her son like a newborn child, like a saint witnessing a miracle, with the heart of all mothers. Bill and his mother each saw their original goodness, forgiving, eternal. They sat together for an hour and held hands. There was not much that needed to be said. When his mother left, Bill said now he could die in peace.
No matter what the pains of the past we might carry, just like Bill’s mother, we need to meet ourselves with compassion, kindness, and love.
“Love is the strongest medicine.”
-Neem Karoli Baba
This medicine needs to be directed to ourselves.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”
You see, within all of us, no matter how depressed we are, no matter how stricken by self-hatred we are, no matter how imprisoned within darkness we are, there is a light and this light is sometimes described as ‘original goodness.’
And this original goodness is where our power resides, we’ve just become disconnected from it.
So we can practice by placing a hand on the heart or somewhere on the body where it feels loving and we can offer the phrases, “I am worthy of love. I am worthy of love. I am worthy of love.”
Or another good phrase is, “I hold myself in compassion. I hold myself in compassion.”
Very often in the beginning, it may not feel like that’s what you’re experiencing. You may not really feel worthy of love, but sometimes you have to fake it till you make it in the beginning. Remember the metaphor of feeding the good wolf and the bad wolf? It’s going to take some time for that good wolf who hasn’t been fed in a long time to get stronger, to get the nutrition. Through the repetition, making it a daily repetitive consistent practice, over time, the good wolf will get stronger. And before you know it, you’re saying the phrases and you’re also really authentically beginning to experience it.
I say that to you because, if in the beginning, it doesn’t feel authentic and honest to you, that’s actually pretty normal. So don’t give up, stay with it and just keep repeating, “I am worthy of love. I am worthy of love. I am worthy of love.”
Another great meditation you can do is the ‘Loving Kindness’ meditation, sometimes known as Metta. This is where we also work with phrases, and we direct these phrases of loving kindness to somebody in our life that is suffering. We also direct it to ourselves because the circle of compassion is not complete unless it includes our self, and then we often direct it to all life everywhere. I’ve recorded this podcast. You can find it. It’s episode number 19, the loving kindness meditation. You can find it anywhere my podcast is available or also on YouTube.
Now another thing I wanted to explore here with self-hatred is the importance of becoming aware of your thoughts.
We talked about how your thoughts create an emotion and then the emotion creates more of the same thinking, the same thinking creates the same emotions, so we are in that same loop.
Descartes famously said centuries ago, “I think, therefore I am.” And unfortunately, this is inaccurate and dangerous. If we identify with every thought that happens within our mind and we think that we are those thoughts, we are in big trouble because a lot of our thoughts don’t have our best interests at heart.
The thoughts of self-hatred, you can look at them like a bad visitor arriving at the home of your mind, but you don’t have to let the bad visitors stay. You don’t even have to let them in through the door. You don’t have to answer the door.
So in the same way that these thoughts, “I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy enough. I suck. I’ll never amount to anything,” or whatever the thought is, it may be there, but you don’t have to identify with it.
90% of your thoughts, you’ve already thought before. These thoughts are like bad reruns and we have to turn on the light of awareness to become aware of the whole gamut of our thoughts.
We want to become aware and awake to our unconscious thinking patterns so we can start to disentangle from the negative destructive thoughts of self-hatred.
“Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes the light.”
This is what enlightenment’s all about. It’s the light of becoming aware to that which is unconscious.
Zen Master Ajahn Chah put it like this, “When we choose a fruit to eat, do we pick up the good mangoes or the rotten ones? It is the same in the mind. Learn to know which are rotten thoughts and immediately turn from them to fill your basket with ripe beautiful mind states instead.” And it’s so true, right? You would never pick up a rotten banana and eat it. You would never pick up a rotten piece of fruit and eat it.”
So why would you pick up a rotten thought and believe it? Instead of the rotten thoughts, go for the good thoughts, go for the ripe thoughts, the thoughts that are supportive and kind, compassionate, loving, uplifting. And if they’re not there, create them for yourself! It may take some effort on your part.
This is sometimes described as ‘watching the thinker’ or ‘the witness’ or ‘the one who knows.’ We want to pull back from the thoughts and connect to the dimension of awareness. Awareness is another word for consciousness.
Thoughts exist within the ocean of awareness. A thought is like a wave, awareness is like the ocean. Become less identified with the wave, become more identified with the ocean. Sometimes there will be good waves, sometimes there will be bad waves, but all waves have a beginning, a middle, and an end. When you recognize this truth, you become liberated from suffering.
Last few practices to help you to deal with self-hatred.
One, focus on being of service to those that are less fortunate than you. There’s always somebody out there that is suffering more than you, that needs help. One of the most powerful ways of dissolving the pain body, is to go serve someone less fortunate than you. To take the attention off of ourselves, stop feeding our own ego, focus on another. Now our ego begins to dissolve, our heart begins to open up, and we tap back into original goodness.
Number two, treat your body like a sacred temple. Very often when we are dominated by self-hatred, we don’t feed our self well, we don’t take care of ourselves. So exercise, good nutrition, lots of rest, treat yourself as if you are worthy. You are worthy of love.
Number three, another practice I would recommend is forgiveness meditation. Sometimes we hate ourselves because we have acted in ways that are harmful to another. In order to get beyond this, we need to forgive ourselves. We need to move beyond our own shame or guilt, because carrying this shame and guilt is no longer of service to us or anybody else. Remember, there’s two types of pain: the pain in the present moment and the pain in the past. Forgiveness meditation helps us to eradicate the pain of the past. I just did released a meditation on forgiveness. It’s episode number 77. Feel free to check that out.
Lastly, you can always work with a therapist. Working with a therapist is a great way to heal yourself of these negative emotions of self-hatred, to have a guide to help guide you through the maze of misery. Over time, you will get to the other end of the maze and then you can go and help other people get through the maze.
Our deepest suffering becomes our greatest opportunity for transformation.
All right, you guys, that is it for this episode. Thank you again for tuning in.
Now let’s finish with the Be Ultimate Prayer.
“May we bring strength where there is weakness,
may we bring courage where there is fear,
may we bring compassion where there is suffering,
and may we bring light where there is darkness.
May we be ultimate.”