Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dealing with Self-hatred

I may be the only one in the world who deals with this, but in the chance that I am not, I thought to try to share what gets me through it. I have a "besetting sin" (in the words of Anne Shirley) to see and obsess over my mistakes. I doubt I see all of them, but I see enough to entice me to despair, particularly when I hurt others with my faults, which seems to happen far too often. Whenever I have conflict with someone, my mind almost immediately afterward begins to turn on itself. Based on others' expressed opinions of me, I think I must show a calm enough face during the conflict, seeming confident and overly assertive, but the real storm comes after the conflict is over and the other participant has departed. This second storm, a sort of internal civil war, is one I sometimes wonder if I'll one day lose everything to.

It is hard to describe how a person can hate oneself with so much passion without physically taking it out on oneself. I doubt that someone who has never felt this could even imagine what it is like to be trapped in one's own head while words and emotions of such violence mentally pummel you. There is no one to turn to with this intensity of feeling. It frightens me; I would never wish to inflict it upon another, though I have once before, unfortunately, which was a mistake I do not intend to repeat. It is so strange and unlike my usual self, I can only think that it comes directly from the Adversary. When it is over, after I have done the things I describe below, I feel better and more centered again.

The only thing that I can do during times like this is cling to my deep conviction that there is a God, and that He loves me. When I cannot like or forgive myself, I have to remember that there is One who does both. Sometimes I am reminded through music, or the scriptures. Occasionally a friend or acquaintance calls at the right time to shake me out of myself and give me back perspective. At times, when it seems I can no longer bear it, I have felt the very real feeling of arms enfolding me and holding me close. The feeling has been so real, I have been afraid to open my eyes in case it left.

If you have ever had to deal with these sorts of feelings, I plead with you to gain a testimony of the omnibenevolence of God. Pray with all the energy within you to feel Him. He is there! If He, as a perfect being, loves you, then if you do not love yourself it is only another imperfection. What you see, what you think about yourself cannot be truth if it is not also love.

If what you feel is a result of sin—of separation from God—you must repent! Repentance is not the demand of an authoritarian God, it is the plea to turn to Him again, to look at Him and see how much He loves you. Yes, you make mistakes and even sin. That is why Christ paid for that sin. He loves you so much, He suffered pain and death to show you that your imperfection doesn't have to matter. The words of Christ Himself read "If [you] come unto me I will show unto [you your] weakness. I give [you] weakness that you may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for [you if you] humble [yourself] before me; for if [you] humble [yourself] before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto [you]."

Keep clear distinction between sin and mistakes. When we sin, we must expect to be chastened, but do not feel that you must be chastened or condemned for mistakes. Neither sin nor mistakes make you a bad person, they do not make you evil or irredeemable. As Elder Oaks has pointed out the Lord deals differently with mistakes than he does with sin. Mistakes do not require repentance, only to be learned from. Sometimes it takes a long while to learn. When we came here to earth, it was expected that mistakes would be made. When they are, simply throw up your arms and yell "HOW FASCINATING! I have a chance to learn something!" In the Atonement of Christ, even sins become learning opportunities.

I suppose experiencing my feelings when I hurt others has helped me forgive where many believe they could never forgive. Although I have been hurt by others in the past, I am capable of at least knowing the hurt will not last forever, and am usually able to forgive, even through the pain. In this sense, I think my curse is also a blessing.

When you hurt, when you feel alone or are pummeled by the lies of Satan, remember, as Christ would say:
"Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, they troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee they deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"

Suggested Reading:
***Dallin H. Oaks gives a vital explanation of sin, mistakes and forgiveness that can be applied to oneself.
Some great advice about dealing with sin and sinners, especially those whose sins have separated them from some of the more obvious blessings of God. This is a great read which deserves its own post some day.
Gordon B. Hinckley shares how to be happy.
The classic talk by Elder Packer which shows the value of a soul—even yours.
Elder Wirthlin demonstrates how the Savior valued even one soul.
Neal A. Maxwell outlines how to apply the Atonement.
A wonderful essay on how to forgive yourself.
The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Zander.
Finally, one about letting go of past mistakes.


  1. When I feel like a complete failure, I remind myself that I have Heavenly Parents, a Father and Mother. I find great comfort in focusing on Heavenly Mother, knowing I am in her heart as she is in mine.

  2. Whoa, friend, I have been in this exact mode as of late. We need to chat! :)

    Thanks for this post.

  3. Wow! What great references in dealing with a difficult subject. No, you are not the only one who has gone through this. It's good to see that you recognize the source as the adversary. Have you ever wondered if there are some specific episodes in your past that trigger this kind of thinking?

    When I go through this kind of attack, I try to identify past events that may have been the original confrontational situation that is being brought forward with the most recent conflict. In other words, something was not resolved a long time ago and is demanding attention when the new and similar problem occurred.

    Recognizing the attack for what it is makes it easier to command the attacker to depart. I firmly believe that the little devils hang around just looking for stuff like this to happen so they can jump out and say, "See. I told you so." And then they bring up all kinds of garbage from the past.

    Sometimes it takes a verbal command to dismiss the attack and the attacker(s). I like to think on the scene in the temple where the adversary is commanded to leave. Can we not do the same in our home and in our own lives? I think so and have done so many times. It takes faith and practice but it works for me.

    Of course I'm a guy and love to solve problems. If you weren't looking for advice and just wanted sympathy, you've got it. I hate when this happens. It's one of the hardest things in the world to deal with. It is so contrary to the kind of thinking we want. I'm sorry you had to suffer through this. The things you describe to overcome and get past the pain are most comforting. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I feel this way so many times, and not because of anything I am doing, just because, feeling like a complete failure because of nothing happening. We hear of times when someone is pleading for someone to help them and another person feels the inspiration to call them or drop by. Never happens to me. I sit there in church and pray that just someone will stop and say hello and it never happens. So then I feel that even the Lord doesn't care to send someone my way. Why does that happen? I know the Lord cares, but why must I bear my trials myself?

  5. Grandma Labrum - Ah! Reading your words is like reading the feelings of my own heart at times. The only answer I have found is not an easy one. When I bear my trials myself, it is because I have refused to reach out. People are not usually very good at seeing where they are needed. I have only found the comfort of another's help when I have first asked them for it. It may be that you are like me, so good at keeping it to yourself, at maintaining a serene countenance in the face of despair, that you seem unassailable and whole in yourself. Let some of your weakness show, use your knowledge of your own pain to discern the same pain in others and try to help them, and you will see that others will flock to give you support. That is the beauty of the Church. There are many yearning to have some way to help without the knowledge of how to go about it. Only you can teach them.

    And it may be that some are so wrapped up in their own pain, they are finding it impossible to reach out to you.

  6. Tim - It was learning to recognize the attacks as attacks that helped me fight them. Your approach is a fascinating one. It is good, it seems, to try to identify what past experiences are unfairly effecting and affecting present ones. I, too, have found it necessary to do just what you describe and verbally cast out Satan. Thank you for both your solutions and your sympathy!

    M&M - I wondered if you were. You are right, we should certainly talk. In the meantime, consider yourself digitally hugged.

  7. Been there done that. It still happens, but thankfully less often now.

    Most often we see ourselves unclearly, either better than we really are, or worse than we really are. We can get into a 'shame spiral' where our one bad action suddenly sends us reeling with thoughts of how horrid we are. This can be 'all or nothing' thinking, not accepting that we don't have to be completely perfect right now. Neither are we the definition of evil itself. Allow for grey areas in ourselves, as long as we are slowly advancing toward the goal.

    For me recognizing what I'm doing is the first step. Then combat it by telling myself some of good things about myself (feels weird, but force yourself). Another helpful tool is to set a plan of attack - what I will do to prevent the bad behavior that precipitated it all from happening again. I can't change the past but look to the future knowing that because of the atonement of Christ, doing what I can is enough.

    Also key for me: positive self-talk. Some of the things we say to ourselves in the privacy of our heads we would never utter to another human being. Yet we bombard ourselves with horrid thoughts of denegration at one of the people we are commanded to love- ourselves!

  8. SilverRain, I love this post for many reasons. (Not the least of which is that it has prompted me to resume blogging on my personal blog after more than a year of silence.)

    I also have gained "a testimony of the omnibenevolence of God," and that always, always sustains me when the reality of my weaknesses threatens to depress me.

    When I read your response to Grandma Labrum's comment, I realized you were describing me: There are many yearning to have some way to help without the knowledge of how to go about it. Only you can teach them.

    Often I feel inadequate because I don't seem to get many promptings to reach out to others. I am reserved by nature, and think I am often oblivious to the pain of those around me.

    I am very willing to share others' burdens, but I still need a lot of help in knowing who is hurting at any particular time!

    Tim's comments also resonated with me. How hard Satan tries to get us to hold on to past grievances and sorrows, to endlessly recall our own past sins or those of others.

    Tim's advice to rebuke Satan has worked for me. Many times it is not appropriate to ask for a formal rebuke by a man holding the Priesthood, because the situation is intimately personal, and/or there are no Priesthood holders on hand. I can bear testimony that a prayer offered by a woman in faith, and in the name of Jesus Christ, can be totally effective causing evil influences to withdraw.

    Thanks again for this thought-provoking post on a very important subject.

  9. If this gets RoAnn posting again, it was worth it just for that. :)

    SilverRain, have you seen this post? I've just started the book and can tell it will be a great one. Thought I would pass that along.

  10. I completely empathize with your feelings of intense self-hatred. I am still trying to believe that God loves me...

    Thank you for sharing.

  11. So.. I ran a google search 'Dealing with self hatred', and I wasn't expecting a journal entry.
    Thank you so much for writing this, it meant a lot to me to read something from someone who knows what it feels like. And, talking about God's love for us is what I really needed to hear.
    And I understand what you meant when you called this a blessing and a curse..
    God bless

  12. always felt that i wasnt worth the space i occupy on the planet...yours being the first thing that came up when i searched for self hatered...i m sure there are many who can relate to my frame of mind...i dont see a reason to continue living in this form...if i left the mortal frame...i m sure someone worthy will step in...its a hell to live with doubts about self and worthless ness..

  13. I'm not a religious person, but reading this I wish I was.

    I wish every day for the comforting feeling of being loved.

    Maybe one day I'll have my epiphany, but until then I hope I dont fall too deep into my self hatred. At least I'm not alone, I can find comfort in that.

  14. Your post was very helpful to me until it turned religious in nature. Glad your turning over your cares to your religion makes you feel better, but it does not work for everyone.

  15. I hate myself, and I don't believe in God, so I'm afraid I'll have to look elsewhere as well..

  16. I am sorry, Anonymous friends.

    I didn't write this to solve anyone's problems. I wrote it to show how I found solution. I wish I could just give all of you a big hug.

  17. SilverRain, you have a serious talent for writing. Your prose is fluid and seemless, keep writing stuff like this as it was a great help to me and I have no doubt that it was also a great help to many others.


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