On Disliking Oneself
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On Disliking Oneself

There is one particularly salient question
we should ask in order to measure our levels of emotional well-being: do you broadly feel
that you have the right to exist and are, on balance, a good enough human being? Or,
whatever your outward circumstances and achievements, do you generally feel you are a piece of excrement,
who has only got through life by deluding others (who would quickly abandon you if they
knew even a fraction of the truth about you) and, because you are a liar, are only ever
one or two steps away from deserved humiliation and catastrophe? It is in a sense extraordinary how many of
us instinctively answer yes to the second question; in other words, how many of us are
alive without a sense that we have any genuine merit in walking the earth. Suicide statistics
say something horrifying about our societies, but the numbers on violent self-hatred, from
which one in four of us are estimated to suffer, say something arguably even worse. If we saw
a stranger being treated the way many of us treat ourselves, we wouldn’t hesitate to
call it wanton cruelty. An odd detail about disliking oneself is that
one generally doesn’t even notice oneself doing it. Realising it would require a degree
of objectivity about one’s potential worth that one precisely lacks. Self-hatred can
be too obvious to be visible; it’s the default position and has been since childhood. One
doesn’t identify as a self-disliker; one just thinks one’s a piece of shit. The feeling radiates its effects in a number
of areas: if someone pays you a compliment, you immediately doubt their intelligence.
When someone offers to love you, you wonder why they are so weak. When you are stuck in
a frustrating relationship, at work or in private life, you stay (if necessary for decades),
for this is – after all – simply what you deserve. If you’re promoted or are admired,
you at once feel incapable and a liar. There’s a voice in your head that accompanies you
in all challenges and tells you that won’t be able to do this, that you’re a moron
and everyone hates you. If something appears to go well, you’ll sabotage things brilliantly.
You know just how to screw up job opportunities and drive away people who want to be kind.
You easily feel that people are mocking and mistreating you: you sense hostility in interactions
in shops or restaurants, with colleagues or lovers, a lot of the time, you’re in a paranoid
frame of mind – out of a fear that the world might at any point discover or has already
discovered what you well know about yourself: that you’re a disgusting imbecile. Salvation starts with an obvious sounding
insight that should nevertheless be written in large letters across the sky: no one is
born liking themselves. That is, there’s a history to this which you’ve been left
unable to think about. It is only the soothing, enthusiastic responses of our earliest caregivers
that can lend any of us encouragement to carry on. Our sense of self is assembled out of
the reactions of those who were first around us. We may not know anything about these people
in conscious memory but we don’t need to. We can deduce everything vital by asking ourselves
the very simple question: Do I like who I am? You may not have the original mould at
hand, but you can sense the imprint in the dough of your character. No one can survive the sense that they were
a bore, a threat, an inconvenience or a disappointment to those who made them. This isn’t a negotiable
point. If you were in this wretched camp, you get a prize for not having done away with
yourself already. We can’t escape a basic law: we are the only animal whose sense of
being able to keep on keeping on depends on the welcome accorded to them by those who
made them. It’s so horrific to have to acknowledge
that we were badly or unfairly treated, in an especially bizarre phenomenon we’re liable
to turn the anger we might in theory feel towards our erstwhile flawed caregivers back
onto ourselves. We end up preferring to dislike who we are rather than accepting a yet more
horrible idea: that someone we needed to adore wasn’t very nice to us. We can end up lacking
any capacity for anger, for that would require a basic sense of self-worth and therefore
an idea that we had been violated. Most of us are just numb. Or, in an effort to numb,
we gorge on drugs, porn, love affairs, fame or processed sugar… The path of self-hatred
points everywhere other than its real source: those early years. How does one ever dig oneself out of the mine-shaft
of self-hatred? For a start, by becoming a better historian of our selves – and therefore
being able to hold on to the idea that we hate ourselves only or primarily because we
were once not loved. This has a structure so basic it feels like an insult, but to make
the concept resonate with one’s actual experience can be the task of a lifetime. We need to start to notice what unfair story
tellers we are: how many decades of practice we have had at always turning ourselves into
the villain, of justifying the behaviour of others way beyond what they deserved and at
putting ourselves invariably at shameful fault. We may be very clever, but in this area, we
probably can’t think too clearly – so we may need to bring in another brain to help
our faltering one out. We may need to check our reality against another’s and thereby
recalibrate our assessment of everything we’ve touched. We need to repatriate the pain: away
from hating ourselves and fearing the world towards mourning an original catastrophe. We may eventually reach a very weird-sounding
insight: that we aren’t exceptionally awful, we just had an exceptionally unfortunate introduction
to existence. We need to learn a vital art, from which so much else good can then flow:
that of being on our own side. Visit our shop to give a life-changing gift. The School of Life offers a wide range of thoughtful, practical and genuinely useful gifts designed to help us solve some of the most common and intractable problems of life. Click now to learn more.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “On Disliking Oneself

  1. How would you become a better friend to yourself? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to turn on notifications to ensure you don't miss our next film.

  2. its not me that makes me feel those things, its other people. im american, and those in power have decided im not worthy of fair wages, civil rights, or healthcare.

  3. Thank you, i will now write a poetry book based on my life, what these problems are, how these problems have affected me and how i plan on changing it!

  4. Hello, could we have some sources on the thesis that this feelings comes from childhood ? Would be great !
    Nice video by the way 😁

  5. For those with loving childhoods, you likely still have had an adverse childhood experience (ACE) that may or may not be somebody's fault, or, simply being a baby without control over your bodily experiences can be unsettling if your parents are not mind-readers (i'm not ok, but as a necessary caregiver you're still ok). For those who have been through serious trauma, realising that the source of pain is outside yourself can happen very young, it's a sort of silver lining. (i'm not ok, you're not ok either)

    With trauma this kind of deflection/denial is unlikely, the pain/disconnect is overwhelming, so instead it gets burned into your nervous system as a situation to always be avoided (e.g. must not make others angry). People who have experienced trauma still get the numbness (dissociation) but survival often seems to require some of that fighting-anger life-force (world-hate?), till you can independently find somewhere safe to sort yourself out. World-hate might be a little closer to seeing that a death-wish is a wish for change, a new-life wish…

    These responses are all pretty normal though. Not seeing the cause of pain helps children cope with things they can't change. As adults we can consciously change how we see things… and live a better life for it.

    Take care all

    [ACE scores – a useful thing to know about, about 2/3rd of us potentially feel the need for extra 'comforting' as a result of some adverse childhood experience. More ACEs = more need for comfort to stay calm and happy. It's part of life…resolved through human connection or your addiction of choice]
    ["I'm ok – you're ok" is a classic 70's book by T.H. Harris about the experience of being a 'helpless' child relative to our carers and how we relate to each other as adults in parent/child mode or as equals. seriously out of date on trauma tho]

  6. I don't hate myself because some nebulous somebody didn't love me enough back in some nebulous time I can't remember; I hate myself because I habitually fail at living up to my minimum standard of what I could call a decent person.

  7. British people, for as long as everybody remembers (& longer than that) have always presented themselves as if the most cultured, enlightened & most intelligent civilization to walk the Earth.

    Yet look at them up close in their land & you see people trying to appear cultured, yet obnoxious in their manner & tendencies, like they can't help it. Natural loud hecklers these guys are. Then again all you have to do is look at their faces & see why they were ever called the "dregs of Europe". The irony  is that they so very much obsess about "breeeeeding", when their hardly contained selves & of odd sorts of appearances (weird looks), speaks better for their breeeeeding. I've always thought that since they were considered dregs long before, the aristocracy & eventually the more well off, started finding ways to better themselves. Starting off their obsession with breeeeding & distance themselves away & above the lower class. Are they finally caught up to the rest of Europe? I dunno (nope). I am going really low now by talking about people's looks. So let's talk about their pride & joy — their intelligence.

    TODO (draft):
    Basically say they're not much more intelligent. They're great with management & transmitting culture, ideas, identity.

    They were better managers, they held on to their colonies longer than Spain did.
    Culture, ideas…. This helped them cooperate. If there are pressing issues, they go to he streets (riot?). The people always want to be represented, hence the invention of the parliament. They are also good with literature, thus further transmitting their culture.
    Identity… This helped them build their empire.

    Then there's the fact that they are lucky to be geographically advantaged. Aside from small Celtic kingdoms that were brought into UK early on, there are no other countries to fight over their borders. Like Spain, they were surrounded with water to build navies & ship trade & which they used to expand their Empire.
    True, though, this is less than half the reason. They are just good with the above mentioned things.

    They're not the most intelligent best people to have graced the Earth & I repeat that as they KEEP ON POMPOUSLY INSISTING THAT THEY ARE THE CLEVEREST PEOPLE, IF NOT THE BEST, IN THE WORLD.


    TODO: watch the insulting & painful video.

    Also cheers to the level of education School of Life has, if you won't (can't?) even look into (understand?) my work.

  8. The problem is that sometimes you have every reason to dislike yourself – because you are terrible in social situations and people think you're too quiet, or discourtious and they talk about how weird you are in front of you. Then it's really hard to like yourself because you're doing your best already and you're not capable of more… sigh, sorry, hard day.

  9. How it can be the ONLY reason ? What about the people who hate themself while they were loved and cherished ? How can we disproof this theory ? Because anyway, you can say that people don't remember that they have been hated.

    Sorry but that kind of theory are very shallow. Please do better. Explain us why it is the only reason !? Why it is not because of bad metacognitive habits learn during adulthood that have nothing related to chillhood ? And in the end does it really matter that we were hated or loved ? The problem is now, hatred is the uncontrollable problem and it can't be stopped by remembering that we didn't got enough love (or whatever things we didn't got).

  10. Why is the conclusion always about how they were treated in childhood? Or by their parents? I felt like my parents loved me unconditionally, sure they make criticisms (you can't run away from those). My self dislike was grown over the years not just in childhood. By multiple parties, not just my parents. As they started nitpicking on my flaws. I became more self aware, but the flaws never went away. Sometimes they got worse and my self talk grew even more negative, becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. You are right, self dislike is a habit. It really influences your everyday choices. But i dont know how to have that courage to do better. Each time i try, i lapsed. 😔

  11. Worst thing is I only have my parents to hang out with because on top of physically and verbally abusing me (since I was about 5, I remember my mother telling me she wished she strangled me when I was born), they made me so socially incompetent I have really bad anxiety talking to people. And to be honest I think they made it so that I don't even find value in social interactions even though I know a primal part of me needs it. So I just carry on my loser life where my parents are my only 'freinds'. Knowing why I am the way I am helps a little, and I accept it wasn't my parents fault because they did they best they could and didn't have a great upbringing either. But ultimately I cannot intellectualise away 30 years of social learning and mental hardwiring. I just try to remember little insights like this when I'm at my lowest, to get me through however may more days/ weeks I can bear.

  12. Huh, I genuinely dislike myself as a person, but the whole right to exist thing seems irrelevant to me. Nobody asks to be born, but we are, so here I am.
    Nothing wrong or right about it.
    It just is.

  13. Isn't this all goes on to blame others for our adversity way opening for the victim mentality? If so where is the truth, the reliable middle ground? Need help.

  14. Wow, I feel even more like shit now lol.

    I'm pretty sure my parents loved me just fine. Maybe even more than fine. But I still put myself more on the second category rather than the first one.

    So when this video says that the root cause of that is not being loved by your parents as a kid it just makes me feel worse cause if I actually was, why the fuck would I still feel bad about myself

  15. the thing for me is that i watch your videos a lot and frequently relate to the "problem" but rarely to the "cause"
    i had a pretty ok childhood and only started to feel this fucking sad after becoming an adult so whenever "bad childhood" is said to be the cause for constant sadness or loneliness or self-hatred i just feel even more pathetic for not having a valid reason for feeling this way lmao
    don't mean to offend or anything, i still love the videos and just by reading a few comments it's obvious a lot of people relate to this, i just wanted to share i guess

  16. ☼ impostor syndrome is the biggest joke pop psychology ever perpetrated on person kind. you failure, and we're about to find out and you know it.

  17. I’ll never forget the wonderful, crystalline voice of my mother as she tattooed the word “LOSER” on my forehead shortly after my birth, saying, “Die, dickweed, die”; but I didn’t die: I lived and grew even though it rained every day and I was forced to work in the nearby salt mine while going to night school and raising my ten siblings, I lived and thrived, knowing full well the despair of the paraplegic in his wheelchair scraping through the coldness of existence with no hope or salvation, utterly alone, wet and miserable, Oh, those were the days, by God, those were the days.

  18. I dunno. I think there are more roads to self-loathing than bad parenting. I think it's possible to have a loving upbringing that puts you at risk of self loathing by way of high standards for achievement or morals etc. And some people really ARE pieces of shit, if only for a phase before a wake up call. Who hasn't met someone who should like themselves far less than they seemingly do?

  19. Things that should happen do not happen and things that should not happen do happen = recipe for feeling like a pos daily.

  20. I love all of these insightful videos from School of Life. But this one made me feel a little odd.

    I see that their statement can be more of a general idea of why we may not like ourselves and what they mention as the cause of self-hatred can be just one example from many reasons, like not feeling loved in relationships, etc.

    But the one thing that made me think this video may not be quite accurate as SoL's other productions is that I felt missing them talking about how parents makes us, in quite a literal meaning.
    I mean, we are born after someone carries us for 9 months. We are fed for years with the help of those parental figures. We are educated, we are cared, we are being kept alive thanks to our parents (or other parent-like figures).
    What made me thought that it may be even irresponsible from them to narrate one's life like this is that we, human beings, are not very conscious of how our mind and thoughts work, and it may be catching to hear such a good explanation of why we may hate ourselves, but this content can lean us towards a thinking that puts hatred against people that DID actually made us grow up and live, even if some (and probably most) of us don't have a past of unfulfilling feelings from our parental figures.
    I'm not writing this as a hate message or anything like that. I just thought this video may have much more of a negative effect that makes us not really look anymore to the GOOD moments of our early years, leaning us towards a path of less and less happiness in relation to our early years.
    Thanks for your amazing content, as always, but this time I couldn't really agree with all you said. Best regards <3

  21. Perfectionism and self love hate being forced to exist in the same person. One is always trying to push out the other. There is always conflict. To be perfect or to let myself breathe. This conflict is in me. Will I ever be able to resolve it?

  22. Why the heck is the title of this video not in english but in my motherlanguage? is this something youtube did or did I do it or is The School of Life doing that and how can I fix it? Its so annoying

  23. sometimes it isn't the people who made us who are at fault sometime its those who shaped our personalities which are the ones to blame the most.

  24. I was gay in a small town, verbally bullied by a stepfather, molested by stepbrother, no positive reinforcements from anyone. It's no wonder I grew up with self loathing. I'm amazed that I've lasted this long. The idea that you live until u realize your purpose in life just pisses me off. Then I think that "purpose" is very simple and universal…. to love and be loved.

  25. I think it's more than our early developmental socialization, and can't entirely be explained via psychology. we are told not to like ourselves by society. when we don't like ourselves, we put up with more bullshit from employers/our elected officials because we don't think we deserve better, we buy more things to fill the void inside us and stave off boredom/dissatisfaction, we buy more things (makeup, beauty products, gym passes) to make other people see us differently. our confidence and self love is actively undermined to turn us into slave consumers from a very early age. if we don't do well in school, we're seen as lazy and underachieving, thus we're conditioned to work hard for grades which we're told are important, but really mean nothing. we're conditioned to strive for things without questioning them, to keep us as functioning cogs in a big capitalist machine.

    oh and most importantly if you don't have a lot of things, if you don't have a lot of money, it's not the system's fault – it's yours for not working hard enough.

  26. That being on our own side could be liar they assumed, though articulated form to “ to cope with” still we u-turn hard question to ourselves again “ Why am I born to be dislike and self hatred” 😒😒😒😞

  27. Yes, YEs, YES! YESS!!! I do! I do like myself!! But do I deserve food and a place to live before I prove myself worthy in the marketplace? As my brewery employer once asked: what good are you to me? I had no answer.

  28. I don't think you were suggesting that this (creators not being kind) had to be the case, but I have been in a constant battle with self hatred since as early as 7 or 8 despite having loving, kind parents. I can remember them being typically encouraging rather than reprimanding, my failures and misbehavior were not a reflection of my potential to them, and whenever they did lose their tempers they always made sure to calmly and sincerely apologize and talk things over before we went to bed for the night.
    I could speak endlessly of how much I admire the job my parents did, even if it wasn't by any means perfect, but my point is I don't think our direct family is necessarily the only party to blame. I think in my case my schooling and social life at that age had more to do with my self-loathing than anything else.

    When I was going into second grade, my father started a business with a close friend and our family moved to a new state, and to ensure my brother and I received the best education we were enrolled in a local Catholic school (a particularly secular Catholic school if that makes sense — we were taught evolution as fact and studied world religions without saying they were wrong) I was a very outgoing, happy and talkative child, so no one feared that I would have trouble making friends, but I think it was at an age when kids start to become more cliquey, in a school where many of the kids are insecure from highly expectant families; so I was not accepted by most of the other students and was subject to a great deal of bullying that tapered off in 7th grade as we all grew together.
    While most of the teachers were encouraging, the school itself was skeptical of my previous education, and so took every opportunity to put me in special learning programs, but in a sort of demeaning way. I was also often reprimanded for being disruptive, including asking too many questions, being extremely fidgety, or talking to classmates.
    There is much more to the story of course: I ended up moving again before high school, and my father passed away from cancer when i was 15, and much more; but these events happened long after my first encounters with self loathing. I think you are right that these feelings stem from early childhood, but I think it is very hard to pin point when and where they might be instigated.
    This turned into much more of a self reflection than I was intending, but if anyone's interested or has any thoughts — there it is hahah.
    I guess my point is, be sure to show love to all of the young people in your life; you shape all of them, not just those closest to you, with every interaction.

  29. Wow.. just wow.. I’ve had some of the emotional insecurities listed above and thought maybe this is why I have them, lack of love from those close to me. I’ve been on drug and alcohol benders, been in toxic relationships, and cheated and it all makes sense. I wasn’t quite sure until I tried talking to my parents about it and inexplicably broke down crying. I had to leave the room so they wouldn’t see me. My sister had mental health issues to the point of trying to kill herself but I never thought, cause I’m a guy that I could’ve possibly been messed up as well despite being raised in the same environment. My parents mean well but lack understanding especially when their tough MMA training son tries to open up about his emotions I get eye rolls and “omg this again” I keep trying to get understanding from them and it amazes me how easily the topic chokes me up. I never cry only when my best friend/ brother passed away and my dog died that’s it but just talking about this with them causes me to break down like $&!?… I’ve always had my skepticism about the lectures on YouTube like this could be some guy making bs up but this really hit home. I’ve talked to therapists who haven’t hit the nail on the head like this YouTube channel has lol. I’m glad I found it.. I’ve been practicing self love and have anew voice in my head which I refer to as just my last name that reassured me and makes me take care of myself by going to the gym eating right and taking cold showers etc.. I love this new voice and hope to one day be understood by my parents. Overall this video really helped me understand a lot of my tendencies and I am grateful you are able to make the videos you do and are as successful as you are in doing so so u can keep making videos and having positive impacts on people. Much love ❤️

  30. I have been there until 37 years old…After a lot of work i am much much better but i do not think i will ever love myself. I do not hate myself now, i just accept myself and i do not think i am a disaster for everyone around me anymore….

  31. I hope School of Life does a follow up to this that helps elucidate the ways that society, culture, and institutions, etc. also contribute to our sense of self-worth. Not mentioning these factors is misleading to those trying to figure out why they feel like a piece of shit within the context of our world. While I do think our childhood experiences and relationships have a continued influence on our perception of ourselves, our culture/society, to claim itself innocent, generally likes to direct the causes of these problems (self-hatred, etc.) back onto our selves and our private lives, as if the world around us, outside of ourselves and our family, has minimal or no impact on our who we are and how we feel.

    It would do a better service to us all if we were more willing to analyze and criticize the structures, conditions, and ideologies around us, outside of our childhood, that over time erode our sense of self-love. I say this as someone who went from liking myself to hating myself, then to liking myself but realizing that from the view of our society, I don’t have much worth because I’m not much for playing its games.

  32. What if you didn't have a bad upbringing?? But you had a good up bringing with opportunities and as you have got older you never made it. You never made use of those opportunities and you have no achievements to put next your name. You just float along in life.

  33. You guys do know how to gather a lot of interestings and dense thought into a line of organized and focused thoughts. For that I congratulate you and thank you.

  34. I was raised to always treat people with kindness. And ive thankfully learned to treat myself with the same respect i treat others.

  35. I would ask the class, does the message of this episode not lead to stagnation and acceptance of unacceptable traits? In a recent video, the concept of "giving up" on someone is seen as sometimes objectively a good thing. But giving up on yourself is portrayed here as objectively bad. Isn't this a paradox? If nobody should give up on themselves, why should anybody give up on anyone else, and vice versa? Sometimes I feel this channel espouses the life lessons of a pathological narcissist

  36. “One just thinks one is a piece of shit!”. Emotional cold reading, huh?! God bless you Alain…even though you don’t believe in Him.

  37. not sure if you'll ever read this, but if you or ANYONE could help me figure out why I'm like this please respond. I can't afford therapy so i think I'll give this comment a try. I'm in a loving relationship with my boyfriend, hes amazing but i think as time goes by i am becoming more and more horrible to him. I get irritable and lash out on him, or if im having a bad day I'll take it out on him. All the other relationships ive been in before were toxic and manipulative and i dont wanna be like ny previous partners. I grew up around the same thing with my parents. Ive experienced a lot of trama. And i think certain behaviors of mine are rubbing off on him and i dont want him to become bitter or fall out of love with me

  38. I don't agree. Not all reasons for hating yourself really involve someone early on in your life… You can hate yourself for example because of how you were born… It's nobody's fault that you were born the way you are (unless you are an anti-natalist maybe in which case I guess it'd be their fault) and it's not necessarily their fault that you hate yourself just because you do not approve of the details of the life you were born into…

  39. This is probably the most normal circumstance for self-hatred, but what if you had parents who adored you and only after taking on the “real” world did you start hating yourself?

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