Self-Hatred & Anxiety


The temptation, with dealing with anxiety,
is always and invariably to focus on the ostensible cause of our worry: the journey to the airport,
the forthcoming speech, the letter one is waiting for, the presentation one has to hand
in… But if we proceed more psychologically, we might begin in a different place. With
great kindness and no disrespect, we may step past the objective content of anxiety and
look instead at something else: how the anxious person feels about themselves. An unexpected
cause of high anxiety is self-hatred. People who have grown up not to like themselves very
much at all have an above average risk of suffering from extremes of anxiety, because if
one doesn’t think one is worthy, it must follow that the
world is permanently and imminently at high risk of punishing one in the way one suspects
one deserves. It seems to fit that people may be laughing behind one’s back, that
one may soon be sacked or disgraced, that one is an appropriate target for bullying
and rejection and that persecution and worse may be heading towards us. If things seem
to be going well, this must just be the deceptively quiet period before others are about to realise
their error and mete out some horrific punishment. For the self-hating, anxiety is a pre-emptive
anticipation of the pain one unconsciously feels one is owed; very bad things must and
should happen to very bad people. Part of the problem and one of the curious aspects
of the way our minds work is that it isn’t always clear that one is even suffering from
low self-esteem; hating oneself has just become second nature rather than an issue one has
the will to rebel against or so much as notice. To tease out the sorrow and start to feel
it again (as a prelude to treating it), one might need to fire a few questions at oneself. We’ve prepared a Self-Esteem Questionnaire 1. Broadly speaking, I like myself as I am. Agree strongly Agree
Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Disagree strongly 2. People should be relatively grateful
to have me in their lives. Agree strongly Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree
Disagree strongly 3. If I didn’t know me, I’d think I was OK. Agree strongly Agree
Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Disagree strongly 4. Growing up, I was given the feeling
that I properly deserved to exist. Agree strongly Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree
Disagree strongly If one finds oneself at the disagreeing end of many such questions, it
may be that one is an agitated person not because one has more to worry about but because
one likes oneself rather less than normal – and certainly less than one fairly should.
The cure isn’t, therefore, to try to dispel anxieties with logic, it is to try to dispel
it with love; it is to remind the anxious person (who may be ourselves) that we are
not inherently wretched, that we have a right to exist, that past neglect wasn’t deserved,
that we should feel tenderly towards oneself – and that we need, both metaphorically
and probably practically too, a very long hug. The logic of this analysis is truly counter-intuitive.
It suggests that when panic next descends, one should not spend too long on the surface
causes of the worry and instead, try to address the self-hatred fuelling the agitation. Anxiety
is not always anxiety: sometimes it is just a very well-disguised, entrenched and unfair
habit of disliking who we are. Out Emotional First Aid Kit provides a set of useful salves to some of life’s most challenging psychological situations. Including friendship, love, sex, work and self. Click the link on screen now to find out more.

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