Self-Love Can Triumph Over Toxic Self-Hate

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Self-disgust or self-hate is comorbid with many mental health disorders. When you are in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), you may struggle with self-hate. Fortunately, you can overcome self-hate and replace it with self-love.

As you develop self-love, you can more easily manage SUD symptoms, prioritize self-care, and build a life that gives you joy. Self-love isn't about ignoring self-hate. Instead, it is about accepting your flawed behaviors and unhelpful thoughts and learning how to manage them. It is also about building identity capital by putting your strengths into action.

Identify Self-Hate

To combat self-hate, you need to identify it. What's contributing to these feelings? Is there a specific event that triggered them? Are there specific thought patterns that could be exasperating these feelings?

Often, self-hate occurs when the expectations you hold for yourself are not met. This could mean not being as far along in your career as you'd like, not having the relationship you want with a loved one, or not feeling confident in your ability to take care of yourself. For people in recovery, self-hate is often connected to struggles with substance abuse.

Make a Plan for Positive Change

Once you identify the factors that contribute to self-loathing, you can brainstorm ways to mitigate these feelings.

For example, therapy might be helpful in unlearning self-hate that is routed in trauma. If your self-hate involves feelings of disappointment in an area of life, such as work or relationships, you can set small goals that can bring you closer to success in these areas.

Address Toxic Thought Patterns That Get in the Way of Self-Love

Of course, it is one thing to make a plan for positive change. It can be harder to stay motivated toward these goals. Toxic thought patterns can undermine your motivation. That is one reason why addressing these thought patterns is a necessary ongoing step in the journey toward self-love.

Toxic thought patterns are habitual ways of thinking that highlight the negative in your life and disregard the positive. These patterns can manifest in different ways. You might not even notice these toxic patterns until you take the time to pay attention. Noticing toxic thought patterns is important because they may be sabotaging your progress.

Types of Toxic Thought Patterns

Some types of toxic thought patterns include the following:

  • All or Nothing: Seeing things as either a total failure or total success and ignoring the possibilities in between
  • Overgeneralization: Seeing a singular negative event as a pattern and frequently using words like “Always” or “Never”
  • Jumping to Conclusions: Assuming the worst from hearsay information that you convince yourself are facts, including thought patterns such as “mind reading” and “fortune telling”
  • Catastrophizing: Shrinking the value of your own successes and positive qualities while maximizing the value of your failures and negative qualities
  • Emotional Reasoning: Taking what you feel as fact. This means that if you experience depressive emotions, it must be because your life is depressing

Accepting Responsibility Is a Step Toward Self-Love

Many addiction treatment programs, like those at Pathways Recovery Center, encourage people in recovery to accept responsibility for their actions. However, accepting responsibility for your past actions does not mean wallowing in shame.

Tormenting yourself over past mistakes doesn't help you or anyone else who might've been affected by your actions. Shame is destructive because it can halt the healing process. Sabotaging your ability to move forward is the antithesis of self-love.

Instead, accept and learn from your mistakes. Acknowledge the wrongness of your actions and understand their consequences. You can be angered or saddened by your mistakes. However, you must remember that they do not define you. Self-love challenges you to have a more well-rounded definition of yourself.

Self-Love Means Having Compassion for Yourself

To grow in self-love, practice having compassion for past versions of yourself, including the versions that made mistakes and caused hurt. These versions are still deserving of self-love.

Every version of yourself has good qualities. Challenge yourself to remember those qualities. Additionally, use memories of your past flaws to motivate you toward growth. The more you grow, the easier it can be to practice self-love. However, you will need to start with forgiveness. Part of the healing process is learning how to forgive past versions of you.

CBT Can Give You the Tools to Find Self-Love

One of the most popular types of talk therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on replacing negative, damaging thoughts with positive, productive ones.

At Pathways Recovery Center, a CBT therapist will work with you to identify your negative self-talk and general thought patterns. They will then help you dissect these patterns.

This could reveal that some of your thoughts have little value in reality. You might realize that you tend to ignore or discredit your strengths. Through practices like mindfulness, the therapist will help you acknowledge your negative thoughts without being consumed by them. Being aware of your thoughts can help change behavior and decrease feelings of self-loathing.

Self-Care Can Lead to Self-Love

Thoughts and emotions follow most organically from action. When you take the time for self-care, even when you don't feel you deserve it, you are teaching your body and mind to have self-love. Practicing self-care is a way of respecting yourself. When you take time to meet your emotional and physical needs, you'll be able to see yourself more clearly. Some of your faults might not seem as big.

While self-care has no official definition, it generally involves prioritizing your mental and physical needs over other responsibilities. This includes eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and moving your body.

It can also include taking a break from your busy life to decompress. Self-care can mean setting aside some “me” time to read your favorite book, take a bubble bath, or lounge with a relaxing cup of tea. Taking time out of your busy schedule to enjoy something you love can help strengthen your self-love.

Discovering self-love will be a constant part of your recovery journey. The more ways you find to love and celebrate yourself, the easier it will be to interrupt patterns of self-hate. Pathways Recovery Center offers CBT and mindfulness-based practices to help you identify toxic or damaging thought patterns that may be contributing to your SUD. Our mental health professionals will work closely with you to create a treatment plan that will help you meet your emotional, physical, and mental needs as well as your recovery goals. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, call (888) 771-0966 to learn how we can meet you where you are in recovery.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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