Here you are. You have completed a treatment program and have moved on to the recovery phase of treatment. Everything is going great, and you should be the happiest you have ever been–but for some reason, you cannot shake that feeling of being down on yourself.
Maybe it is a new feeling, or maybe it is a feeling you’ve had before. Either way, this feeling is called self-loathing. Self-loathing is defined as an irrational hatred of oneself. It can be developed over time or very quickly, depending on the circumstances.
People in addiction recovery often go through periods of self-hatred. Recovering from addiction is hard, and there are going to be bumps in the road. You may experience circumstances such as survivor’s guilt that prompt periods of self-hatred, or you may feel loathing as a result of shame.
Whatever the case may be, understand that you should not be held responsible for things you have already atoned for. You completed your rehabilitation program, and in doing so paid your penance for whatever you feel guilty for.
Read on as we explore more facts about self-loathing in addiction recovery and outline some tips for how you can turn self-loathing into self-love.
Self-Loathing in Addiction Recovery
You may feel self-loathing in addiction recovery because you harbor irrational guilt, or you may have felt hatred for yourself long before you entered treatment. Studies show there is a correlation between addiction and self-esteem.
While self-loathing can develop during the recovery period after treatment for substance use, it may also exist prior to seeking treatment. In fact, in many cases, self-esteem is a predictor of whether or not an individual will use controlled substances.
Studies have linked low self-esteem to aberrant behavior forms including substance use and delinquency. People who abuse controlled substances have self-reported that they feel they are undesirable or undeserving of help or pity.
Moreover, when these individuals use controlled substances, these feelings of inadequacy worsen, reinforcing the problem of self-loathing. For them, using controlled substances acts as a form of self-humiliation that degrades them.
The Role of Gender in Self-Esteem
Self-loathing often comes from irrational feelings of shame we have over things we have done. Women often feel shame and self-hatred more than men, and it can lead to other problems like addiction.
They can also be at a higher risk of low self-worth. When we feel bad about ourselves, our self-talk is also often negative.
Claiming Deservingness From Self-Defeat
We have already discussed what self-loathing is and how it affects different populations. Now let’s break down the symptoms of self-loathing and discuss tips to turn self-loathing into self-love.
Self-loathing can come from many places, but it generally manifests in a few specific symptoms. Some of these are:
Being Overly Self-Critical
The voice you hear in your mind that tells you not to do something serves a purpose and prevents you from doing things that may potentially be harmful or embarrassing. But when that self-criticism becomes extreme, it can be detrimental.
Setting Unrealistic Expectations
Determining goals for yourself is a good thing, but when you set unattainable goals or your expectations become too high, you are going to be disappointed with the result.
Comparing Yourself to Others
You are unique. No one is like you, and no one ever will be. You cannot realistically compare your weaknesses and strengths to other people, because they are their own person, and their strengths and weaknesses will be inherently different. Comparing ourselves to others is one way we may set unrealistic expectations, by demanding of ourselves that we be like another unique person.
Constantly Reminding Yourself of Mistakes You Made
You may have done this during treatment or in addiction recovery, and you cannot change the past. The only thing you can do is try not to make the same mistake in the future. All you can do is apologize for past mistakes and move on to a better future.
Developing a Habit of Self-Deprecation
Sometimes we make fun of ourselves as a defense mechanism, but this can be a form of self-harm for those of us with tender self-esteem.
Staying in Relationships Where You Are Not Supported
Successful recovery involves surrounding yourself with people who support you, not ones who draw you back into bad habits or tear you down.
5 Ways to Stop Self-Loathing and Love Yourself
The bottom line is this: you are deserving of love, from others and yourself. Now that you are in recovery, it is time to recognize your own worth, reach out, and claim your deservingness. Be proud of yourself and all you have accomplished.
Here are five tips to start loving yourself again:
- Have compassion for yourself. Be willing to forgive your own mistakes. Instead of looking to others for this affirmation first, give it to yourself.
- Define yourself by the good things you have done. Avoid being tied down to mistakes or flaws in the past. The past is gone, and the future is all we have.
- Say good things about yourself. Even if it is just to ourselves in the mirror, it does us good to hear good things said about our accomplishments.
- When people compliment you, accept their compliments graciously. Know that they would not say it if they did not mean it. You deserve to hear good things about yourself.
- Be willing to embrace positive mental health. Talk to a therapist. Take a walk outside when it is sunny. Enjoy a dessert and do not worry about the calories. Embrace the joy of life.
Self-loathing can come from many different places. Sometimes you may not like the image you see in the mirror when you style your hair because it does not look like the magazine model image it is based on. Sometimes self-loathing can stem from the difference between your mental image of how your body should look in clothes versus how they look when they are on you. Left unchecked, you may begin to become self-critical. Your self-talk can become negative, and you may begin to think hateful things about yourself. Self-loathing can begin a downward spiral that leads to many other disorders, and can even be a factor in addiction, treatment, and recovery. To be successful in addiction recovery, you will have to learn techniques for coping that let you turn self-hatred into self-love. Call the dedicated professionals at Spero Recovery at (303) 351-7888 and learn to love yourself again.