When you look in the mirror, it might be easy to think, “I look great today” or “Wow, I’m an amazing person. I’m goin’ for it today.”
Or maybe the self-loathing voice dominates, telling you how fat, ugly or worthless you are. Maybe you just want to fade into the woodwork because you don’t think you’re worthy of other people’s attention. Perhaps you think it’s just another day to suffer through, when you’re going to do more stupid things, be embarrassed, and fail one more time, because you’re always going to be a loser.
Choosing to have good self-esteem, so you can accept genuine love and admiration from friends, family and co-workers, and live up to your potential, may not be as easy as flicking a switch. But with self-reflection and guidance from those who have made progress, it is possible to take one small step at a time and replace self-loathing with a more balanced self-love.
Journalist Anneli Rufus documents this personal change in her book, Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself. Her goal, she said, is to help others find a way out of what she believes is often needless suffering.
In an interview on WAMC Northeast Public Radio in May 2014, Rufus said people suffer daily if their view of life is from the “low self-esteem spectrum,” which can run from just being a little self-critical to a deep and profound self-loathing.
These are “… people who apologize for so many things, who cannot accept a compliment, who can’t decide even what to order in a restaurant because they’re afraid they’re going to make the wrong decision and regret it,” said Rufus.
“I see that as a tragedy, a self-loathing epidemic,” she said.
“You were not born hating yourself,” Rufus said. “Let’s go back and try to figure out when and why it started, and let’s try to dismantle it.”
She speaks from a lifetime of watching her mother, who never felt good enough. Rufus experienced her own decades of never feeling at ease in the world, but finally found ways to raise her self-esteem and be more comfortable in the routines of daily life.
Rufus’ path to increasing her self-love is also documented in the article, “Have Compassion for Yourself,” in the May 8, 2014 issue of The Atlantic. The subtitle, “How One Author Breaks the Cycle of Self-Loathing,” grew from Rufus’ personal experiences, which are the foundation of these suggestions:
Overall, Rufus said it’s important to learn what you can from reflecting on when your self-esteem began to go downhill, then begin to shift that current into a more positive direction.
“I'm not looking in the mirror, or complimenting myself, or thinking about myself very much. I'll walk through the day just thinking, ‘Oh, there's a crow,’ and I'm so grateful for that,” said Rufus. “For me, I'm in a state of acceptance, and that is a huge, huge difference.”
Related Resources on the BETA Site:
Ohikuare, Judith, “Have Compassion for Yourself,” The Atlantic, May 8, 2014,
Donahue, Joe, “Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself by Anneli Rufus,” WAMC Northeast Public Radio, May 19, 2014.