Self-Image – Identifying
Self-Deprecating Tendencies

Shruti Koundinya

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and were truly in love with the reflection? When did you last do something that made you feel confident and powerful? When was the last time you accepted a compliment graciously rather than changing the topic or simply saying “no, you.”

If your answer to these questions is ‘I don’t remember’, or ‘quite some time back’, or ‘never’, then stick around to the end of this article - this is for you.

It was March, 2020. My board exams had just ended and quarantine had just begun. I was feeling motivated and energized to change my life. I wanted to look better, dress better, eat better, sleep better, and do everything possible to be ‘better’.

It was around this time that the word ‘manifestation’ was being thrown around quite a bit. It was the first time I’d heard of such a thing and I decided I wanted to give it a try.

‘The Law of Attraction’, according to my research, basically states that if we focus all our energy on our desire, then the entire universe works towards giving it to us. Simply put, we can have anything we want, without moving a muscle or doing any hard work, if we want it enough.

That’s amazing isn’t it? That makes life so much easier. We don’t have to work a day in our lives. We can just manifest our way to success! Well, no. Not quite.

Upon researching further into the topic, I found that there are various methods of manifesting. People use journaling, meditating or positive attributes to attract their desires. But there are a few basic rules. As you manifest, you have to believe that whatever you are manifesting is already yours. And you cannot doubt for even a second that you do not have the ability to get what you want.

When I read this, my heart sank. I could not fathom the idea of not doubting myself. Ironically, I already was doubting myself. But this got me thinking - why is it so hard for us to trust the process? To trust ourselves? Why has self-hatred become a part of our social lives and humor? Where does this self-doubt and deprecation come from? Why do we feel that we are not enough for this world?

  A peculiar detail about disliking ourselves is that we generally don’t even notice ourselves doing it. Realizing 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 is almost second nature to us. We don’t identify as self-dislikers; we just think we’re worthless.

The feeling radiates its effects in a number of areas: if someone pays you a compliment, you immediately doubt their intelligence or intentions. When someone offers to love you, you wonder why. When you are stuck in a frustrating relationship, at work or in private life, you remain where you are - for this is, after all,  what you believe you deserve.

 There’s a voice in your head that accompanies you in all challenges and tells you that ‘you won’t be able to do this’; that you’re a moron, and that everyone hates you. You easily feel that people are mocking and mistreating you and a lot of the time, you’re in a paranoid state of mind, out of a fear that the world might, at any point, discover that you’re not as good as you’ve somehow convinced them to believe.

  Rehabilitation starts with a predictable sounding awareness that should be drilled into our brains: no one is born liking themselves. Our sense of self is assembled and largely influenced out of the critique of those who were first around us.

No one can survive the sense that they were an inconvenience or a disappointment to their parents. This isn’t a negotiable point. We can’t escape a basic law: we are the only animal whose sense of being able to persevere depends on validation from those around us.

It’s dreadful to have to acknowledge that we were badly or unfairly treated. We end up preferring to dislike who we are rather than accepting a much more scarring idea: that someone whose love we needed, wasn’t very loving. Most of us become numb to the absence of affection and validation we crave. Or, in an effort to become numb, we turn to drugs, porn, relationships, popularity or processed sugar. The path of self-hatred points everywhere other than its most likely source: our childhood.

  How do we even begin to dig ourselves out of this hole of self-hatred? For a start, by becoming better acquainted with our own childhood. When we truly think about our early years, even when we happen to believe that we had the best time, we often find ourselves discovering the things and experiences that make us who we are today. Through retrospection we are able to grasp the idea that we hate ourselves primarily because we were once not loved in the way we needed to be. 

We need to start to notice how unfair we are to ourselves: how many times have we turned ourselves into villains, justified the behaviour of others far beyond what they deserved, pointed out or zeroed in on our faults and as a whole, been unnecessarily hard on ourselves.

  Upon applying such introspection and mindfulness into my own life I found that I do, in fact, attract what I put out into the world. Being more careful with the way I treated myself allowed me to have a deeper sense of self respect, worth and even love; which I then began receiving from the rest of the world. 

By taking these steps, you will learn a somewhat gratifying and pleasant insight: that you aren’t that bad. Once you realize that you wouldn’t bare to see someone else being treated the way you treat yourself, you’ll find a skill that will harbour many more positive life experiences: that of being on your own side.


[‘On Disliking Oneself’
‘Self Hatred and Anxiety’
‘Self Esteem’
Pike, Matthew. August 27, 2019. ‘When Does Self Deprecating Humour Become Detrimental’.