Self-loathing is a cancerous state of mind that originates in early childhood.
New parenthood is a stressful period. Young children are like sponges, absorbing their parents’ every emotion – be it happiness and joy, or exasperation and despair. Infants are especially prone to internalize the anger or frustration of their parents, especially when such negative emotions are directed toward them. This might occur if the child refuses to sleep or cries for no apparent reason. The infant identifies with the pain of the parent and feel responsible for its impact.
As children get older and attempt to form their world view, they are susceptible to a gross overestimation of their significance. Most youngsters go through a stage of development when they believe the universe revolves around them. This fantasy, if left unchecked by indulgent parenting, can produce lifelong traits such as narcissism. Tantrum can be thrown by spoilt brats of all ages.
It is also common for a young child to shoulder the blame for adverse family outcomes such as domestic violence or divorce. Their simplistic outlook is incapable of comprehending complex situations, and the easiest response is to assume responsibility for negative events. All children are also sensitive to praise and criticism. Those growing up with a more attractive or intelligent sibling are often more susceptible to the development of an overly critical inner voice and/or inferiority complex.
Many individuals carry this handicap into adult life, scolding and berating themselves at every turn. The internal dialogue convinces the sufferer that they are not good enough, that they are stupid or embarrassing, that they are to blame for all of life’s mishaps. The critical inner voice reminds the afflicted person that they not worthy of love, success, or other desirable outcomes.
This negative inner voice can be a driver for anxiety and depression. It can manifest in actions such as self-harm. It can cripple its victim who feels powerless to influence their world. In Robert Greene’s seminal work, The 48 Laws of Power, the author explores the downsides of not too much power, but of powerlessness, a much more dangerous condition. A powerless individual is more likely to lash out violently, like an incel unleashing his wrath on the women who refuse to date him or a low-level employee who feels bullied and unappreciated and snaps in a fit of rage.
Another manifestation of self-loathing is evident when individuals actively campaign against their kind. Humans are tribal by nature. When a student from our school is competing in a state championship, we experience a vicarious thrill if they win. However, we are living in strange times. A glorification of victimhood and self-loathing has taken hold. Certain genders and races are expected to go through life apologizing for their innate characteristics and the sins of their great, great grandparents.
How else do we explain the spectacle of a white protestor using megaphones to lecture black police officers about racial justice? Or a scene wherein a male ‘feminist’ admonishes men for being competitive and ambitious? This is self-loathing turned outward on the world, public self-flagellation, and virtue signalling. It taps into false narratives about privilege. It is a weak failure of a person begging for forgiveness, abasing themselves to appease a negative inner monologue that says they are not good enough.
We can be almost sure that those afflicted with such misguided mindsets are not enjoying an otherwise successful life. Setbacks have been taken personally and debilitating doubt has taken hold. An inner dialogue repeatedly asks, “Why am I failing an artist? Why does nobody like my music? Why am I struggling academically? Why won’t women date me? Why am I stuck on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder?”
Rather than address the root causes for their poor outcomes, and dispel their negative self-talk with positive action, many self-loathers blame unseen structures for life’s ills. The universe is rigged against them. Inequality is everywhere. The rich get richer. Minority groups fall behind. The system must be to blame. Instead of focussing on personal development, the self-loather becomes convinced it is on them to fight perceived injustice. They devote their time and energy to the wrong side of causes. They become BLM activists, demanding that others take the knee and raise the fist.
So much of our life is programmed during the formative years. An anxious or overbearing parent can wire our brains such that we constantly belittle and berate ourselves whenever success eludes us. But the game is long and positive actions dispel negative talk. Our brains can be rewired. We must reward ourselves for acts that drive us in the right direction.
Positive thoughts do not conquer negative thoughts.