Escaping a Cycle of Self-Harm and Self-Hatred

December 30, 2021 Kim Berkley

In my experience, self-harm and self-hatred go hand in hand. The vicious cycle they create together can be tough to break—but with time, patience, and practice, self-injury recovery is possible.

Self-Hatred as a Self-Harm Trigger

For me—and, I think, for many others too—it began with pain. I suffered, and I didn't know why. I began to feel guilty about it; what right did I have to hurt when I had so much more to be thankful for than so many others in this world?

That guilt was a stepping stone, and the path it laid led straight to self-hatred and, eventually, self-harm. I hated how I felt, and from there, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to hating myself for feeling that way.

For me, self-harm was both a means of punishment and a way to keep my secrets under wraps. I didn't want anyone else to know what I was thinking or feeling. Self-harm let me vent my anger towards myself but also helped me keep those feelings simmering below the surface.

The problem with self-harm, however, is that it's like digging your own grave. The relief it provides is minimal, fleeting; the harm it inflicts lasts much longer and has a terrible tendency to beget yet more harm.

Overcoming Self-Hatred and Recovering from Self-Harm

If you struggle with self-hatred and self-harm concurrently, it can be difficult to imagine a world in which recovery is possible. After all, if you hate yourself, you might be thinking: why bother? Maybe you feel you don't deserve to get better. Maybe, to you, it sounds foolish to try and show love to someone you feel no love for (yourself).

But you don't have to start with love. Love may sound too distant, too impossible right now, to bother striving for, and that's okay. You don't even have to like yourself yet. Instead, start first by learning simply not to hate yourself—because, let's face it, there are better things to put effort into than hate.

A therapist or other mental health professional can provide invaluable perspective here. They can see you more clearly as you truly are, without the haze of self-hatred and whatever other personal biases that may be clouding your vision. More importantly, they can help you see yourself more clearly, and learn to forgive, accept, and eventually even love, that person in the mirror.

If you can't, or aren't ready to, work with a professional, I'd still urge you to reach out to someone if you can. There are a variety of hotlines, support groups (online and in-person), and chat apps you can use to find some extra support. Though these people typically will not have the extensive experience or expertise of a licensed professional, they can still help you gain some perspective and explore your options for self-harm recovery.

You may also consider talking to a friend or family member—someone you can trust, someone who will help provide that critical external viewpoint that will help you break through your illusions, accept both your strengths and your flaws, and find a better path forward.

There are also some things you can practice on your own that may help, too. If you've ever heard the phrase "fake it to make it," this is the perfect time to try it. Even if you do not feel worthy yet of self-love, practicing simple self-care can help slowly build up a more positive perception of yourself. Physically feeling better can also empower you to build up more resilience against the negative thoughts and feelings feeding into your self-harm and self-hatred.

Do you struggle with a cycle of self-harm and self-hatred? Have you found any techniques particularly conducive to recovery? Let us know in the comments—your suggestions and ideas might help more people than you know.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2021, December 30). Escaping a Cycle of Self-Harm and Self-Hatred, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

January, 5 2022 at 9:25 am

I think looking at yourself exactly as if you are looking at a fragile and vulnerable being, with love and tenderness and sympathy and compassion: look at yourself like a fragile animal or plant (like a rabbit or baby bird in the wild or a sapling), or as a beloved pet, or as a person with disabilities, or as a fragile baby or toddler, or as a disaster victim, etc. - whatever brings out your sympathies and love and compassions. And if you truly imagine yourself as this being -you can understand and sympathize with your own frailties in a very loving and caring way. Meanwhile, If I need a redirection, then I redirect myself to distract myself with practicing a skill, or relearning something, like practice piano or try to read new music, or practice a second language, or even do word games or math patterns, or just read something new, or do tasks: pay bills, do laundry, clean and organize (there is always cleaning and organizing!) Focus on an activity that provides purpose, and eventually improve, and it feels good to make progress.

January, 5 2022 at 3:44 pm

This is a beautiful approach. It's difficult for some of us (myself definitely included) to see and accept ourselves as vulnerable beings; I love the idea of making that comparison to another such being to help bring out that much-needed compassion for ourselves. The idea of a distraction that involves purpose and especially progress is brilliant—these qualities will help prevent getting bored with it (landing you right back at square one) or losing motivation, as you might with activities that you think of JUST as distractions. The best distraction is one that fulfills another purpose besides just getting your mind off things.
Thank you so much for sharing!!

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