Why self-loathing is a total waste of your time

So I read a blog today by a 28-year-old man, who confessed to self-loathing. Then one of his commenters, a woman, agreed.


Loud About Loathing
Loud About Loathing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s be a little sensible here.

We’re managed to out-source manufacturing and X-ray reading and people now have virtual assistants working for pennies 12 time zones away.

Why not outsource self-loathing?

Think of all the time it will free up.

No more staring at your computer muttering “I suck! I’m such a shitty writer.”

No more standing before the mirror, grabbing rolls of your fat, groaning “I hate my ass/thighs/stomach!”

No more trying to make music/create a dance/knit a sweater, whispering to yourself with hatred: “Why bother?”

Let someone else hate you!

The truth is that other people will be so breathtakingly mean, if you give them half the chance, you’ll never have to beat yourself up again. I got a “review” on Amazon of my latest book, in which I was described as “bitter, pretentious and lazy, lazy, lazy.”

Now, that’s some kind of nasty! I felt like a rank amateur in the face of that level of loathing.

The sad truth is that self-loathing is essentially self-indulgent. It’s common in your 20s, maybe in your 30s, as some of your peers will inevitably race ahead of you into law partnerships or see their work on Broadway or move into their third huge home. Whatever you’re doing may start to feel inconsequential, even if it’s really not. A crap economy doesn’t help.

The good news? Once you hit 40, or beyond, you’ll be so grateful if you’re simply alive, healthy, employed, solvent and loved that all that silly shit will no longer seem like an appealing use of your time or energy.

It’s sort of interesting being loathed. I prefer it to indifference, actually.

What are the downsides of being loathed?

— Someone may try to kill you (bad)

— Someone may try to physically harm you (bad)

— Someone may try to damage your professional reputation (annoying but you can deal with it)

— Someone may try to sabotage your personal reputation (bullying sucks)

But unless these are the real and likely consequences of such enmity, do you really care that much if someone hates you?

The worst person who can hate you is you.

26 thoughts on “Why self-loathing is a total waste of your time

  1. Very nice post, Caitlin. As for self-loathing, I used to loathe certain parts of myself, but now I just try to enjoy each moment of my life and see what I can do to improve myself.
    You hate how you look? Well then surely there’s a way to change it!
    You suck at life? Why exactly do you suck at it?
    You think you won’t ever help anyone or make anyone happy? Surely someone must like you in their life.
    It’s all a matter of cognition, something I’ve been learning about in my psychology course. In fact, some of the ideas I picked up there have been helping me with my New Year’s resolutions.

    1. Very true. Self-defeating behaviors are generally learned (esp. if you come from a nasty family), but it doesn’t mean you actually DO suck. It means you’ve been fed a steady stream of inaccurate/unkind information. It can take a depressingly long time to get out of your own way.

      1. thank God for cognitive-behavioral specialists, then. they probably do best with this sort of stuff. in fact, i want my dad to see one; he could learn what thoughts make his stress worse and how to deal with it.

  2. And yet aren’t there things that you seriously don’t like about yourself? That you would not like in anyone, and would make you reluctant to recommend yourself as a potential blind date to a friend if you weren’t actually you? Don’t you bug the crap out of yourself sometimes and wish you could take a break from being inside your own head?

    Or is it just that I’m 39?

    1. Sure. There are bits of me that I’m not wild about. But I’m generally a kind, helpful person who tries her best in most situations. When other people decide to hate me, and it happens, they find me arrogant or elitist or judgmental, (all of the above, in some ways). I can be perceived as overly aggressive or assertive, but I’m OK with it. I’m short-tempered and sharp-tongued, but so are lots of people worth knowing, (at least here in NY.)

      I had so much negative garbage thrown at me by members of my own family for decades that there are few charges I have yet to hear. And most of them are bullshit. I wasted a lot of my younger life beating myself up and it produced NOTHING of value. It is one thing to be self-aware (and work on your crappy bits) but a whole other thing to mentally masturbate over what a BAD person you are.

      Really? Are you serving time in prison for your behavioral choices?

      I really don’t spend a lot of time inside my own head these days. I find the view extremely limiting! 🙂

      1. Thanks for explaining that so fully.

        I was, to some extent, joking. It just seems to me that everyone must get a little fed up with themselves sometimes–although not necessarily for the same reasons that other people.

        I am, incidentally, on the far side of the bridge from you–living nearly entirely inside my head just so that I can I get the furniture in there replaced, the walls repainted a fresh color, and new drapes hung and make the place just a bit more liveable. But in the meantime, sometimes I do wish I could live anywhere else but there.

      2. There are any number of ways to exit…therapy helps, if things are really grim. Or just having some projects you are totally passionate about, so you don’t have much time to ruminate.

        I’m all for self-reflection, but not to the point of paralysis or it being the major focus. Hopefully (?). you’ll get to a place where you’re feeling happier and not feel quite so trapped…?

      3. The time I spend in my head is quite deliberate and purposeful, and I carve out the opportunity specifically to do it. Your head is a place you will have to spend at least some time in for the rest of your life. It should be a nice place to spend a little time, and if it isn’t, then it’s time you made it one. I know that isn’t the popular way of coping–most people look for as many ways to escape their uncomfortable heads as they can find. That leads to a degree of emotional flatness, and I can’t help seeing that as a form of psychic death. The goal for me isn’t really to be happy–moods come and go. The goal is to be fully alive and present in the world.

      4. Introspection for the purpose of making change is a very different process than ruminating. People who really don’t know how to think about themselves in a way that leads to transformation usually assume all introspection is ruminating, because that is all they have any experience with. Constructive introspection is a skill that needs to be learned–like any other skill. But once you have it, it can be used to very powerful effect. But I don’t think many people are willing to spend the time either learning it or using it.

      5. I think it’s about skill. A lot of people say they want to change, but never do. It’s easy to assume they are lying and really don’t. I tend to think they just don’t know how. But who knows?

  3. Nemesis

    …”I was described as “bitter, pretentious and lazy, lazy, lazy.”…

    Oh my! Remember writing this, Ms. Malled?…

    …”The blonde just wouldn’t shut up. It was as though someone had pressed a screaming bitch button.”…

    There ya go – we now know the identity of your Amazon reviewer.

    By the way, for one frightening moment there – when I first read that jewel of human observation – I briefly thought you’d suffered the terrifying and pityless misfortune of encountering my ‘X’… but then I remembered that, in addition to a well placed wooden stake, I’d also brandished HolyWater and a Crucifix… So it coulnd’t have been her. Right?

    I know about these things. After hanging up the Nikons… I ran away from home and joined the ‘Circus’….

    1. My, you do read carefully! I doubt that one ever read Malled, but who knows?

      The good news is that for every hater, there is someone like Floyd, a man who came out to a reading last week and told me “I love your book!I stayed up til 1:30 last might reading it.” Swoon.

  4. Thanks for the laugh. Age does indeed dispel loathing. Life is far to short for second guessing questionable decisions, or beating ourselves up over the opinion of others. Once we realize that pleasing everyone won’t make us happy, we’re free to live life as we choose.

  5. Yes! Great post 🙂
    I also prefer loathing to indifference. I don’t often get mean comments on my blog, but when i do, I find it almost fun to answer them. And you’re right: “The worst person who can hate you is you.” Because I know better where it hurts, and where the insecurities are.

  6. As you point out, certainly for writers there is no room for self-loathing. There are plenty people out there who will do it for you – all of them strangers, to boot. Efforts to damage personal and professional reputation are an occupational hazard, certainly in New Zealand’s historical world where the tiny scale of the industry and the miniscule market provoke some pretty poor behaviours. Typical of any small and closed community, I think.

    There is, of course, the stereotype of the author who, as Hemingway puts it, sits at the typewriter and bleeds. Who suffers as a person (inevitably, symptomatic of self-loathing) and somehow manages to translate that emotion into something extraordinary on the page. To an extent it is true – again, I think Hemingway was one of them, perhaps. Kerouac, too; he was ‘on the road’ to run from himself.

    is that still valid today? But not, I think, in freelancing and probably not for anybody in the modern commercial writing world. That environment is too tough of itself!

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