What causes it and what to do about it.

When you look in the mirror, who is looking back?   How do you feel toward that image?

For me, it seems to vary each time I look and that is a huge improvement.  At one time, I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror at all, other than to make sure there was nothing on my face or in my teeth, to shave, or straighten my tie.  If I avoided eye contact, I could pull it off.

Some time in the 80s I heard someone describe talking to themselves in the mirror and verbalizing affirming statements of self respect and love.  I couldn’t imagine the absurdity of doing such a thing.  I thought of the Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley and agreed that this idea was a joke.

I’ve been committed to personal development for decades now.  If you have been on the self-help path for long, you have probably experienced this even more uncomfortable exercise.  I think I was at a Byron Katie event when I first had the experience of gazing into the eyes of a stranger for a ridiculous amount of time.  I was able to survive the test by applying my superpowers of enduring, tolerating, and surviving the impossible.

I had mastered these skills long ago while growing up in a home riddled with addiction fueled by generations of dysfunction.

I learned to control myself.  That meant controlling my behavior, the emotions I showed, and the words I spoke.  But I couldn’t master controlling my thoughts.  Fortunately, they were private, and no one had access to them but me.  They became my secrets and I guarded them fiercely despite the high cost of self-shaming.

That is, I believe the source of a negative self-opinion.  If I kept most of my thoughts and emotions to myself, I felt like a fraud.  I believed that if anyone knew what was going on behind the curtain of my mind and heart, they would reject and criticize me.

A negative self-opinion becomes a habit once the brain notices the pattern and makes it automatic.   If I don’t break the habit of thinking of myself in critical ways, I will continue to judge myself harshly and assume that others think at least as poorly of me as I do.

What is the impact of a negative self-opinion?

If you have, or ever have had a negative self-opinion, you may easily find yourself on this list.

  • When you look in the mirror, you don’t like what you see.
  • You expect people to dislike you.
  • You are suspicious of those who act friendly toward you.
  • You either devote extra time, money, and energy to improving your physical appearance,
  • Or you give up and let yourself go. What’s the use?
  • You feel insecure in all your relationships, especially romantic ones.
  • You attract people who agree with your self-assessment and feel hurt by them.
  • Despite the pain of these relationships, you don’t trust those who think highly of you.
  • You don’t ask for what you want.
  • To get what you want or need, you are passive and indirect,
  • Or you aggressively take what you want, believing it is the only way.
  • You feel like a victim.

What is the solution?

I have been a life coach since 2011.  I’ve always helped my clients by offering them what I found that helped me.  Like many of my clients, I emerged from childhood with a full deck of unhealed wounds.  What seemed like a normal life had become a cycle of reactions to triggering events.  I didn’t know life could be any other way for me.  Happy lives were either a myth or only for a fortunate few.

When I was in my forties, I was introduced to The Work of Byron Katie (https://thework.com).  By using her method of self inquiry, I began to heal and recover a sense of my True Self.

Then, about five years ago, my therapist introduced me to Internal Family Systems (https://IFS-Institute.com).  In 2020 I completed two levels of IFS training and am now an IFS Practitioner.

IFS Practitioners help their clients restore internal balance and wholeness.  IFS is a therapy model that recognizes a central Self in each of us capable of providing leadership to our internal worlds.  Each of us have parts of us that have conflicting missions.  In the case of an unhealed wound such as insecurity, there is a part that is holding the energy of the painful emotion that was never allowed to be released.  And there are other parts whose mission it is to make sure that the pain is never felt or released.

Using the IFS therapy model as I have been trained by the IFS Institute to do, I help my clients to resolve this polarity, heal the wound, and restore balance and wholeness.  This enables my clients to reclaim the energy of managing the unhealed wound and using it to be more fully self-expressed.

The list of symptoms of self hate in this article come from personal experience.  When I was 30 years old, I was in therapy to try to get over my insecurity.  The therapy model that helped me was called Bio-Energetics which is a body-based therapy designed to release the energy of locked up emotional wounds.  It worked.  So, I know that healing is possible.  After a few months of beating pillows, twisting towels, and throwing tantrums, my self-opinion began to improve.  That was the beginning for me.  I’ve continued to do my work in various 12 step groups,  using self-help books, workshops, therapy and coaching.

My clients don’t throw tantrums and beat pillows.  But I help them to find those parts of themselves that influence the feelings and behavior of self-hate and other emotional wounds.  IFS has helped me in other areas of my life just as Bio-Energetics and The Work of Byron Katie helped me.

These tools work for healing and permanent transformation.  They work for those who do the work of healing.


It is my pleasure and joy to offer a complimentary, one-hour coaching session to anyone interested in this healing path.  To schedule your free session, go to https://BillsCalendar.com