top of page

Is There a Sweet Spot Between Self-Loathing and Self-Love?

Our relationship with ourselves is complicated. As a therapist, I experience few clients that readily acknowledge the parts of themselves that they admire, and celebrate, yet I encounter many clients that are quite attuned to the parts of themselves that they dislike. And we’re not talking about body image here – that’s another matter entirely. These are the intrinsic qualities that inform self-worth and self-esteem. I find that many of the ways that people label themselves as “failures” involve some facet of relating to themselves, and to others. As humans, we tend to get caught up in the negative. For some of us, there is also an expectation that something will go wrong, and when it does, it’s going to be our fault. Grace and kindness is often lacking when it comes to self-reflection. Why is this?   


We need not look further than the device in our pocket to be informed that most of the universe is smarter, wealthier, and more attractive than we are. Certainly, globalization and social media have widened the circles that we use to compare. There’s nothing constructive in this, so let’s set that aside for now, and consider the influences on evolution that have informed the valuation of ourselves. Whether it was the culture that we grew up in, the dynamics of our family of origin – including our parents, grandparents, and siblings, or whether it was our friends, coaches, and teachers – we learned along the way about how we should think and how we should behave. We understood (or pretended to) the achievements that were expected of us, and we became aware of the consequences for the mistakes we made. We accepted the standards of those around us, and over time, we became tormented by our failure to live up to them. No grace or kindness need be applied. When this happened, we beat ourselves up and developed a loop of self-talk that dwells on the negative. Somewhere along the way, all that negativity may have even led to disappointment or toward self-loathing.


The antidote to self-loathing, we are told, is self-love. If we can just do this thing, then we will finally stop hating ourselves and begin to admire ourselves. There’s a thriving industry of wellness influencers, companies and advertising mechanisms that are omnipresent to show us the benefits of boundless self-love. Funny that even though this invitation to ‘love ourselves’ sounds appealing, it rarely solves the problem; more often, it just makes things worse. Unable to locate the remarkable parts of ourselves that we are being drawn to contemplate, we may end up experiencing a new wave of despair; we need to add failure at self-love to the list of our defeats. Or else, we might lean into a little too much self-admiration, and lose sight of healthy self-evaluation. Then we’ll be labeled a “narcissist.”


The good news is that instead of choosing extreme self-love or self-loathing, we can split the difference and settle somewhere in the middle, upon self-acceptance. Choosing this option doesn’t require us to say “goodbye” to reasonable self-criticism. Self-acceptance is compatible with making a realistic evaluation of our strengths, as well as those areas that we could spend a little more time improving upon. While considering self-acceptance, we can also practice good and healthy boundaries, with ourselves, and with others. If you need some help getting started on the journey toward self-acceptance, look inward. Take an inventory on what you value most. Ask yourself about the health and wellness of your relationships – with yourself and with others. Are you satisfied with how you spend your time and resources? Do you have community – people you can call to make you laugh, that you like being with? How about personal interests or hobbies? Are you reasonably agreeable with your career and where it’s leading you? If you have doubts, then consider choosing to focus on one of those areas at a time, and maybe explore this with a friend or mentor that you trust, or with a therapist. Just because one or more parts of your life may be out of balance, doesn’t mean that you must dwell on the negative. You could instead consider this an opportunity to reevaluate the many facets of your life. You can be thoughtful about what there is to be grateful for, along with the areas where making some changes could improve things. You’re the one in charge of your life and the choices that you make. Own it. Ask for help when you need it, and challenge yourself to look inward with a little positivity.

Katey Villalon, LMFT, IRT

Call: 512-537-6339  Email:


bottom of page