Coping with Shame and Self-Hatred within the BIPOC Community

From your RAFT Counseling Team

“I hate myself.” It’s a phrase some of us laugh through to shake off feelings of embarrassment and some of us admit quietly in the middle of at night. Sure, we could be making jokes, but we could also be begging for someone to see us.

Growing up within a system that labels us as “wrong,” “not welcome,” or “not good enough” can cause BIPOC to feel deficient. Internally, it might sound like a voice constantly questioning and discounting our decisions. 

Let’s talk about feeling shame and self-hatred as a BIPOC and how we can cope.

How Does Self-Hatred Start?

Sometimes societal barriers block our paths to personal, academic, or career success. Blaming ourselves instead of accepting or criticizing the system is unrealistic and can be harmful to our self-esteem.

We may be even more likely to internalize blame after failure if…

  • Our caregivers modeled self-hatred or self-criticism; saying ”I’m so dumb!” or “I’m terrible.”
  • We were bullied
  • We faced a traumatic event(s)
  • We were regularly invalidated
  • We’ve experienced depression
  • We think self-punishment can positively change our behavior

What Does Self-Hatred Look Like?

Most of us already know what parts of ourselves we could stand to more warmly embrace. However, chronically low self-esteem is different. You might struggle with self-hate and shame if you…

  • Explain away or have struggle accepting compliments
  • Think that if people really knew you, they’d see how deficient you are
  • Self-isolate
  • Have a harsh inner voice
  • Cut off your chances early before you can actually succeed
  • Engage in risky behaviors or substance abuse
  • Value the advice of others more than your own instincts or preferences

How Does Shame Affect BIPOC in Particular?

When white communities constantly shut down your ideas, dismiss your opinions, and explain away your feelings, it can cause you to invalidate your own mind over time. Once you learn not to trust yourself, you lose sight of the value to add to the world. Instead you might choose to shut down and self-isolate, never going for your goals.

Many BIPOC also share the common pressure to perform exceptionally in spaces white people seem welcome to breeze through. Constantly feeling like the bar is raised for you and not them can be frustrating. You might start questioning, “What’s the point?” and choose to let go of your talents for lack of recognition.

Moving Through Shame to Find Yourself

Identify self-hate while it’s happening.

The next time that harsh inner voice starts talking, pause and offer a different voice. A gentler, more curious one.

  • Turn thoughts like: “You left the sink full again. You’re so dumb. How do you live like this?”
  • Into: “Classic, I didn’t want to do the dishes again. Alright let’s think—what’s going on? Why am I feeling unmotivated today?”

Add in self-compassion.

Once you allow space for your true voice to enter, treat yourself with some compassion.

  • Take care of yourself: “It seems like you’re feeling a little tired. Let’s decompress for twenty minutes then see if we want to do the dishes.”
  • Give yourself credit: “I’m so nice to myself.”

Notice your feelings. (And feel them.) 

Instead of working through feelings, sometimes we shrug them off by thinking, “Well, everything sucks anyway.” These sticking opinions can often distract us from getting to the root emotion.

The next time you feel like shaking away those uncomfortable feelings, try putting a word to them. “I feel lonely.”

Engage in self-care.

You’re not a bother to keep up with, you’re a life to be celebrated. Don’t hesitate to celebrate the little things in your care. 

Self-hate keeps you down, but self-love can help you thrive. Ready to feel the difference? Try working with a therapist to find and focus on what life means to you, instead of catering to how it’s made you feel so far. Contact us today if we can help!

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