Self-Loathing: A curious phenomena

Roslina Chai (蔡姗珊)
6 min readMar 15, 2021
Courtesy of Sam Moqadam @ Unsplash

In as much as hypocrisy may be the homage vice pays to virtue (attributed to François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac: 15 September 1613–17 March 1680) in the perennial wrestling between ‘is’ and ‘ought’, perhaps too self-loathing may be the tribute suffering pays to love.

Etymologically, to loathe one’s self may also be understood as finding one’s self displeasing, or to be disgusted with one’s self, or to hate one’s self. In short, it is to wish that one’s ‘self’ is some other ‘self’ instead of what it is’ at that moment, i.e. not only has you have judged the present is-ness your ‘self’ to have fallen short of what “it should be”, you are also insistent on pubishing yourself. This distinction is very crucial because it is possible to judge oneself unfavourably without succumbing to self-loathing. This hinges on the ability to acknowledge, accept and course correct.

In essence, self-loathing may be understood as judging + punishing.

Note that the above description logically requires two selves to be present, where self #1 is the judge + punisher, and self #2 is the one being judged and punished. This is the realisation that Eckhart Tolle came to when the insight dawned on him (paraphrased), “wait, there is a ‘me’, who is proclaiming that there is an ‘Iwho is thinking a thought … so there must be two selves here!”

In other words, if there is an “I” who is directing the loathing at a “me”, and we’ve ‘simply’ jumbled the two into a singular “self”, what would happen if we separate these two selves ? As a thought experiment, let’s imagine that “I” (aka the judge) is the cognitive-self, and “me” (aka the one being judged) as the emotive-self, and we’ll assign self #1 to “I” and self #2 to “me”.

Let’s use a scenario where a copious amount of chocolate’s been consumed. This was because rattled nerves needed to be soothed after a stressful event. Self #1 (the cognitive self) knew that a walk in the park had equally been an option that was not exercised. And so began to blame and shame self #2 (the emotive-self) for the ‘wrong’ decision, who in return blamed and shamed self #1 for falling asleep at the wheel instead of doing its job of steering towards the ‘right’ decision. To which self #1 blamed and shamed self #2 for failing to flag the trigger…

Roslina Chai (蔡姗珊)

Executive Doctoral Candidate * 6x Entrepreneur * Nonviolent Communication Mediator * Healing & Reconciliation Facilitator * Compassion Coach *