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Self-hatred, self-loathing, also sometimes autophobia refers to an extreme dislike of oneself, or being angry at oneself. The term is also used to designate a dislike or hatred of a group to which one belongs. For instance, 'ethnic self-hatred' is the extreme dislike of one's ethnic group. Accusations of self-hatred are often used as an ad hominem attack.

The term 'self-hatred' is used infrequently by psychologists and psychiatrists, who would usually describe people who hate themselves as 'persons with low self-esteem'. Some people think that self-hatred and shame are important factors in some or many mental disorders, especially disorders that involve a perceived defect of oneself (e.g. body dysmorphic disorder). "Ethnic self-hatred" is considered by some people as being a cultural issue, to which psychological theories have limited relevance.

Types of self-hatred[]

Karen Horney[]

Karen Horney the Neofreudian analyst identified six main ways in which people can express their self hatred.

  • Relentless demands on the self. In her view some neurotic people in an attempt to overcome their own weaknesses commit themselves to the search for perfection. In doing so this motivation can become a driving force that overcomes their need to look after themselves appropriately. They work long hours, driving themselves ever harder. This is a clinical interpretation of some Type A personality style behaviour or of people who are workaholics.
  • Merciless self accusation. Some people can engage in damning self talk, always interpreting negative events as their fault. From a CBT point of view those who have had blaming parents can carry this behavior on as a learnt pattern of behavior and from a psychonalytic point of view, their voices may be said to have been introjected.
  • Self contempt
  • Self frustration
  • Self tormant
  • Self destructive actions Horney saw that a wide range of behaviors could be interpreted as, at least in part, due to the expression of impulses of self hatred. Suicide and self harm are in this category, but she would have include alcohol abuse, eating disorders, overworking etc

Personal self-hatred[]

Personal self-hatred and self-loathing can result in an inferiority complex. Some sociology theorists such as Jerry Mander see television programming as being deliberately designed to induce self-hatred, negative body image, and depression, with the advertising then being used to suggest the cure [1]. See also the arguments related to the Kill your television phenomenon.

The term Self-hatred can refer to either a strong dislike for oneself, one's actions, or a strong dislike or hatred of one's own race, gender, or sexual orientation. When used in the latter context it is generally defined as hatred of one's identity based on the demographic in question, as well as a desire to distance oneself from this identity.

Self hatred focused on issues aroun racial or ethnic identity[]

White self-hatred[]

As with other forms of ethnic self-hatred, white self-hatred defines white people who express dislike or guilt for white culture and western civilization. The labeling of white self-hatred is controversial because it's often associated with racism and white supremacy. However, some would argue that white guilt and political correctness represent forms of ethnic self-hatred for white people.

Jewish self-hatred[]

Main article: Self-hating Jew

Black self-hatred[]

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As with Jewish self-hate, there is some disagreement as to what it means to be Black. Some Black people feel that those who demonstrate a preference for clothing styles, music choices, etc. that have been predominantly associated with white culture are self-hating. Thus for them being Black is more just one’s skin color. Some, such as journalist John Carlson, have suggested that gangsta rap is a form of Black Self-hatred. In his view, when Black rappers portray Black women as "bitches" and "hos" and Black men as "worthy of respect only in relation to their capacity to kill or maim others," or their virility and sexual prowess, they are essentially expressing a form of self-hate with basically buying into and propagating, through their music, racist stereotypes about Black people.

As in other ethnic groups, self-loathing can show itself in the form of embarrassment or shame in those things that are culturally identified with the group. Such feelings are ingrained in subtle ways from childhood. Some black people may become reluctant to share or perpetuate activities or traditions that have in the past caused them anxiety. They may come to hate those things and, by extension, themselves. Other manifestations of black self-loathing are the use of preparations or pharmaceuticals to lighten the skin, hair straigtening, rhinoplasty or other cosmetic surgery to affect a more Caucasoid appearance.

Another variation of Black self-hatred is the issue of colorism, which refers to the intracultural conflict between light-skinned (and sometimes straight-haired) Black people and dark-skinned Black people. This is attributed to to the effects of slavery and segregation, as light-skinned blacks often were treated considerably better by whites, or by white society in general, than their more full-blooded brethren. Such race-based color preferences continue to be present in both black and white society and extend to other ethnic groups, as well. Skin color biases which disadvantage and discriminate against darker-skinned people are evident internationally, including in India, throughout Latin America, Africa and China. In many instances, such biases against dark skin and other non-white physical characteristics are the result of the internalization of white supremacist values spread by European colonization and domination.

Asian self-hatred[]

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As with any racial label, there are disagreements as to what it means to be Asian. Some Asian-Americans are within just two or three generations of their Asian immigrant ancestors and are therefore very acutely aware of their Asian identity. They are further being reminded constantly by others of their or other ethnic group, regardless of whether this reminder takes on a negative or positive connotation. Most Asian-Americans have been asked, at one time or another, from which country they came, even if they were born in the USA, and even if their families have been here for several generations.

Similar to Black self-hatred, Asian self-hatred can manifest in the form of embarrassment or shame in things associated with Asian heritage. Epicanthoplasty, skin lightening, or hair bleaching -- all fairly common practices among some Asians who can afford such procedures -- are considered by some to be manifestations of Asian self-loathing.

Assimilation in the USA[]

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Please see the relevant discussion on the talk page. 18:50, 7 February 2007 (UTC)===White self-hatred===

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A less common example of the phenomenon of self-hatred is White self-hatred. This term has been used by White supremacist groups, like their Black counterparts, to defend racism, arguing that this self-hatred results from attempting to coexist with Blacks.

Often people feel ashamed of atrocities committed in the past by their ancestors. This includes colonialism, slavery, globalization, the expulsion of Native Americans, and the segregation conflict in the 20th century. White self-hatred is often related to feelings of dissatisfaction about the current capitalistic nature of society and social issues such as income inequality and pollution. It is often argued that widespread White self hatred is evidenced in the protections that Political Correctness offers to everyone in academic circles, except to "plain" mainstream white males.

A more benign version of this type of White self-hatred is referred to as White Liberal Guilt. White Liberal Guilt can cause a person to become overly concerned with making up for past injustices and this influences their decisions and actions. For example, a person voting between two candidates for public office, one white and one a minority, may decide that even though they may feel the white candidate is more qualified to be elected, they will feel guilty if they do not vote for the minority candidate because it helps make up for past discrimination. White self hatred is not just about quilt. It usually manifest itself in a extreme hatred of others. In the cases of sterotyping, or developing and superiority complex, thus telling themselves that they are better than others. One clear example is the media, with is dominated by whites, they continue to portray other ethnic groups as less than. The bigget target is usually African Americans becasue they are precieved as an economic, and political threat.

Homosexual self-hatred[]

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Since homosexuality is not a readily discernible physical attribute, many homosexual people conceal their sexual orientation out of fear that they may be ridiculed, abused, or persecuted by others. While homosexuality is a crime in some countries, homosexual self-hatred is common even in countries with a relatively high level of tolerance for homosexuality. Even a homosexual individual raised in an environment of tolerance might perceive his or her own sexual feelings as immoral, unhealthy, or shameful.

Some argue that latent homosexual tendencies, when repressed, often lead to homophobic actions. A self-hating homosexual may actively support efforts to limit the civil rights of homosexuals, openly criticize homosexuality, or openly engage in homophobic behavior. Famous examples include Roy Cohn, and the Mayor of Spokane, Washington Jim West. The groundbreaking 1970 movie The Boys in the Band depicted gay characters engaged in and reacting to self-hatred. Some gays merely "hate" others who embody homophobic stereotypes. They may even "wish" for themselves to be straight, or become deeply depressed.

Self-injury as self-hatred[]

Self-harm is a psychological disorder, which may involve self-hatred, where the subject feels compelled to physically injure themselves.

Controversy over the definition and use of the label self-hatred[]

Accusations of self-hatred are sometimes alleged to be used as an ad hominem attack in order to try and discredit a person the accuser disagrees with. [2] An example where this abuse has been said to occur was in relation to Ward Connerly, an African-American businessman and University of California Regent. Connerly vigorously led a campaign opposing affirmative action in California and later across the country. Some affirmative action supporters claim he and other Black people opposed to affirmative action are denying the positive benefits they have received via affirmative action, and thus are self-hating Blacks. Connerly's supporters argue that affirmative action is a form of reverse racism that ultimately is bad for Black people and prevents society from becoming truly color blind, an ideal goal in their view.

See also[]


  • Is Black self-hatred racist? John Carlson, Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, Feb. 9 1994.
  • Sander L. Gilman Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race and Madness Cornell University Press, 1985

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