I Was Taught Self-Hatred

Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi on Unsplash

I Was Taught Self-hatred

Like most Black people, I was raised to hate myself. My classes were at home, in books, on the TV, or whenever I stepped outside the house. Self-hatred was the one lesson that was consistent and repeated so often it became a part of me. I started to hate myself before I knew what hate was.

I was too dark to be pretty. Too skinny to attract men. On reflection, the only words that were never used to describe me were dumb or stupid. As a child, I didn’t appreciate the subtlety. But I knew being a dark-skinned Black girl was not a virtue or even a slightly good thing.

Self-hatred manifests in ways that amount to self-sabotage or self-destructive behavior. It affected my self-confidence. How can I be confident if I hate myself? I felt undeserving of success. I developed imposter syndrome. I went through my young adult life feeling uncomfortable with praise or attention.

Today, I love myself! But it was a hard road to find and travel. First, I had to accept myself as I was in the moment. That meant accepting all facets of myself–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Once I embraced self-acceptance, everything else followed.

Questioning the teachings of Catholicism was pivotal to eliminating the profound guilt that overwhelmed my senses whenever I experienced a moment of success or happiness. That guilt combined with self-hatred made me uncomfortable in my skin. Sometimes, I wanted to be as invisible as society made me think I was.

Understanding that white was not right opened pandora’s box of truths. No longer did I accept what I read or saw on TV. I no longer looked at white people as the authority on all matters or put them on a pedestal. No longer did I envy their hair or different color eyes. I came to understand their lies about me was a way for their society or culture to keep their knees on my neck—a method for them to control my narrative and me.

I was lovable just as I was. I didn’t have to act white to be loved. That knowledge was transformational. My dark skin is beautiful—my brown eyes sparkle. My nappy hair provides some funky styles.  Indeed, Black is beautiful!


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

15 thoughts on “I Was Taught Self-Hatred

  1. Sad, Angela — but uplifting. Thank you for being you.

    [from Bob = Anonymous. I think that phenomenon has to do with the Apple computer I’m using while in my care home…there’s an ‘infinity line’ in the space just below this; just below that is “Connecting to WordPress.com”…but the dam’ thing never ‘connects’!–and I wind up just giving up and posting irregardless…voila ‘Anonymous.’ So be it. I/we’re victims of the IT era.]

  2. Opening up is what I constantly try to promote. You know that. FB is my witness 😛 Truly show yourself. Share your inner self. Share what’s going on in your soul. Share what moves you. Share what makes you cry. Show your tears. Show your anger. Show what you really want. Fuck the clichés. Fuck fake kindness. Fuck sucking up to others. And fuck toxic positivity! If more people would do that, I’m convinced people would feel better, interact better, and make the world a better place.

    1. Hi Roald. Fuck civility too? These days, I say what’s on my mind and you know what, I have had to learn to say goodbye to people. Sadly, being myself meant cutting ties with people I considered friends. It’s not easy to reveal your self to others and be vulnerable. People fear rejection. But I agree with you.

  3. I’m glad you have self-love. It’s something I’ve been realizing especially over these past few years in my life from personal experience, reading certain books, and being autodidactic in different ways. I was certainly taught how to hate myself in ways I never realized in my youth and even early adulthood. If I knew then when I know now, I would have a different outlook in my younger years. I hate having to internalize my anger and sadness while also being treated like the bad guy even when I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s like so many people were trying to make me dead inside, but these psychological necrophiles (to paraphrase a talking point from Pedagogy of the Oppressed) have no place here. Dang it, I wish I knew that it was projection on their part back then instead of something wrong with me. I know I still struggle with different things which I won’t lie about, but I felt like I’ve been learning so much. Keep on keeping on, Angela.

    1. Hi Curtis. I am still learning. Like you, I wish I had that wisdom in my younger years. Interesting, what was projected onto us is who they are. The animals they call us is what they are. Yup, we were brainwashed into hating ourselves and each other.

      1. Very good. I know learning never stops even if one has a degree. The brainwashing was so subtle. Sure, the obvious insults I could tell, but it wasn’t just about little digs or anything. It was the education (or lack thereof), lack of representation in various media, and other factors.

          1. That’s a good way to describe that feeling. Even if there were some identifiable things, I couldn’t fully articulate all the bad stuff I didn’t notice then.

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