Monday, April 20

Child Shadow of Self-Loathing (i)

Please read my brief introductory post, otherwise this might all sound too disjointed to be of interest/use.

“Go out in the world and work like money doesn't matter, Sing as if no one is listening, Love as if you have never been hurt, and Dance as if no one is watching”
- Uknown

My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet. - Ghandi


The Shadow of Self-Loathing is formed in a similar environment to the Shadow of Arrogance. The parents have high standards, thereby their love becomes conditional. However, the crucial difference is that for Arrogance, the parent's expect the child to be perfect, whilst for this Shadow the parent's do not.

The child is unable to meet the parent's standards. They do not sit still, get out of the way, behave properly, have the right morals, get high enough marks at school, be as good as another child, are a lot of work for the parent, do anything well enough. Or simply, they are not the parent's ideal child. While a parent for Arrogance will greet a child's school test with enthusiasm and then criticism. A parent for Self-Loathing will have little to no enthusiasm.

A very small child cannot intellectualise any of this of course. But a child senses it all. They will sense your own fear of failure. They will sense any, 'I didn't expect anything better from you' feelings. They will sense that you view them as a nuisance or an inconvenience.

Whatever the foundation, children learn that they are not enough, that they have failed their parents, and that they can never be enough.

It is this sense of inadequacy that is the Shadow's food. With the Arrogance Shadow, imperfections are fixable. With the Shadow of Self-Loathing, the child is unfixable.

This is crucial. the child learns that no amount of striving can make them better. They learn to become self-critical but without the belief that things can be put right.

The child learns that the most likely outcome is failure. They learn to dread their parent's demands and later, life's demands, because they believe that they will fail anyway. Therefore, they learn that they are not worthy as a human being.

Their lives become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are a failure. They attempt a task with that attitude, and fail. And this reinforces their belief.

How can they love themselves when they are such a disappointment?

So the child believes that they are worthless. To survive, the child's psyche prepares itself with the belief of failure. That way, when they do fail it's a moment of success - they were right. The psyche protects itself from the external world, first by becoming small, and secondly by preparing their audience with an apology in advance.

They sit at the back, they try not to stand out, they don't put themselves forward. They might even walk hunched and with their head down.

If they are forced to 'perform', they prepare others with statements such as, 'I probably will get it wrong....', 'I know I don't know enough but....'.

Their best protection comes in the avoidence of success. Failure is inevitable of course, so it cannot be avoided. So instead, they prefer to stop trying, to not start new things, and to give up hope.

I use the words audience and perform deliberately. They feel that they are being constantly scrutinised and on show. They feel that other people are there to make value judgements. A person with a strong Self-Loathing Shadow lives for this audience. Without other people's feedback, they feel unable to find any worth themselves. In the absence of self-love, they place their worth in other people's hands.


  1. wow, so many bells are ringing. thank you for these child shadow posts. i love reaing them. i think i need to read this one a few times.

  2. So I understand this is more about parents recognizing their shadows, but I totally see all these things you described in Zeb almost every day. Walking with his shoulders slumped and head down is a big one lately. It was brought about by the pressure and conformity when he went to school (from teachers, pricipal, classmates and even us at the time not knowing better) and they don't seem to be something he can let go of.

    Any ideas on how to heal a self-loathing shadow?


  3. Tara - I'll be dealing with recognition and healing in future posts, for each Shadow.

  4. Hmm, I recognised myself (and one of my parents) so well in the shadow of arrogance that, reading you introduction to this post, I didn't think I'd have much in common with this shadow, like they couldn't exist together or something. I now think I do, coming from the other parent. Not a great mix :(

  5. The inetresting thing Carin is that Arrogane and self-Loating are each other's opposites. So whilst most people have one or the other, a person can easily fluctuate between them.

    Future posts might help you differentiate how they manifest.

    But as I indicated, if the parent expects you to do well but ultimately gives the impression that you probably won't, or if the parent expects you do well and if you don't that you will better next time, will make the difference.

  6. The way you distinguished this from the arrogance shadow was really good, and I saw something really clearly - I recognized the shadow of arrogance in myself before when you wrote about it, and now I see my cousin (whom I am very close to) so clearly as manifesting the shadow of self-loathing...our mothers are sisters, and they themselves had the same hyper-critical father...but they managed their own criticism slightly differently, so two generations down, I became an 'achiever' personality, and my cousin became plagued with self-doubt...we've both worked through the worst of our shadows to a certain extent, but it is fascinating to look back and see both the similarities and differences in our journeys, and the family legacy...our kids are all still young, so too early to tell if we can break the cycle or not, but we're both trying...

  7. Lisa, that's so fascinating. I didn't know my own relatives so well, so I can only piece together an idea of how things took place.

    I think that when you're able to see it run through the family, it can give a person an added incentive to heal the Shadows.

  8. This is so interesting. I'm just catching up on this posting series. I'm looking forward to reading about more of the shadows because I see the importance of realizing your own shadows; we can easily pass this stuff to our kids; and while it may happen to a varying degree even if I'm cognicent about my own shadows, maybe I can lessen the shadows for my little one through my awareness of them.

  9. Excellent. Just excellent. That's all I can say. If I apologise for this being such a meagre little comment, will you laugh at me? :-)

    But really, very good indeed. All your shadow posts have been.

    Btw, I wonder if you have any opinion on the normal emotional and psychological phases of child development in relation to these shadow issues?

  10. How do you mean Sarah? How the Shadow manifests at different life stages?

  11. This is really interesting, and I find the idea of this shadow unutterably sad. It's not one I relate to myself, (unlike the Shadow of Arrogance). The idea of a child feeling that failure is inevitable, that the child herself is a failure. I find it heart-breaking.

  12. I think I must fluctuate between the two, and I think it's because my mom expected me to fail at certain things but then expected me to do well at other things. Telling me that I was really smart but then not letting me attempt some of the things I wanted to do. Luckily, I have recognized this and I have been slowly letting go of the idea of trying to gain my mom's acceptance. It helps that she doesn't criticize so much any more.


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