Coping With Internalized Ableism and Self- Loathing

woman looking at herself in mirror with self-loathing

Internalized ableism is when we project negative feelings onto ourselves. Traditionally, internalized ableism describes the subtle oppression of non-disabled people over disabled people. Those with disabilities experience the world differently than non-disabled people. The subtle prejudices or assumptions endured by those with disabilities remain prevalent.

Internalized ableism is not limited to those with disabilities. The oppression, prejudice, or assumptions directed towards disabled people can extend to other groups such as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer people. The negative beliefs held by some people can impact how some feel toward themselves.


Oppression comes in different forms. Some examples are:

  • People’s opportunities are based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, physical, mental, or intellectual ability.
  • Minority groups, LGTBQ+ individuals, or the disabled are held to discriminatory practices or legislation.
  • Fundamental civil rights or liberties are denied to vulnerable or minority groups.

In Micheline Mason’s research article, she includes this quote:

“Internalized oppression is not the cause of our mistreatment; it is the result of our mistreatment. It would not exist without the real external oppression that forms the social climate in which we exist. Once oppression has been internalized, little force is needed to keep us submissive. We harbour inside ourselves the pain and the memories, the fears and the confusions, the negative self-images and the low expectations, turning them into weapons with which to re-injure ourselves every day of our lives.”

Internalized Ableism

Internalized ableism is toxic. We believe the beliefs and thoughts of others, even if they are harmful to our well-being. An example of internalized ableism is the following statement:

“When I realized I was transgender, I wanted to tell my friends and family. I knew I could count on them to support me, but I felt like throwing up whenever I gathered my courage. I wasn’t afraid; I was ashamed of who I was.

I believed the moral values others held. My feelings toward who I was were disgust, hate, and depression. These feelings connected to how others in my town felt about the LGTBQ+ community.”

The internalization of our environment suppresses our ability to acknowledge or be proud of ourselves. Internalizing suppression or oppression affects mental health disorders. A few mental health disorders and similar issues include:

We can, at one point or another, fall into a pattern of self-loathing. The belief we are unworthy of love or happiness can underscore our internalized ableism, lack of self-confidence, or depression.

Self-loathing is a vicious mental health disorder. The idea of unworthiness takes root in our minds and becomes virulent. We aren’t surprised when something wrong happens to us because we expect bad things. We hold ourselves back from success because we don’t think we deserve success.

The harmful effect of self-loathing expands into our personal view of gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. We believe we are unworthy of what others have because we aren’t “normal” or accepted by others. We expect poor treatment because we think we deserve meager respect. A few reasons we come to hate ourselves include:

  • Family environment
  • Social environment
  • Damaged ego

Signs of Self- Loathing

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Self – sabotage
  • Addiction
  • Degrading yourself
  • Anger issues

Coping Tips

We can learn how to cope with or stop tolerating messages of inferiority. Learning to recognize how we see ourselves is essential to begin our journey to self-love. A few ways to end self-loathing or internalized ableism are:

  • Get off of social media. We can get lost in looking at others’ “great” lives and forget people don’t post the bad aspects of their lives.
  • Be kind to yourself every day. One act of kindness towards yourself can increase positive thoughts about yourself.
  • Express yourself through reading, writing, or any form of art. Find articles, journals, and books that discuss internalized ableism or self-loathing and its effects on the body and mind. Share your story. Writing our thoughts and feelings is cathartic. Paint, draw, carve, or engage in any other form of creativity. Allow yourself to express your feelings.
  • Exercise. Whether you are disabled, a part of a minority culture, or identify as LGTBQ+, you have the chance to listen to what your body is telling you. Revel in your strengths, take joy in your accomplishments, and don’t be afraid to continue to challenge yourself.
  • Evaluate your environment. Does your community, family, or friends provide support? Assess what you need to feel supported and seek out positive help.
  • Change how you talk to yourself. Your core beliefs influence how you speak to yourself. Instead of telling yourself, you are “stupid, ugly, weird, or abnormal,” learn to see the beautiful, intelligent, and unique person.
  • Go to therapy. Therapy is a healthy choice to end internalized ableism or self-loathing. We face messy truths when we talk with a therapist about ourselves. There is a time when learning coping skills from a trained therapist is essential.
  • Try something new or start a new hobby.
  • People often find comfort in faith. Religion is not limited to organized religion: Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. It can include how you define spirituality.
  • Commit to self-care. Self-care can include:
    • Yoga taps into an awareness of your mind and body. You are creating a connection between the two, which aids in realizing your strength.
    • Meditation slows down the mind. When you practice meditation, you learn how to regulate your breathing, focus on freeing your mind, and accept yourself.
    • Exercise connects the mind and body through moving, experiencing new challenges, and seeing what you can accomplish. You also benefit from exercise because your brain releases dopamine and serotonin, making you feel good.

Internalized ableism or self-loathing can go undetected for years because we take in our community’s views and attitudes. Shedding feelings of self-loathing takes time and love for yourself.

Learning to recognize internalized ableism or self- loathing takes patience. We don’t wake up one morning and think we need to stop hating ourselves. Life events or someone saying something that resonates with us can initiate our journey toward self-love. Investing the energy in loving yourself means using the energy we used to hate ourselves in a healthy manner. Reading, writing, talking, joining groups, or becoming involved with organizations that promote positive views builds our self-esteem. Seeking out professional help is another step toward ending internalized ableism or self-loathing. A therapist can help us identify why we feel emotions such as self-loathing and low self-esteem. Private therapy that examines our internalized feelings, our community’s norms, and the negative stereotypes we hold is essential to our healing. Through treatment, we can learn healthy coping skills. For more information about internalized ableism and private therapy, call Achieve Concierge at (619) 393-5871.

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