7 Invisible Ways I Inflict Self-Harm


I’ve struggled with physical self-harm for years, but recently I realized (thank you, therapy) I also self-harm in other ways. I don’t consider myself a mean person, but I know I have the capacity to be — mostly toward myself. I am mean to myself every day, multiple times a day, and I’ve been unknowingly self-harming in this way for as long as I can remember.

In an attempt to notice and bring awareness to the negative thoughts I direct toward myself, and with the aspiration that it might help someone else behaving similarly, I constructed this list of seven invisible ways I inflict self-harm.

  1. I tell myself I don’t deserve someone’s kindness, friendship or love.
  2. I judge and berate myself for things I say and do.
  3. I convince myself I am a failure by replaying any moment I wasn’t “perfect” (hint: that’s often).
  4. I dwell on feedback from others, positive or negative, until I’ve persuaded myself it’s overwhelmingly negative.
  5. I repeat “I hate myself” inwardly, out loud and sometimes via text message.
  6. I list the flaws I perceive in myself until they override any positive aspects of my identity.
  7. I punish myself for making mistakes by refusing to forgive myself.

I would never — I hope — direct the comments I make about myself and to myself, toward another human being. And I wouldn’t view others with the critical lens through which I judge myself, nor do I hold others to the unrealistic expectations I place upon myself.

Recognizing and talking through all of this prompted a question from my therapist… So what are you going to do with this information?

And I was stumped.

While I’m proud of myself for noticing and expressing these thoughts, I’m not sure where my newfound awareness will lead. I hope I can find a way to reduce my invisible acts of self-harm — and perhaps even replace them with acts of self-love — but I can’t guarantee there will ever be an end-all, be-all solution.

In the meantime, I will continue to notice, to try each day to be as kind to myself as I strive to be toward others, forgive myself when I don’t achieve perfection and remind myself I’m doing it all because I deserve it. As a human being, I am worthy of self-compassion.

Getty Images photo via Grandfailure


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