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


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Self-harm

upset young woman in front of laptop pulling hair

What I Never See Discussed in Self-Harm Awareness Posts

I have been reading a lot of self-harm awareness posts and tales of self-harm trauma. All of them had some really valid points and similarities to my own story, but there is always something missing. There are pieces I feel I could add that would make the story me. So I asked myself, why don’t [...]
young woman in white pullover sweater against gray background looking depressed or upset

3 Questions People Who Struggle With Self-Harm Don’t Want to Be Asked

1. “Oh my god, are those scars on your arms? They better not be!” I was asked this question by a family member, at a family event, in front of other family members. I was absolutely horrified, to say the least. Shamefully, I tucked my arm away (even though it was hardly in plain sight [...]
teen on computer

What It's Like to Go Through High School With a Mental Illness

For anyone, high school can be a challenging place to experience, but for me, it was more than just the average teenage “trial and error” time of life. In school, I worked hard as an AP student. My grades were decent, and I was well liked by staff and my peers. What many didn’t understand [...]
sketch of a young girl

To the Girl Who Just Succumbed to the Urge to Cut

Dear beautiful, Yes, I called you beautiful, because you are. Those scars are proof of the fire you’ve fought through — and you’re still standing here today. But you are so much more than beautiful. You are strong, you are brave, you are resilient and you are loved. I know you probably don’t feel any [...]