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Once Upon a Time, There Was Self-Loathing

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Is self-loathing -- or at least stark, scathing self-criticism -- a required personality trait for novelists? Well, it's certainly a useful tool for probing the depths of human possibility. Here are ten examples of bestselling novels whose characters struggle with low self-esteem.

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1. "Even you, Jacob Black, cannot hate me as much as I hate myself." -- Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer

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2. "I'm fifty shades of fucked-up, Anastasia." -- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James

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3. "If you're going to read this, don't bother. After a couple of pages, you won't want to be here. So forget it. Go away." -- Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk

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4. "It was as if the master had said, 'You are ugly people.' They had looked about themselves and saw nothing to contradict the statement; saw, in fact, support for it leaning at them from every billboard, every movie, every glance." -- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

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5. "Photos of me when I was a kid ... well, they've started to give me a little pang or something -- not unhappiness, exactly, but some kind of quiet, deep regret. ... I keep wanting to apologize to the little guy: 'I'm sorry, I've let you down. I was the person who was supposed to look after you, but I blew it: I made wrong decisions at bad times, and I turned you into me.'" -- High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby

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6. "Going to another country doesn't make any difference. I've tried all that. You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There's nothing to that." -- The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

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7. "I realize today that nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Demian, by Hermann Hesse

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8. "Being here alone with nothing to do, I've been thinking about myself too. Trying to understand why I hate myself so badly." -- Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

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9. "A slight man with a gray, sunken battleship of a face, curious wet eyes, a giant gleaming forehead on which a dozen cavemen could have painted something nice, a sickle of a nose perched atop a tiny puckered mouth, and from the back, a growing bald spot whose shape perfectly replicates the great state of Ohio, with its capital city, Columbus, marked by a deep-brown mole. Slight. Slightness is my curse in every sense." -- Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart

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10. "You hate me, but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself." -- Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Photograph by Anneli Rufus.