Humans are social animals. There is a part of us that is drawn to community. So when a seed is planted that we are not liked, it’s easy to become consumed with worries and fantasized arguments with others. Not only does this waste your energy in the moment, it’s typically unwarranted. When we get curious about our “I’m disliked” fantasies, we can uncover the root of the issue: our own self-judgment.
When we find ourselves being criticized, we often have an impulse to react and to defend ourselves. No one wants to be a doormat. But there are also times in our lives when we don’t rush to our own defenses: when we don’t see a glimpse of truth in the criticism. In those instances, we are rarely drawn into the foray.
If your neighbor gruffly tells you that they would appreciate it if you would pick up after your dogs and you, in fact, do not have any dogs, that feedback would not upset you. You might take issue with their tone and assumptions but you aren’t going to go to battle about picking up after your dog. That comment would not send you into a tailspin about whether you are a good neighbor or dog owner or a good person in general.
Similarly, if I told you how I hated your blue hair you wouldn’t be offended (unless of course, you have blue hair). Confused? Yes. Concerned for my mental state? Probably. But you wouldn’t be self-conscious about your blue hair or second guess your fashion choices.
This logic rings true when we are concerned that someone doesn’t like us. If we didn’t have a mountain of reasons why we think they don’t like us, it wouldn’t bother us. The problem is that when we are in that headspace, the criticisms and arguments running through our heads are more likely criticisms we have against ourselves. We have plenty of reasons why we think others might not like us, we just have choose amongst the myriad options.
Our internal battles are often punctuated by words the other person didn’t actually say. Things they didn’t actually do. We make assumptions about their “issues” with us and from there we get worked up. Where do those assumptions come from?
Our own stockpile of negative self-talk.
That is why we get so caught up in it. We explain to ourselves what the other person doesn’t like about us and then we go on a defensive rampage in our heads. If we didn’t believe, at least in part, that there was some truth to those criticisms we *think* the other person is lobbing at us, we wouldn’t care. It wouldn’t be so easy to get caught up in it.
BUT this doesn’t mean that you are uncovering subconscious truths about yourself. It doesn’t mean those criticisms are true. It’s simply a mirror, giving you a glimpse of your own self-judgments and the unkind words we say to ourselves over and over and over again. It’s like taking off the soundproof headphones and listening to our horrible inner self-talk for the first time.
So the next time you find yourself stewing about how someone doesn’t like you and drawing conclusions about why that might be, ask yourself
What parts of my story are factual? Did the other person actually SAY or DO anything to confirm these conclusions?
Why does it bother me? Is part of my story based upon my own personal fears and judgments about myself?
When we worry about why others don’t like us, it is easy for our brain to pull out the reasons WE don’t like ourselves and offer those up to support your conclusion. This does not make it true. Use this as an opportunity to better understand your relationship with yourself. From there you can decide what type of friend you want to be — to YOURSELF.
Negative self talk is toxic and it permeates so many of our relationships with other people. Do your own work and watch your relationships with those around you flourish.