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“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go and eat worms…”
…so goes the song that puts a darkly humorous twist on the frustration, unhappiness, and even anger we can experience when we feel misunderstood.
“Nobody understands me!” is a common enough exclamation when we’re dogged by the unshakable belief that other people just don’t ‘get’ who we are or how we feel.
Or when people don’t approve of our response to an event or of the way we choose to live.
Being understood is a fairly fundamental human need because it’s the key to our sense of belonging.
Taken back to its most basic instinctive origins, the need to be part of the group was fundamental to survival from the earliest stages of human evolution.
It’s no wonder that feeling misunderstood, and therefore isolated, can be such an overwhelming and upsetting sensation.
And the reality is, if you don’t think you’re accepted for who you are, you can feel intense loneliness, even when you’re surrounded by other people.
The reality of the human condition is that we sometimes need the validation of others to give us the courage to be ourselves, knowing we won’t be criticized or judged for it.
It allows us to feel part of a ‘tribe.’
Having complete faith that we’re accepted for who we are is important to our mental and emotional welfare.
Conversely, if we sense that those close to us are critical of our life choices or attitudes, the inner conflict gives rise to negative emotions within us that are at best painful and at worst destructive.
So, to avoid this damaging deadlock of mutual misunderstanding, is there a way to get others to understand you as the person you actually are and not the person they would like you to be?
Let’s investigate this further…
The solution lies with you.
Resolving this problem actually starts with you, rather than with those whom you feel misunderstand you and your choices.
The first step is to develop a deeper understanding of yourself, since you can hardly expect others to understand you if you don’t actually ‘get’ yourself and really know who you are.
Becoming self-aware is something which develops during childhood and adolescence, but good parenting is an essential element in the process.
Good parents pay attention to your feelings, your likes and dislikes, and your natural talents.
They’ll give you the attention and acceptance you crave and will dish out plenty of praise.
This is called ‘mirroring,’ a theory developed by psychologist Heinz Kohut. It is thought to be key in the development of a child’s self-appreciation and self-esteem.
Dysfunctional parenting may mean that you missed out on this mirroring.
Perhaps your parents failed to see you at all or they saw what they wanted to see as opposed to the real you?
Though the chances are your parents were blissfully unaware of the impact of their approach, the net result is a child – who becomes an adult – with a lack of self-awareness or understanding.
Since, as we’ve established, you need to ‘get’ yourself before others can ‘get’ you, working on this aspect of your mind is essential.
Try asking some of these questions to truly get to know yourself and develop some awareness of who you are and what drives you.
Once you’re more familiar with what makes you tick and you understand your own motivations, you’ll be in a stronger position to stand up to the negativity you perceive from others.
Ultimately, you’ll be more confident in your own choices and less affected by the inevitable occasions when you’re not on the same wavelength as those around you.
Understanding your own deeply held convictions and your own right to have them will be a good defense against the nagging feeling of being too different and therefore alone.
Look at the people around you.
The next step toward banishing these feelings of being misunderstood is to take a look at the people around you and think about the way you interact with them.
Essentially, personalities that you’ll encounter along life’s journey fall into three categories:
Personality 1 – people who are on the same wavelength as you and who instinctively get where you’re coming from.
Personality 2 – those who want to understand you, but need a little help to do so.
Personality 3 – folk who just aren’t going to get you, no matter how hard you try.
Let’s examine these 3 personality groups more closely.
The people in the first category don’t need much more explanation.
You instantly know them when you meet them and the mutual understanding is automatic.
And what a joy it is when it happens.
It’s a pity it’s a relatively rare occurrence.
It is worth mentioning, though, that even with people who are absolutely on the same page as you, the only way to truly connect with them is to allow yourself to be open and, in a way, vulnerable.
Don’t guard your inner self and keep your interactions superficial.
Opening up is the only way you can really let them in and allow them to understand the true you.
Otherwise, you’ll always remain the enigma you are to others.
Realistically, you’re going to come across many more of the second type than the first, but these relationships can be very gratifying too.
You just have to be willing to do the work to help them to understand the real, authentic you.
They’re open to you, but not on the exact same wavelength, so this assistance is necessary if they are to come to truly know who you are.
Self-awareness and your own ability to communicate your likes and dislikes and motivations, as described above, are key to unlocking their understanding.
If you practice the skill of being self-aware, you’ll be well on the way to making a strong connection.
Have a go at writing your thoughts down and getting them into some sort of logical order. This can help you to explain yourself more clearly, which will make the process easier.
And what about the people in the final category?
True, they can be the hardest ones to deal with because they’re just not able to see anyone else’s point of view.
They’re the type that can spare neither the time nor the energy to understand the views of others.
They never open their minds to the idea that others have a legitimate right to be different to them.
Or, they have a deep-seated belief in their own opinions to the exclusion of all others.
How can you deal with these uncompromising folk, who you’ll come across more often that you’d wish?
The truth is, you just don’t need these people in your life!
When you are self-aware and confident in your own convictions, you’ll begin to understand that you don’t need approval from everyone – some people, yes, but not all.
Other people’s opinions will begin to matter less.
Don’t waste your breath and allow yourself to become stressed by their stubborn refusal to bend.
Try to accept that not everyone is going to ‘get’ you.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the need to be liked and socially accepted can also be a source of unhappiness.
So be wary of jumping through too many hoops to please others and get them to understand you.
If you try and don’t succeed, accept it and move on.
Don’t waste your time trying to turn everybody into a friend.
It’s not easy to be okay with not being liked. It goes against the human need to belong.
When you have these sorts of people in your life, you can feel confident enough in yourself that you won’t need everyone to like you or approve of the path you are taking in life.
Once you feel more secure and self-aware, you’ll be better placed to appreciate other people’s right not to understand you and you will be less affected by their judgmental attitudes.
Everyone has the right to their own opinion – even the ‘3s.’
A final word here about each individual’s right to have their own opinion.
Those infuriating folk who have their own unshakeable ideas and are not prepared to give any leeway to you or anyone else…
…even they are absolutely entitled to be the way they are.
Yes, I know it’s annoying.
But here’s why…
When we’re faced with the stubbornness of others, it’s all too easy to become stuck in a cycle of negative emotions.
We convince ourselves that our own views are the right ones, refusing to budge, and becoming as inflexible as those we think are opposing us.
It’s really important to understand, though, that we all have a right to a personal perspective – even those individuals who may be the cause of your frustrations.
It’s worth remembering that any individual’s interpretation and understanding of their own version of reality is shaped by many things.
Their life experiences, their beliefs and value systems based on religious or cultural ‘norms,’ and their innate personality all contribute to how they see the world.
Since everyone’s beliefs, experiences, etc., are unique to them, no two individuals will interpret the world around them in exactly the same way.
Their interpretation, understanding, and expectations will differ, sometimes quite fundamentally.
For example, one person may think that having a few glasses of wine is a pleasurable way to relieve the stresses of work, whereas another will regard alcohol as the root of all evil.
Neither attitude is right or wrong.
Each person interprets the world from alternative perspectives with different expectations.
It’s so easy to develop a deep-seated belief that your own perspective is the right one, but, in reality, having a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude is not helpful.
Who’s to say your way is any more valid than someone else’s?
The fact that they may not understand your point of view or the way you choose to lead your life doesn’t mean to say that they’re wrong.
You each have an equal right to your own opinions, attitudes, and behavior.
For the sake of your own future contentment, you’ll find that an ability to understand and accept this concept will set you on a path to developing better relationships.
It all comes down to the wholehearted acceptance of this basic truth: if ‘they’ don’t understand you, that doesn’t mean either of you is right or wrong.
It’s simply a matter of the different perspectives that we’re all entitled to have as individuals.
To sum up…
If you found yourself reading this article, it’s a safe bet that you’re feeling misunderstood by others.
And that it has reached a point where it is really impacting your emotional well-being.
Having got this far, I hope you are now able to see that the key to this conundrum is developing a stronger sense of your own identity.
By getting to know yourself better, you’ll feel more secure in the way you lead your life.
The next step is to welcome into your life the types of personalities who are willing and able to accept you as you are and among whom you feel you truly belong.
Then just two steps remain: to accept the simple fact that there’ll always be people who are unable to understand you and to appreciate that everyone is entitled to their own views – like it or not.
Not sure what to do about the feeling that no one understands you? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
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