It’s just me against the world.
That’s a common feeling when you have so many things that seem to be working against you.
We are bombarded with examples of people who don’t seem to care about us and our well-being. That might be your boss, who seems to have impossible standards that you can’t live up to. On the other hand, it could be the expectations put on you by family or friends to constantly give and give and give of yourself.
It may even feel like other people are out to get you and make your life harder than it needs to be.
But is that a fair or rational way to think? To determine that, let’s look at some reasons why you may feel like the world is against you.
Why does it feel like everyone is out to get me?
The feeling that everyone has bad intentions can often be rooted in mental health issues and stress. Still, we should cover a more tangible reason why first.
1. You are surrounded by unhealthy people that are up to no good.
You may feel like people are plotting against you because of who those other people are. The people that you surround yourself with have a strong influence on the way you interact with and perceive the world. There’s a saying that goes, “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.”
What do you think might happen if you hang out with shady people doing sketchy things? What if the people you spend the most time with are angry, fearful, and paranoid about the world around them? What if they have a victim complex where everything that everyone does is somehow meant to keep them down?
You may be internalizing and making those perceptions your own. You may be buying into their fears and unhealthiness because you’re often around them. It’s easy to see enemies everywhere if you believe there are enemies everywhere.
Perhaps the people you spend time with are actively working to make you feel like everyone is out to get you so they can better control you. Control is the foundation of emotional and mental abuse.
What can I do about it?
Take some time to perform an audit of the people around you. Can you identify why you feel like everyone is against you? Are the people around you healthy? Do they blame everyone else for their problems? Do they live in terror and fear of imaginary threats?
Now compare that to real-world situations. In the United States, we live in a tumultuous time where civil liberties are under attack. Is it reasonable to be fearful that other people are out to get you then? Well, yes, but it’s certainly not everyone. In fact, it’s not even most people. Instead, focus on the people who are trying to help and do some good in this world. Put some distance between you and those who cause you to feel that you can trust anyone.
2. You have low self-esteem.
Do you feel good about yourself? Do you see yourself as capable of confronting and accomplishing your goals?
Or are you a fatalist who thinks that you’re not competent? Do you think everyone hates you? You may think everyone is out to get you because you believe you don’t deserve good things. After all, you’re not a good or capable person in your opinion.
Low self-esteem can cause many problems because people with low self-esteem constantly blame themselves for things outside their control. They may also come to believe that problems exist where there are none. Worse, they may try to shift responsibility to avoid making themselves feel any lower than they already do. Let’s consider an example to better illustrate this.
Carrie doesn’t get hired for a job that she really wanted. However, she has the education and skills and feels she would be a good fit for the job. Still, she doesn’t get it.
If Carrie has healthy self-esteem: she will likely realize that she might not have been hired due to circumstances outside her control. Perhaps the company went into a hiring freeze. It could be that there was someone better qualified who applied. Maybe her salary expectations were not aligned with the company’s offer. None of these things really reflect on Carrie as a person.
If Carrie has low self-esteem: she may feel like she doesn’t deserve to get the job. She may be afraid that the reason she didn’t get the job is because of her race, gender, or orientation (which may actually be a valid reason.) On the other hand, it could be that she feels the company has already decided, and they just interviewed her to laugh at her. Whatever her fears, her low self-esteem is causing her to drive her mind further into the hole by thinking that everyone is out to punish her because she knows she doesn’t deserve good things.
3. You had an abusive or difficult childhood.
Many thoughts and feelings we carry as adults are formed as children. Suppose you had unhealthy adults around you as a child. In that case, you may have picked up their habits, beliefs, and mannerisms without ever realizing that you did. You may be subconsciously taught to always be on guard because the adults in your life or your family constantly try to undermine you.
They may have wanted you to fail or to tear you down. Sometimes this is an act of control, as in the case of an abuser making the child their victim. However, it could also be as silly as jealousy because the adult sees their child as a threat. The adult may also have punished the child for something outside that child’s control. For example, some people hate their children and want to tear them down if they feel the child is a burden or has ruined their adult life. It’s a terrible way to think, but it happens.
You may not trust people because that’s the environment you grew up in. That’s what you learned. You may feel that everyone is plotting against you because the people that you were supposed to be able to trust were.
4. Mental illness
Paranoia and fear of other people working against you may be a symptom of mental illness. Psychosis, schizophrenia, paranoid personality disorder, and bipolar disorder are but a few mental illnesses that may cause you to feel this way.
In a similar vein, PTSD and trauma may cause hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is your brain trying to protect you from further harm by constantly assessing for threats. And when you look for a threat, you’re bound to find them whether they exist or not.
The world is harsh. Why should I be concerned that I think everyone is out to get me?
There’s a good chance you landed on this article because you understand that your fears about everyone being out to get you negatively affect your life. The truth is that you are not entirely wrong to be wary to some degree. But being wary about a person or a situation is far different from paranoia, which causes you to fear most people. Just being wary is not likely to severely disrupt your life.
However, paranoia can cause severe disruptions in your life. You’ll have difficulty forming meaningful relationships because you always expect a knife in the back. You may feel you can’t express vulnerability lest it is used against you. The truth is that someone may, in fact, use your vulnerability against you. However, that risk is just the cost of admission for deep and meaningful relationships.
Should your paranoia stem from a lack of self-esteem, you’ll find that you don’t take appropriate risks in your life. The problem is that risk is required to accomplish anything meaningful. But if you feel like anything you attempt to do will be undermined and destroyed by other people, you may think, “What’s the point? I’ll just fail because other people don’t want me to succeed.” That’s not a reasonable way to think unless you are surrounded by abusive people that might actually do that.
It will disrupt your peace and happiness. How can you cultivate peace and happiness when you think everyone is out to get you? These things cannot live in the same space. Negative thoughts and beliefs are often stronger than positive ones. If you feel negative so often, you will find that it turns into a self-perpetuating cycle.
What can I do about it?
There’s a good chance you’ll need help from a therapist to get to the root of the issue. Things like abuse or mental illness require professional help.
For example, if you grew up in an abusive home, there are likely underlying issues that you will need to address. Poverty can create similar problems because the people around you may not be doing good things to survive.
There are many layers to this problem. You’ll need to peel them back, find the root cause, and address it to start healing it.
In the meantime, when you are ruminating on the thought “everyone is out to get me,” try replacing it with the following: “Most people aren’t out to get me. Most people are just trying to live their own life.”
By that, the statement says that most people are out for themselves. It’s not so much that other people are working against you specifically. It’s that they are pursuing their own goals. They have their own thoughts, feelings, and goals they want to accomplish. They have themselves and their families to think about.
In truth, most people aren’t thinking about you at all because they are more concerned with just getting through their own day.
After all, isn’t that just what you’re trying to do?