It's not that I think that everyone is better than I am, it's that I think everyone thinks that they are better (smarter, more attractive, more accomplished) than I am. What is this?
September 14, 2010 10:45 AM   Subscribe

It's not that I think that everyone is better than I am, it's that I think everyone thinks that they are better (smarter, more attractive, more accomplished) than I am. What is this?

Isn't insecurity and isn't having an inferiority complex indicative that one thinks poorly of themselves? I don't think so poorly of myself, I recognize my talents, my interests, and my good qualities, yet I am constantly hurt, feeling like others don't think well of me.

I tried doing affirmations at one point, saying to myself "You are beautiful, you are loved, etc," and every time I did it, I would feel angry. So angry and frustrated and I didn't understand why. I came to the conclusion that the anger came from knowing on some level that the person I was trying to convince was not myself, but others.

And it's not really people in general, I really could care less what strangers think about me, because some people just won't like me and I get that. I also get that some people and I will get off on the wrong foot, or they will make a judgement without getting to know me. That's fine and it doesn't bother me. It's more having to do with people very close to me, namely my SO, my mother, etc.

Almost everyone is bullied or made fun of at some point, so I know this is nothing unique, but all throughout school, throughout high school as well, people made it very clear that they felt they were better than me, and I readily agreed. At some point, however, I started to think that some parts of myself that had gotten me ridiculed were actually pretty neat, and I started to value myself. Yet I still am plagued with this notion of being unappreciated, undervalued, etc by those who are close to me...the very people who never even ridiculed me to begin with (for the most part, anyway.)

It's quite odd, this whole thing, because logically I understand, but emotionally, I still feel very jealous and angry.

posted by DeltaForce to Human Relations (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What this is is believing thoughts that aren't true. You do not know what everybody thinks. In fact, you do not know what anybody thinks. Even if they tell you, how would you know that it's an accurate reflection of what they really believe? And if they told you yesterday that they think they're better than you, how do you know it is still true for them today? There are lots of ways to check out whether your beliefs are true. I like The Work of Byron Katie. Good luck.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:00 AM on September 14, 2010

Social anxiety?
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:11 AM on September 14, 2010

> It's quite odd, this whole thing, because logically I understand, but emotionally, I still feel very jealous and angry.

That's not odd at all. We're all formed by our early experiences, and it's very very hard to pull ourselves out of these emotional vortices by our own efforts; you can tell yourself "You are beautiful, you are loved, etc," but on some level you're never going to believe yourself. I am by no means one of those people who automatically suggests therapy—in fact, this may be the first time I've done so—but you sound like a good candidate. If you don't like that idea (and I probably wouldn't myself), work not on convincing yourself that you're beautiful but on convincing yourself that your emotions are full of shit in this context. It's as if you thought of snakes every time you saw spaghetti and became fearful; telling yourself "it's not snakes, it's not snakes" wouldn't help a bit, but rolling your eyes at your fear and taking a bite might work. I wish you the best with this.


For Christ's sake, if you can't say anything productive, keep quiet.
posted by languagehat at 11:12 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think what you're describing is pretty classic social anxiety.
posted by geoff. at 11:13 AM on September 14, 2010

It just sounds like you have a lot of stored -- and understandable -- anger at the way you were treated. Some of this appears to be anger at yourself for agreeing with the way you were treated.

Counseling is usually a really big help to deal with accumulated anger. Just a thought.
posted by bearwife at 11:14 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think phunniemee meant 'paranoia' pejoratively - s/he just used something a little too colloquial when trying to convey 'social anxiety'... which pretty much fits the opinion.

Of course, that's what I think he was thinking. (see what I did there??)

Really though, the concept of not knowing what others are TRULY thinking about you is spot on in my opinion... you just can't tell. You've already stated that you could 'care less what strangers think' about you, so live by those words and carry it over to your personal relationships (to a certain degree).

It's ok to not hold a measuring stick up to yourself and others - just smile and do your thing. I'm also not a therapy fan, but in this case maybe it's worth exploring. However, since you are already able to identify the 'beast'... why not try telling it to shut the hell up when you recognize it?
posted by matty at 11:21 AM on September 14, 2010

1. Psychiatry . a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.
2. baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.
posted by phunniemee at 11:35 AM on September 14, 2010

I'm guessing there was a bit of a process that led to where you're at now.

In the first instance, when you were younger, you were unable to assert yourself in normal social interactions. Those interactions are often competitive. That's just the way people (particularly younger ones) interact. And if you can't step in and fight occasionally, or at the very least put yourself forward firmly and forcefully, you end up being treated as though you're no-one's equal.

Once it got to that stage, you were being treated poorly. No ifs or buts or buts about it. That made you angry. Justifiably so. But it also put you in a position where you were not only considered inadequate or inferior in some ways, but also surly and a little bit stupid. Very few people look at anger expressed by others and think "hey that's smart." That led to the people around you having less respect for you. Which led to you getting angrier, that led to less respect, then more anger, and onwards as a bit of a downward spiral.

So, at the moment, you're in a bit of a shit position with people you've known for some time.

But you've got some stuff going for you. You know what you're feeling. You know that the way you've been treated isn't an accurate reflection of your own worth versus that of others around you. And you've got some things that you really value about yourself.

The trick in moving forward is likely to start with focusing on the things you value. Know what they are. Really know. Also, crucially, find other people who value similar things. Reach out to anyone who didn't make you feel worthless, and if there are too few of them, seek others out. Network and join until you're surrounded by people who value the things you value, and also value you.

Then, because you're still going to be carrying some anger, pick up a self help book or two on anger management. Or hit the internet. If you work on it, anger will pass with time. But you need to find some constructive ways to express it. Might be as simple as punching a pillow 4 times a day, might involve something a lot more complex. But it will pass.

The final step is of course turning around in a year or two and realizing "Hey, I like me, the people around me like me, and I'm no longer jealous or angry. This is a whole lot better than it was not too long ago."

Good luck and have a safe journey.
posted by Ahab at 11:44 AM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Whenever I think that a person is acting a certain way because they are thinking a certain way I remind myself that I'm concocting a story about that person. I am the one creating that story, therefore the story is really about me.
posted by Dmenet at 11:48 AM on September 14, 2010 [6 favorites]

I so relate to almost all of this. Maybe because of that I'm assuming things that aren't true in your case. But if not, I think there's one aspect of this you maybe aren't thinking about, and that's feeling powerless.

I think the trajectory goes something like this:

1-Everyone says I suck, so they must be right.
2-Hey wait, I don't actually suck. I am in truth kind of awesome, and those poeple were WRONG.
3-Well then I'm just not going to care what people think.
4-Haha! This is cool!
5-Oh. But sometimes it is really important what (some) people think. Sometimes, like with friendships or relationships or getting a job, it makes no difference how awesome I know I am - another person has to see it too, or else I can't really get anywhere in life.
6-But how do I get people to like me, and think I'm smart and talented and all that, without reverting back to being the sad little 5th grader who cared whether or not people liked her? I don't know. Aaagh, I'm completely powerless!

When your formative years are spent reacting to people looking down on you - either believing them, or proving them wrong - you never really learn how to get people to like you (or appreciate or recognize you, to use less Middle School-y language.) So when you're telling yourself how great you are, then you think "Hey wait, I don't need to tell myself this, I need to tell them!" the reason you're getting angry is that you're coming up against how hard it is to tell them, and the fear that no matter how you try, they might always think those wrong things about you. Because if you were awesome all along, and no one got it, why should they get it now? And that's a scary thought.

I don't know if that's an answer, but something to think about, maybe.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:27 PM on September 14, 2010 [5 favorites]

My therapist harped and harped and harped at me for about eight months to get these thoughts out of my head and replace them with more positive ones. Like Ahab and Destination Unknown are saying, there's a process that got you to this place. People TOLD you you were less -than, people you trusted. Part of the process of recovering from this is finding new people to spend time with, who don't feel this way. One challenge I had was that the people in my life telling me negative things actually meant well, and thought I needed "fixing."

I had to take the step of deciding I didn't, and surrounding myself with people who thought I was fine the way i was. The fixers are still there, but a little more at a distance, and I don't put as much weight on what they say as I used to.

I could not have done this without therapy, and that's all I'll say about "seek therapy."
posted by sweetkid at 1:02 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yet I still am plagued with this notion of being unappreciated, undervalued, etc by those who are close to me...the very people who never even ridiculed me to begin with (for the most part, anyway.)

What is the evidence of this disregard by your mother and SO? I'm curious how you know what they are thinking? (do they tell you? make faces? etc)

If there is evidence that those closest to you do not hold you in high regard, I would consider the possibility that they may have the problem.

If not, others have presented great advice.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:05 PM on September 14, 2010

I am the one creating that story, therefore the story is really about me
Point your finger at someone and look at your hand. Three of your own fingers are pointing back toward you.

I can relate to what you've written, DeltaForce. What's helped me is to realise I'm often projecting; that the stories I'm making up about what other people think or feel about me are actually stories I'm making up about my feelings toward them, myself, the world etc.

In the Feeling Good Workbook David Burns suggests that there are ten forms of twisted thinking. Check out #5 "jumping to conclusions". The actual book has a lot of very helpful advice on deconstructing this negative thinking and creating a clearer perspective on oneself.
posted by Kerasia at 4:18 PM on September 14, 2010

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