I want you to want me. And you. And you...and you too.
February 15, 2012 6:29 PM   Subscribe

How do I get over not feeling wanted? For a long time (since childhood for sure) I have never felt "wanted" by anyone. I am absolutely tired of feeling this way, especially when rejected for relationships, but I cannot honestly wrap my head around how to move forward. HALP!

I was an unexpected (not unwanted, just happened way sooner than anyone planned) baby, and growing up I remember the family joking about how my mom freaked out and cried when she discovered she was pregnant with me when my sibling was maybe 6 months old (WAY SOONER than anyone thought apparently). I have always had the sense that I am not fully wanted by anyone. Obviously telling that story and laughing about it when I was younger planted a dark little seed in my brain, and it has never gone away.

I am divorced (read previous questions if you want), and that didn't help at all. While I'm healing from that whole thing (and I'm over the ex completely...I have no desire for him), it still drives home that my ex didn't want me bad enough to put effort into the marriage...he just gave up. Other relationships that have ended reinforce that message as well (even though I know they weren't the right fit)...so my brain keeps telling me that I am single because no one wants me. I effin' HATE THAT!! I just had someone tell me that he feels a connection with me but not enough to have a relationship. Now, I've felt that way about others but I have feelings for this guy and so his excuse means he doesn't want me. Again.

How in the hell do I make this go away? How can I feel whole? How can I be OK with not feeling wanted by anyone? There's a logical part of me that knows this is a faulty belief, and related to self esteem, but I cannot for the life of me make it stop. I am pretty damn persuasive to myself and I can make every excuse in the book and refute positive sayings when I try to use CBT techniques on myself. I am my own worst enemy on this. It's a war going on in my head and I hate hate HATE feeling this way!!

So...how can I stop the belief that no one wants me? Or how do I somehow get comfortable with that? What do I do?

(can you hear the frustration?)
posted by MultiFaceted to Human Relations (17 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Step 1: Want yourself more. If you learn to appreciate yourself, others' lack of appreciation will be less of an issue.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:34 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you ever done any therapy on this issue? This is a big deal to you, and if you can possibly afford the investment of time and money, this is the kind of thing that both/either talk therapy and CBT can help with.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:35 PM on February 15, 2012

I would look into finding someone who could do EMDR therapy with you. This is a deeply rooted thing for you and EMDR, though technically for PTSD, is useful in unwinding old thoughts and transforming your view of traumatic events so you can move through them.

Wishing you strength.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:43 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're going to get two answers- one is therapy and the other is volunteer somewhere you are needed and WANT to be (ie pick something that suits you and your interests).

I know where you are coming from to some extent. It's tough.
posted by bquarters at 6:45 PM on February 15, 2012

Response by poster: Sidhedevil: I have done therapy, and even worked on CBT but it is SPOOKY how I can get completely convinced of those irrational thoughts in my head and no amount of justification can convince me otherwise. So it's definitely hardwired somewhere deep in there.

These Birds: I never even thought about EMDR, even though I know about it being used with PTSD. That's an idea I'll have to look into.

(I won't threadsit...just wanted to add that I have been in therapy before because I didn't mention it in my question. However, maybe I wasn't addressing the right things or using the right techniques, so thoughts related to that is welcome).
posted by MultiFaceted at 6:48 PM on February 15, 2012

It seems to me that you are misstating the problem. The problem is not that guy X "doesn't want you." The problem is more likely that feeling unwanted by guy X makes you feel:
a) That no one will ever want you
b) That you are unlovable

It is empirically true that there are individuals who don't want to be in a romantic relationship with you, as your experience has demonstrated. There's no point in denying it. But that does not entail a) or b). There are lots of perfectly nice people you've met who you don't want to date, either. But that doesn't make them unlovable or destined to be alone forever, and you wouldn't tell them that they will or should be. So don't tell yourself that, either. You can probably think of lots of people in relationships who you personally would not want to be with. That's just how life is.

And it's understandable that you would feel the lack of a permanent connection after a divorce, but the impermanence of connections doesn't make them less real. The end of a relationship doesn't retroactively invalidate the emotions that began and sustained it while it lasted. Just because none of your romantic relationships have thus far been unending, it doesn't mean the people you were with didn't want you in the moments you were together. We are all wanted by various people in different ways and for different durations as we move through the world. That is life.

And it is OK to feel how you feel, it's a very normal feeling. But accepting how you feel at times doesn't have to mean believing the lies your brain tells you. So maybe you can see how you feel, accept that you feel that way even if it isn't rational, and then do something to distract yourself - call a friend or watch a movie or work out or whatever gets your mind off it. Be as kind to yourself as you would to anyone else in pain, and foster the things in yourself you enjoy and enjoy sharing with others.
posted by unsub at 6:54 PM on February 15, 2012 [15 favorites]

I think this is the kind of issue that CBT just paves over, leaving the root intact. I suggest looking at other kinds, as recommended upthread.

With regard to your birth, try to remember that your mother was on a rollercoaster of hormones, and holding her accountable for her emotional reaction to a surprise like that is pretty irrational. That happened to my own mother, and it was a hard time for her to suddenly have TWO babies, but I don't think it meant anyone was actually wanted less.

Anyhow, loneliness and a desire to be wanted and appreciated are two very natural human feelings. I think drawing your early childhood into the matter now is like comparing apples and oranges. Rather than looking at this as a thread of continuity running through your entire life, try to tell yourself that there have been times when you were wanted, and times when you weren't, and that this is a cycle that all people go through. The most important thing is that you are able to develop an intrinsic feeling of self-worth that persists even when no one is paying attention to you.
posted by hermitosis at 6:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

So I have battled A LOT with self-loathing. A lot. I have found that talk therapy (specifically with someone trained in person-centered, aka Rogerian, therapy) has helped address the core issue, and that CBT (as an adjunct) has helped me break habits of negative ideation and self-talk.

But that's me. Something else may work better for you. If you're not put off by its Buddhist perspective (which I know is not for everyone), I have found Start Where You Are, by Pema Chodron, to be a wise and comforting book.

My deepest wish for you is that you find a way to loving and treasuring yourself.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:48 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

What keeps coming to mind is you have to give it to get it.

I've found some of the most rewarding times of my life started during a lonely period where I was actively looking to help others get what I felt I was lacking or needed. It's not hard to find them if you're looking.

I wish you the absolute best.
posted by neversummer at 8:29 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Guess what, there are lots of other people in the world who feel they aren't wanted, and putting too much emphasis on romance or your peer-age group for validation is probably what's stopping you from seeing it.

-the elderly
-pets in shelters
-recent immigrants having trouble navigating the system

There are tons of people in your community right now who are feeling the same thing you are or worse. Use your experience and compassion and volunteer as a big sister or something similar.
posted by stockpuppet at 9:52 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

"How can I be OK with not feeling wanted by anyone?"

One of the most liberating moments in my life was when I swallowed the difference between the world not wanting me and the world not noticing me.

Turn that difference over and over in your mind -- the emotional difference between rejection and inattention -- and try to see what it means for the times you find yourself alone.
posted by ead at 10:56 PM on February 15, 2012

You are convincing yourself that you are unlovable by affirming it over and over. Every time you tell yourself that no one loves you or wants you, it becomes easier to believe. So I agree with Obscure Reference--it's important that you work on how you feel about yourself and that you learn to tell yourself a different story and reframe the things that happened in your past.

99.9% of the people who have had relationships have been through breakups. They happen for a variety of reasons and usually are a huge blessing because things that don't work should end. You can either look at those kinds of situations as a result of an inherent flaw within you, or you can look at them as experiences that taught you about what you want and don't want and then move on to the next experience. If you feel good about who you are and know that you don't actually need anyone else to define whether or not you are worthy or lovable, it's easier to have healthy and fulfilling relationships. Those relationships are about enhancing each others' lives rather than validating them.
posted by Kimberly at 5:43 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can't control other people "wanting you" or not "wanting you". Just worry about what you can actually influence.

You have to be comfortable in your own skin. Find something about yourself that you are uncomfortable with and work on improving it. The confidence that you get from improving a self-perceived weakness is worth it's weight in gold. Therapy and everything else is fine, but should really be considered an adjunct effort to building your own self-esteem.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:28 AM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know how, when you walk over a grass field enough times in the same spot, you wear a tread into it? Over time, the field develops a trail. Then, you'll tend to walk on the path, even if it's not quite the most direct route to where you're going. Similarly, you have a trail in your brain that you'll tend to end up on. It's a groove you've worn smooth over time, and it's the one that whispers, "This is just another example of how nobody wants me."

With work, you can get off this track in your mind. The grass will grow back, and eventually there won't be a path there any more. This is what therapy can help with - it's often easier to learn to walk on the grass with the help of a trained professional.

I read some really good advice on the green a while ago that said to talk to yourself, in your mind, as if you were a child. Would you tell a little kid that nobody wanted them? No? So tell yourself - sometimes it helps to say it out loud - that no matter what, you will always be there for yourself.

Here's the link to PrefPara's fabulous comment.

As another approach - would it help if you had someone/something that you absolutely knew loved you and wanted you? Are you non-allergic to cats and/or dogs? It really pulled me out of my shell when my (very dog-like) cat decided I was the center of his world. He comes running every time I come home to get petting and purrs like a maniac just because I exist.

I'm not saying to jump into pet ownership without knowing the time and effort involved, but if you're in a place where you can do so it could help. Fostering is a more limited-time engagement of the same.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:28 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to second EMDR. The fact that you bring in the family "joke" about your mom crying when she got pregnant with you is what points me that way. It is for PTSD, but trauma isn't just something that happens in dessert wars. Think about your three year old self finding out your mom "didn't want you." Pretty traumatic, right? And if she was dealing with two kids under two years, bonding might have been a little bit shakey at the beginning. Childhood is a mysterious place where all kinds of shit can hurt us and leave a mark.

I've been doing EMDR for about a year related to something that is an obvious trauma, but now we're using the method to deal with things that I don't think of as traumatic at all. Including events that have become part of the jokey family folklore, that on examination, turns out they weren't so funny after all.

I did a lot of therapy in my late 20s and I always thought this family of origin, my mommy didn't love me enough stuff was bullshit, but I'm coming around.
posted by looli at 7:18 AM on February 16, 2012

Oh, FFS. Desert wars. God, I knew I should have gone with "jungle wars." Not that fighting over the last cupcake doesn't leave an impression.
posted by looli at 7:20 AM on February 16, 2012

it is SPOOKY how I can get completely convinced of those irrational thoughts in my head and no amount of justification can convince me otherwise. So it's definitely hardwired somewhere deep in there.

I know this feeling. It's like the mind had a mind of it's own. Which it does, sort of. For me, the number one take-away from the CBT thing has been that I'm not my thoughts. I had always assumed that whatever I was thinking was an inherent part of me and a thing I had to buy into. But it turns out my mind is more like a gossipy neighbor, offering me a continuous, unwanted stream of critical evaluations, half-truths and blatant lies. My mind's intentions might be good but sometimes it just says some of the meanest things imaginable.

Don't try to fight your thoughts or feelings, it will only make them seem more real. Practice an approach where you acknowledge them, distance yourself from them and understand that you don't have to like them. If this sound a bit like mindfulness meditation, it's because it kind of is. I whole-heartedly recommend giving this MBCT-based program a go. There's some wonderful overlap between cognitive therapies and practicing mindfulness and it took just the eight-week program to have things really click for me.

Finally, three simple approaches. (1) Distancing: Before every thought, add the words "I have a thought according to which..." You can also say back your thoughts using silly voices. (2) Categorizing: As I do the previous step, I also like to categorize my unpleasant experiences into worries (about the future), regrets (about the past), evaluations (of my current state), bodily sensations and feelings. This helps me remember how they are just products of my mind. (3) Fairness checks: Would this evaluation be something that was appropriate to say to a friend? If not, why should it be OK for me to talk to myself this way? I'm sure you show your loved ones more courtesy than calling them unwanted and unworthy of love and acceptance.
posted by Orchestra at 8:57 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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