Feeling ignored by my loved ones.
December 25, 2012 12:57 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with feeling ignored?

Christmas is a bit notorious for causing people to feel ignored, this year has been the first time I've genuinely felt I wasn't on people's minds.

This year in my family, I was kind of tasked with buying most people's gifts, with making a lot of the food, with taking care of a lot of the holiday in general. As long as everyone is happy, this is largely fine by me. The problem is, all the work I put in doesn't seem to have made any difference, there has still been a lot of shouting, little spats, and people asking me to take care of multiple things at once.

Gift giving is usually a part of the holiday I'm fond of, but this year was kind of hard to deal with. See I bought the majority of the gifts for people to give to everyone else. I haven't heard anyone thank me for making sure they had the gifts they wanted to give. I don't want a reward or anything, just to have them acknowledge I helped them out. The thing that really kind of hurts is that my Christmas gifts feel like after thoughts, socks and a pair of pajamas. I feel like people only remembered I was there last minute.

I feel bad complaining about this, especially on the holidays when some people are totally alone and don't get anything. It's just, this happens in a lot of areas of my life, and this is the culmination of it all. I often feel like me efforts to be friendly, kind or helpful are ultimately meaningless. I seem to hear about parties after the fact from friends, I'm not often invited, I don't seem to even be someone people remember, even when I try to help them out. My efforts to make others happy, or help them don't seem to be noticed or have much affect.

I don't know what to do to become more noticeable to people...I just feel like I'm kind of inconsequential to the people I care about. Any ideas for how to deal with this?
posted by Rosengeist to Human Relations (19 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest going away in the future. I hear you ... Not one family member or friend or "friend" has contacted me for the holiday, except for my Secret Quonsar, Nina.

I'm roasting spaghetti squash and about to reread Caddie Woodlawn.

Next year, I'll go away. I suggest you do so as well.
posted by jgirl at 1:05 PM on December 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think you could deal with it by becoming more of a bean-counter.

Next time you could just say, "no, I can't really fit gift shopping into my schedule, sorry, but by the way, when you go, I like those earrings from Monsoon hint hint!"

If they press you, say "I did it last year and I think it should be your turn this year."

If they press further "look, I don't owe it to anyone to schlep gifts around and I felt totally unappreciated and ignored. I busted my ass to get everyone exactly what they wanted, and I got zero thanks for it, and you got a Cartier watch because I waited in line for six hours whereas I got socks, which are exactly as thrilling for me as they would be for you. If you think that's my idea of holiday cheer, you are wrong, and I'm not doing it again."

In any event, I think your gift to everyone next year should be a boxed set of Miss Manners.

You can't make them stop being rude and unappreciative, but at least you can reclaim your own sanity with a bit of "what did your last slave die of?"
posted by tel3path at 1:06 PM on December 25, 2012 [30 favorites]

The year I was feeling the most negative towards Christmas, I just skipped it. Literally.

I left LAX on the 24th and landed in New Zealand on the 26th.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:18 PM on December 25, 2012 [25 favorites]

The problem you have is that you are putting your happiness onto other people. Or to be more precise, you are putting your happiness onto a conditional reaction they should have to your behavior, which is to say you're saying, "I will be happy if and only if everyone is happy." However, you can't make people act the way you want them to, so of course you're going to be unhappy with it. Either learn to enjoy the task for what it is without expecting anything in return (especially since you know they're going to act that way) or don't do it since it will make you unhappy.

You are the helper and the fixer and people will take advantage of you because you let them because you think that doing so will make them happy, which will make you happy. Don't let them.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:19 PM on December 25, 2012 [15 favorites]

I'm sorry you feel un- or under-appreciated, and I'm sorry that the people you're supposed to trust the most, have made you feel that way. I've felt that crushing feeling recently - being the one to pick up after everyone's issues and problems in my family, in the past year and a half. Some of my family has been kind and grateful for my generosity - and I've learned the hard way, that part of my family is completely clueless, and in their own bubble of self-absorption. The thousands of hours of free childcare, and spending my own money - in the vicinity of 1-2k helping them out - without so much of an offer as "here, take $10, or $20 for picking up all that stuff for us." (all the while about to do over 100k in home renovations) And then lying to me when babysitting - while they continue on with other plans, without so much as telling me, or asking me if it's ok. Explaining to them has been futile. Some people are just utterly thoughtless and will take advantage of all they can. So I'm done.

Anyway. My suggestion would be to learn to say No. You don't need to explain to anyone why you're not going to do something, and you don't owe them a reason. You are entitled to say No, no matter what that reason is. Also, don't offer. I tend to operate by the philosophy that family and loved ones are supposed to help each other out - but this is not a one way street. It's ok for you to turn around, when you don't see someone meeting you even part of the way. Do what you want to do - others be damned. Be kind to yourself, and do nice things for yourself.
posted by raztaj at 1:20 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think of it this way: you're free. I underwent a similar realization in my own family that was painful and took many years, but to skip to the crux, the point of it all is *be yourself, people will not like you anyway.* You need this as a magnet for your fridge, a bumper sticker, a tattoo, a mantra!

Once you realize that literally nothing you do- whether it's being difficult, or being sweet and self-sacrificing, is going to genuinely change anyone's opinion of you-because they're not paying attention to begin with- you realize you have nothing to lose. It can't get any worse, so you have nothing to be afraid of.

People are generally cringingly nice for two reasons- a) to buy approval and to be liked b) out of fear of being disliked. You have neither! It doesn't matter! You have nowhere to go but up, so you might as well focus on improving the situation in the only way tht's actually going to work: making yourself happy and indulging your own whims and desires. Spend two seconds buying them presents, if at all. Save the money and buy yourself whatever present you most want, openly. No more baking cookies. Spend time with friends, or spend time alone. Put your energy into making yourself happy directly, because the indirect route of happying up the world around you and fixing your toxic environment can't be done.
posted by quincunx at 1:21 PM on December 25, 2012 [29 favorites]

People value something just about as much as they pay for it. It seems that you're not "charging" people for the work you're putting in, so they're not seeing the value of it.

Look after yourself first, and other people second. If friends don't invite you to parties, make some new friends, and arrange parties with them. If they reciprocate, great, if not, carry on and make some new friends who do. With regards to family, don't put effort in to maintaining relationships with people who don't put an equal amount of effort in. If people want to keep in touch, and they have your contact details, then they'll contact you (kinda like when you're dating someone). Don't go overboard to get them things or organise things for them if they're not appreciating it.

Also, are these people asking you to do things, or are you feeling obligated by yourself? I have a relative who stresses herself to the point of exhaustion about things like people's birthdays and christmas, and then complains that nobody appreciates all the work she puts in. The thing is, the rest of the family have all said, to varying degrees, that we'd prefer she not bother with all of the fuss and just relax and enjoy her time instead. She has this idea in her head of how someone's birthday is going to be and makes herself ill to bring it to reality, even though the person in question might not want it and has said as much.

If people are asking you to do these things, then say no. If they're hinting at you to do them, just don't pick up on the hint. Either way, accept that these people are going to be the way they are no matter what you do. At least if you don't put any effort in, you won't have any expectations of them being grateful.
posted by Solomon at 1:24 PM on December 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

We show people how to treat us. If you don't speak up--not in a huge dramatic scene, but quietly, one on one--you'll keep being treated as you have been. Take the people aside, and remind them, in a calm way, that you did the bulk of their shopping, and prep work, and that while you enjoy the holidays and watching others have fun, you also need to be feel appreciated. I know this is risky, but if you're able to state how you feel in a calm, matter of fact way--your relations/friends might not change their behavior, but you'll have expressed your feelings and needs. And don't be so available next year.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:39 PM on December 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

There is some good advice above. I'd also like to add - make your own family. If your family doesn't appreciate you, make some new friends who are less selfish, and spend holidays with them.

There are always "Christmas orphans" who are stuck by themselves for the holidays. Organize a group outing to a restaurant for a Christmas day brunch, or have a Christmas party at your place. As was said above, create your own happiness. As it is right now, you're creating everyone else's happiness and you end up with nothing.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:00 PM on December 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

The winter holidays really, really suck. It's hard enough to deal with feeling lonely and unwanted during the rest of the year. During the holidays, it feels like a personal failure, or a profound flaw in the fabric of the universe, or something. You're not feeling merry, and not everyone's in a jolly mood, and the presents are kind of a tedious afterthought, and all the obligations are driving you insane, and it's not like anyone will notice or appreciate what you do, unless you screw up, at which point it's all your fault!

Yeah, been there.

But the holidays will end. The horrible music will stop. The decorations will go away. You won't feel the obligation to be surrounded by the warm circle of loving, appreciative family. If it's not happening, it's just not happening. And then, after the holidays, you can have fun by yourself, and go out, and meet with friends, and feel free to be as "selfish" as you like.
posted by Nomyte at 2:18 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rosengeist, the world could use a few billion more like you. You are a sweet, loving and altogether great person.

I complained once to a pastor, that the place I volunteered at ignored, abused and generally treated me like an irrelevant entity.

He said, "Are they really nasty to you? Do they completely ignore you?"


He said, "Excellent, now you're learning what charity is"

Go do something nice for yourself. Go have a nice piece of pie.
People love you very much--I'm sure.
posted by AuntieRuth at 3:12 PM on December 25, 2012 [10 favorites]

Stop. Just, 100% STOP doing other people's work: if anyone wants to give a gift, then they can jolly well go shopping themselves and/or handcraft something..... ONLY do YOUR OWN gift shopping: you'll get exactly the same amount of appreciation you're currently getting, but with tons less stress.

Also, consider cutting down on the gifts you do give: personally, I'm generous to kids, but only do token gifts for adults. Kids are forgiven for not giving cards or gifts, but adults? After a few years of nothing, cut them off. (I've got one 30-ish niece who has never sent a Christmas card in her life --- she "doesn't believe in them" --- so this year I didn't send her one..... when she whined about not receiving a card, I just laughed at her. You can too.)

And there's really no requirement that you participate in or organize a big Norman Rockwell-esque giant celebration: go ahead and do what makes YOU happy, whether that's the traditional giant family Christmas or a cruise to the Bahamas with your SO or taking off all by yourself to New Zealand.
posted by easily confused at 5:04 PM on December 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

But yourself Christmas presents. :) Seriously, though. This year I got myself a small purse and a cookbook. They weren't that expensive but greatly added to the whole holiday thing for me. My family and friends are wonderful and I feel very loved, but we're all so stressed and thinking practically this year that I somehow knew nobody was going to nail the "cheap but somehow perfect little thing" category this year. So I took care of it. :)

Alternatively, you could find those things ahead of time and make a very short, very specific wish list so that people know exactly what you want.
posted by salvia at 5:20 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, another alternative: Find a friend who equals you in the thoughtfulness department and focus your gift exchange energies on them. A friend and I have done this every year because we're competitive, so it becomes an arms race to who can out-thoughtful-gift the other, while also making sure we each get at least one thoughtful gift every year.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:45 PM on December 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

This combined with another question makes me wonder if you have a larger disability that is affecting your social skills, so your social efforts aren't making much of an impact and your emotional needs aren't clear to your loved ones.

You might be interested in John Elder Robinson's books about living with Asperger's Syndrome. He talks about this feeling specifically, like you're trying very hard to connect and it's not working. There are also free resources on the internet that might help you determine whether I'm right about you possibly having Asperger's or another social skills deficit.

Good luck. I'm sorry your Christmas made you feel unappreciated.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:59 PM on December 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's nothing you can do retroactively. But you can avoid doing the same next year.
Don't take the spats and shouting personally. Some people are notorious for being dicks during the holidays, no matter who they hurt or upset in the process.

Lesson learned: people are ungrateful, don't make such an effort next year!
posted by Neekee at 7:35 AM on December 26, 2012

Response by poster: To The young rope-rider, I'm fully aware that I have some problems socializing, though they do not come from having autism, or aspergers. I do have ADHD, but it's relatively mild.

At any rate, the people in question were my immediate family, who are well aware of this fact and asked me, point blank and specifically to handle much of the holiday affairs this year. I don't believe this is so much a matter of me not always getting social cues, because that's something I'm aware of and can handle a bit better. Furthermore, some people who were present at my family's get together remarked that there were some things that werent quite right about how I was being treated and it's been an issue that has come up before.

Thanks for the suggestion and well wishes. Merry Christmas!
posted by Rosengeist at 7:53 AM on December 26, 2012

Okay, well, next time they ask you point blank to do something, you can say no.

A request is not an order and your family can't give you orders.

You can't make them treat you a certain way but you can decline to cooperate with poor treatment. A first line of response often recommended here is the "Shamu": reward good behaviour, ignore behaviour you don't want.

It's your family, so you have a right to take a lead. You don't have to be overbearing at all, just say "no thank you" to maltreatment and let the wrongdoer deal with not being happy about it.

If I were you, I'd get a copy of Miss Manners for yourself so as to really master the gentle art of not being a doormat. Hopefully your family just have a few bad habits and aren't really malicious, and your situation will most likely improve.

You may also want to get a copy of Patricia Evans' "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" for scripts for shutting down fights.
posted by tel3path at 12:49 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sometimes if you are doing things for EVERYONE and everyone can see it, they each assume that someone else from the group will return the favour, or will express the gratitude, and so no one ends up doing it. This is especially the case if you go above and beyond what is normally expected for the degree of intimacy in a relationship. So if you give very thoughtful gifts to all your acquaintances and colleagues, for example, each one of those people knows that he/she is not your close friend, so they assume you are probably doing it more for the sake of someone else in the group who is, and so they personally do not feel much obligation to respond in kind. If, in actual fact, no one in the group is an especially close friend, none of them will respond.

The same goes for parties. It might be that none of them thinks of you as being close friends enough to invite to these parties, because they see you being so wonderful and generous to other people, and assume you must be closer to them.

If any of that rings true, you might want to think about cutting back the scope of your generosity. Do selfless and thoughtful things for one or two close friends and your most immediate family (partner, kids), and stop if it isn't reciprocated. Make it clear that these are special gifts and favours you are only doing for those special few.
posted by lollusc at 5:00 PM on December 26, 2012

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