How to get over myself
November 19, 2020 8:36 AM   Subscribe

When people invite me to do things, I can get indignant --what is the psychology behind this?

I never show the indignation. I feel it.

My strongest feeling is these people have a lot of nerve. I can be slightly snobby about it -- as in "Why would you think I would want to hang out with you?" Don't you see your horrible annoying behaviors and terrible personality? "Don't you see how you are so judgmental and petty? Don't you see how you dominate the conversation?" "Don't you see your wacky political beliefs?"

It could be my boss wanting to walk with me during my lunch when I would rather be alone. It could my coworker wanting to be friends, or thinking we are friends, when I don't feel the same. It could be people or family I deem boring, terrible, or annoying and when I get invitations, I think , "How dare they?"

I am aware that this is immature and unproductive behavior. I could speak up and say no, although sometimes it's not tactful to do so. I do not invite them or reach out and I hope they would get the hint, but they don't.

Could it be my lack of assertiveness? My lack of vulnerability? My mistrust? Is it my ego which thinks I'm better? It may be all of the above. I'm wondering how I can get around this or come up with a way to be more charitable to people who want to spend time with me. I'm interested in knowing why this bugs me so much or is this universal?
posted by loveandhappiness to Human Relations (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you're angry because you don't feel like you can say no. Figure out some polite ways to say no or avoid accepting these invitations, like saying you want to walk alone to clear your head.
posted by momus_window at 8:48 AM on November 19, 2020 [19 favorites]

I think this is an issue of learning to set boundaries.

I've been there so I understand the feelings of frustration and resentment you're experiencing now. I can also tell you implementing those boundaries makes a world of difference to my daily happiness, although it's a learning process and was hard at first. You feel empowered and respected by others because you are treating yourself with respect. There are lots of great resources available on how to do this but we can also give you specific tips here, too, if you'd like.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:48 AM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you wish these people realized you loathed them, but you're unwilling to tell them you loathe them, so you just stew and stew and stew and stew.

Maybe see if you can arrange your life so that you don't hate 80% of the people you come into contact with? I'm serious. If this is how you feel about your boss and coworkers then maybe your job is sucking the life out of you and this is the only way you know how to process that feeling.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:55 AM on November 19, 2020 [31 favorites]

Thank you. I will leave this one and only followup:

Yes, most likely boundary issues, resentment, and a dislike of my two main coworkers. They are especially problematic and I'm not an intolerant person. (I don't think I am anyway).


I often feel like I am being used. I feel people are using me for companionship because they want to walk and need someone to talk to. One example: I work on my feet and walk a lot during shift. Coworker and boss sit at desks. They want to walk to stretch their legs and exercise when I've already been walking all day. Occasionally I will speak up and decline. Usually I don't. I walk and they speak and I listen.
posted by loveandhappiness at 9:00 AM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I find myself irritated with invitations from people I genuinely like sometimes.

I'm pretty introverted, but that doesn't mean I don't have friends and family I like hanging out with, in general. But it also means I need a good bit of alone time. Before coronavirus, I would try to keep at least one weekend a month entirely to myself, free of any social obligations, and found myself looking forward to such weekends. (Now, that's every weekend, but that's neither here nor there.)

I would find myself particularly irritated when I got last-minute invitations for time I had set as alone time. I eventually came to the realization that this was because I had two choices, neither of which was entirely satisfactory: accept, and spend time with people when I wanted to be alone; or decline. Declining an invitation isn't too hard when you have a reason such as a previous obligation, but it somehow seems insufficient if the only reason for declining is "I don't want to spend time with you." In my case, "I don't want to spend time with you this weekend," and in yours "I don't want to spend time with you ever," but not that different, I think.

And if you decline, there's further tension because there's no entirely satisfactory way to decline about why you're declining. Tell the unvarnished truth (rude); lie and make up a previous commitment (easier for some than for others, but it makes many people uncomfortable); be vague and technically tell the truth ("I have other plans," never mind that those plans were to curl up with a blanket and hot chocolate and a movie), or give no reason at all (also uncomfortable for many).

So there's a tension there because neither accepting nor declining seems entirely satisfactory, and furthermore if you decide to decline there doesn't seem to be a completely good way to do so, and that tension is the source of the irritation, at least for me.

I'd take some time and sit down when you're not subject to such an invitation, and think about how you want to respond (declining probably, but also think about which way of declining seems least uncomfortable to you). Then commit to it, and tell yourself that the next time you're get such an invitation you're going to decline by saying whatever you've decided on. And also acknowledge to yourself that it's not going to be entirely comfortable to do so, but you're going to do that anyway. And now that you've decided in advance on your response, that will take away a lot (maybe not all) of the tension and indignation and irritation.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:23 AM on November 19, 2020 [10 favorites]

Yeah -- I don't get the same end emotions you do, but I absolutely have the same...root feeling, I guess? Stop talking to me, leave me be, let me take a moment to breathe, no I do not want to make noises with my face nor listen to the noises you are making with your face, etc. (I did not enjoy working in an office.)

Just echoing -- boundaries. You can be cheerful and polite when setting them if that's important to you, but start practicing actually setting them. This might be something awesome to role-play at, either with someone trusted or in your own head. (I hate role-playing practice, but it's really helpful.) Other person asks you to go on a walk with them and you smile and say you're sorry, but you can't, or whatever reaction works best for you. (I am AFAB, and have all the resultant inculturation around being eternally pleasant, plus living in Britain for several years interestingly changed how I spoke about my boundaries. You can tell when I'm annoyed or nervous because my accent changes...) They can find someone else to walk and talk to, or be introduced to the glories of being alone with oneself.

It's okay to set boundaries, and I think you'll find yourself a lot happier and calmer when you aren't forcing yourself to spend time with people you loathe. If you feel like you are being used, then begin to work on the language and skills that will let you put a stop to others using you. It's okay that you don't have those things right now, but it's a thing that can be learned, I promise!
posted by kalimac at 9:25 AM on November 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

There are downsides (of course) , but feel free to tell your boss you prefer a standing formal meeting instead of walking and talking. Say you can better give your full attention and take notes. There. That one is done.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:34 AM on November 19, 2020

I don't think it's universal but I think it's commonly also a response to being tired, out of energy, traumatized, or in a role with a lack of control (workplaces are a lot like this, since we rarely choose our coworkers directly.)

On top of some of the other suggestions I'd ask you a few things about the rest of your life:

- if you're an introvert, do you get enough alone time? If you're an extrovert, do you get enough time with the right people/friends?
- is your living situation under your control or do you have people in your living space that you have to tend to (parents, siblings, children, spouses, roommates)?
- what happened as a child when you were hungry/tired/sick? Were your needs addressed? (Example: My mum was not great with a lot of illnesses, and before I worked on it, I used to get angry at people being sick, which is a terrible response.)
- do you have time to do the things that matter to you, or are work and other obligations sucking the life out of you?
posted by warriorqueen at 9:52 AM on November 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

I get a lot of these reactions as a function of social anxiety. Sometimes they're also not entirely wrong - like invitations to do stuff I wouldn't choose to do on my best day, and now I have to also negotiate declining it - but mostly it's just my anxiety flaring as rage or irritation. I have kinda taught myself to let that first reaction just fly on by without dwelling on it and moving on to my second thoughts.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:01 AM on November 19, 2020

Sounds like you're definitely an introvert.

I am a HUGE MEGA SEVERE introvert, but a lot of people who don't understand what being an introvert is assume that I'm not because I'm confident and outspoken and outgoing. But trust, I will choose every time to be alone if given the option, even with people I genuinely enjoy. I need my social exposure to be expected, self-controlled, and firmly limited, or I start feeling like you say in your question--resenting everyone, finding their worst qualities, going around angry. When I engage with people on my own, planned time I like them just fine.

Things that help:

-Schedule quiet hours/quiet days. No, you're not free on Saturday, you have plans. Your plans are sitting alone staring at a wall--no one needs to know this but you. You'd love to hang out but really you can't, because the plans, you see.

-Actively engage yourself in a visibly solitary activity. Get BIG headphones. You don't have to listen to anything, just wear em while you eat lunch. Pull out a book. You don't have to read, just have it there and open/kindle on. Someone wants to talk to you? Oh gosh, would you mind terribly if I sit here quietly? This is the only time I have today to read/listen to this podcast.

-Saying no. Start saying no to little things, all by yourself. Someone texts you? NO. They do not need an answer right away. Let it sit. Someone calls you? NO. You don't need to answer it, you'll call them back later. You could be taking a shower, out walking the dog, working, on another call, who knows? Not them! You're busy doing your own thing, say no to the little stuff and set those tiny boundaries. That will make it easier for you to set those medium and larger boundaries later, as opportunities arise.
posted by phunniemee at 10:13 AM on November 19, 2020 [23 favorites]

If you're agreeing to walk and talk with them, they probably think that this is something that you want to do. Set the boundaries and enforce them. That might prevent the resentment because there should be less to resent. Give them an inch and they'll take a foot.
posted by RainyJay at 10:25 AM on November 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

How are you with other friendships and relationships? Do you have at least one or two people you love unconditionally, who also reciprocate this deep feeling? Do you have at least a handful of people whom you enjoy spending time with, who also enjoy spending time with you?

If your life shows a larger pattern of easy, comfortable, mutually desired relationships, then the problem you are describing may be only that you're (a) somewhat judgmental of others and also (b) you're unsure of how to say no kindly. I can see how this can be a real problem! It's exhausting to go through life feeling as if people are insulting you and offending you when they are being friendly, right? Not to mention, it's... a less than desirable personality trait, as you seem to recognize in your post. Happily, there are easy and inexpensive ways to fix it. I'd recommend you read some books about how to practice kindness and empathy. Stay away from most internet folks who talk about boundaries: their harshness and judgmental outlook towards other people can be useful for some of us who find it difficult to think badly of even deserving people, but for you it will only exacerbate your tendency to feel strong dislike for petty reasons. I would suggest The Dance of Connection by Harriet Lerner, or any of the more trendy western buddhist tracts like Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance. These books focus on developing an inner attitude of acceptance, honoring your own needs and boundaries, and cultivating an outer attitude of kindness. Right up your alley, IMO.

If it seems to you that your life shows a larger pattern of non-mutual relationships - that in general, you often seem to dislike people who want to be your friends and you often seem to seek friendships with people who don't show interest in you - or perhaps if you are the sort of person who avoids relationships altogether, then there's likely deeper relational issues at play (in addition to being a little judgmental + not knowing how to say no kindly). Therapy would be the right way to address this.
posted by MiraK at 10:37 AM on November 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

"Why would you think I would want to hang out with you?" Don't you see your horrible annoying behaviors and terrible personality? "Don't you see how you are so judgmental and petty? Don't you see how you dominate the conversation?" "Don't you see your wacky political beliefs?"

They don't see any of this because you often accept the invitations. It's okay to decline. Practice saying, perhaps even with a smile, something like "No, thanks! My feet are tired and I don't want to walk" and "No, thanks! I'm going to spend lunch alone today." Repeat repeat repeat.

Honestly, if someone felt this way about me, and I was in the habit of extending invitations to them, I'd be horrified to know they felt some kind of pressure to accept.

You're angry at them because that's easier than being angry with yourself. You resent them because you are unable to set and enforce boundaries. Unless they are badgering you or pressuring you somehow, these seem like kind and genuine invitations. You are allowed to say no, and it's an important skill to learn. In the meantime, you've decided to blame them for asking rather than reflecting on why you haven't set this boundary.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:22 AM on November 19, 2020 [21 favorites]

It could be people or family I deem boring, terrible, or annoying and when I get invitations, I think, "How dare they?"

Sister! I love to loathe! And I’m a total extrovert.
Let the word “No” come out of your mouth. It’s short and satisfying. Practice in front of the mirror at home, if you need to. Don’t say, “no, thanks;” that’s a chink in the wall. Simply: No.
Say no, and keep the word “introvert” out of it. People either don’t know what that means, or they’ll think you’re setting yourself up as “special.”
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:50 AM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don't think you're a bad person for feeling the way you do about your colleagues. In fact, you're probably right that they kinda suck: at best, it's a personality mismatch but, at worst, they could be shitty people. I am a teacher currently on sabbatical. Even though I'm an extrovert and liked my students and my colleagues (overall), I needed alone time to recharge. I was at my last job for 12 years and had the most seniority in my department, planned social events and celebrations inside and outside of work, etc. And then became the victim of some bullshit and almost all of them, some of whom I thought were trusted friends, skedaddled. (FWIW, my students and their families were supportive so it's ironic these others weren't!) It was a huge betrayal even if everything worked out in the end. In any case, before all of that happened, I would have said something like "Try to be more open to them! Go on walks once a week!" etc. but now I'm super wary of work friendships. Of course, they can be amazing but, for some of us all the time and all of us some of the time, maintaining some emotional distance at work is really wise. I say continue having your boundaries and also consider looking for a new workplace where there isn't this odd and overwhelming pressure for people to hang out. People who are socially aware and respect boundaries would get the point after a few nos and either stop asking or ask as a courtesy but never with expectation. 

As for these specific people, I can't tell if your boss is using this as a time to catch up on work stuff -- which would be better spent NOT during your break bc of worker respect -- or themselves has bad boundaries and doesn't realize it's not appropriate of them to dump their personal issues on you (especially not during your little free time!) Could you leave the office during lunch, say you have to do errands and even just sit in a McDonald's parking lot eating and listening to music? Removing yourself is probably the best solution there. You could also say, "Hey boss, since I can't do lunch walks, how about we make an appointment to go for a short walk together every Thursday at 3p.m. [or whenever] to catch up on work stuff that way?" As for the colleagues, how about something like "You are always so kind to invite me! I am so busy with [family stuff or some other vague answer] out of work but I appreciate that you think of me." And then every Monday spend five minutes doing some quick small talk about their weekend. As you said, they probably are less interested in your well-being and more looking for someone to dump their bullshit on. Might either of these work?

Long term, I recommend therapy (a MetaFilter favorite for a reason!) to 1) explore your very valid feelings and to make you feel more empowered and 2) get you out of the office for a bit!! As for other resources, I really recommend the book Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day (mine was the ebook from Amazon), therapist Nedra Tawwab's Instagram, and diving into the internet's many articles on setting boundaries. 

Again, I don't think you're bad for feeling how you do. People often see me as a super friendly and positive and outgoing but I'm 100% Team loveandhappiness here!! Sometimes I read people's posts and can sense just in their typing that they, while absolutely deserving of respect and love, come across as super annoying. You come across as very self-aware to me, the type of person who takes time to get to know people (which is healthy!) and, when the feelings are mutual, it's an awesome friendship. For some people, work is the center of their social lives; for others, it's opposite. We can't live everyone and we're wise to avoid people who give us bad vibes. Some atmospheres are extremely toxic. In the end, those school colleagues would often sit in the department lunchroom complaining about how they found so many students annoying, would share pompous stories about their personal lives or share their super conservative viewpoints. I preferred eating alone in a dark classroom but had a bunch of students who needed a safe place to stay so I opened my classroom. Turns out many of my colleagues were so wildly jealous that so many teens would voluntarily come to my classroom as a safer space. (But, umm, is it really that surprising?) I even tried to eat with colleagues once a week to be more outgoing but it didn't work because it's never enough for shitty, jealous people. (FWIW, in the past I'd had many nice lunch hangouts with colleagues but that atmosphere had gotten toxic. Just like your current place probably is. You are seeing it as something being wrong with you when maybe it's just the wrong fit!)

There is a very valid and real reason you feel so shitty about this whole situation and I want to validate that. You are not bad or wrong to feel the way you do. And you're already setting boundaries successfully in many ways, so please give yourself credit there! Resentment is often a sign that something is wrong and we are upset at ourselves for "allowing" ourselves to be treated a certain way. It sounds like, in many areas of your life, things are good. So good luck working to make work more bearable if not exactly fun! Also, fwiw, COVID sucks and has made everything harder, surely this for you too. But by this time next year, things should be much better!!

I think everyone's answer has good ideas and insight, even if they're contrary. But I'm with you here!
posted by smorgasbord at 2:11 PM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Nthing everyone else who says that this is probably a matter of poor boundaries combined with introversion. Introversion in and of itself isn't inherently about disgust when someone asks you to do something you don't want to do, but disgust and resentment are very reasonable reactions when you feel as though you can't decline or can't get enough time and space to get your needed alone time. There are lots of great suggestions above on saying no kindly and trying to ensure that interactions with these people take place on your own terms as much as possible.

One of my parents is like you, but to a much more extreme extent (as in judging people for even having social events that could create a sense of obligation for them). Unlike you've demonstrated by asking this question, my parent doesn't think that there's anything wrong with being quite that annoyed at an invite because they have a right to say no.

Until I was an adult, I didn't really realize that that wasn't exactly healthy or reasonable, and that exercising one's right to say no doesn't have to come with a side helping of being aggrieved. There's lot of people who don't feel the need to like everyone but are capable of dealing with folks they don't like without constantly feeling put upon, but how the hell do they do it?

The key here is that inviters aren't doing anything wrong by asking you to spend time with them. If anything, identifying the inviters as your source of annoyance is a wee bit of an emotional intelligence fail. Short of a history of them disrespecting your stated boundaries, it's not their fault that you're uncomfortable with declining and it's somewhat unkind to make it about them, even if only in your head. The other person doesn't have to be the bad guy for your "no" to be justifiable; the more you can internalize that, the easier it'll be for you to start saying no more often and feel less resentment.
posted by blerghamot at 3:18 PM on November 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

I know this is such an obvious thing to say but they're not psychic. There is no way they could possibly guess how you feel unless you tell them and you shouldn't expect them to be able to guess. Therefore you don't have a 'right' to be angry at them for not guessing. If you have been walking around all day and your co-worker wants to go for a walk say 'Sorry, i've been on my feet all day. All I want to do is sit down'. That ones sounded like a legitimate complaint. The other 'superior' stuff I can't help you with although I will say that I think it's a bit churlish to think this -

"Don't you see how you are so judgmental ...?"

... if you are also doing the same thing.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 3:33 PM on November 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

I wonder how much of the problem is that you're judging yourself for not wanting to hang out with them, and this is both the source of your anger as well as your tendency to accept invitations you really don't want?

My specific issue is probably not the same as yours, but I've had a few therapists now tell me that they are pretty confident that I'm on the autism spectrum somewhere, and that I should start to take that seriously. What "taking it seriously" means in my case is often to stop judging myself when I want to do something neuroatypical, and as long as it's not harming anyone, to go head and let myself do it or even allow myself to set up my life so I can do more of it.

One of those things, for me, was really hating and dreading meetings and never wanting to hang out with anyone but a few very close friends. Perhaps unlike you, for me this is even for people that don't irritate me! It just... it's actually very taxing on me, deeply exhausting and stressful, to spend time socially with people, especially over zoom. It's been a real relief to just accept this about myself. It doesn't mean I refuse to spend any time with anyone or refuse all meetings -- but it lets me moderate the dosage without guilt. I'm trying to fully believe that it's okay that I don't want to hang out with someone at a certain time, there doesn't have to be anything wrong with them or wrong with me, it's just that I need less of that. Because the more I fully believe that, the more I can say no without guilt, and the less their invitations feel intrusive and stressful.

You're probably not on the spectrum. But my hunch is that you probably are judging yourself a bit, and if you can stop doing that, you might find their invitations less irritating and stressful, plus find it easier to say no.
posted by forza at 4:34 PM on November 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

People who are naturally quite shy & reserved & prefer alone-time are sometimes mis-read, by those who are more comfortable with a crowd, as being aloof or superior.

Reading your question, it feels to me like the reverse might also be true. Maybe you're feeling your entirely valid feelings of needing to be alone, instead of hanging out with those others - and kinda mis-reading those feelings as if they somehow denigrate the others.

They don't! You don't need any reason for not wanting to hang out with them - it just is what it is. You don't have to account for it, to yourself or to them. Just because you don't want to hang out with them (now, or ever) it doesn't mean anything negative - either about you, or about them. It's just not a fit. That's ok.

Anecdata: I just broke up with my therapist earlier this week, largely because she couldn't get past the fact that I don't feel the need to behave in such a way to obtain most people's (and especially: her) approval. It annoyed her, and she couldn't hide her annoyance. But her annoyance was based on a mistake - she thought that my lack of fit with many others (and: my lack of fit with her) was a Problem, and that I should feel Bad about it, and Work until it was Solved. But, all of those things are just neutral facts about the universe that I'm usually fairly chill about, all things considered. I'm happier without someone bugging me about how I'm doing it Wrong. It's just how I am.
posted by rd45 at 6:30 AM on November 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

"No thanks, I've been on my feet all day." Do this consistently and eventually they'll stop asking. But you *have* to be consistent.
posted by media_itoku at 9:43 AM on November 20, 2020

Further to showbiz_liz's point above about organizing your life to involve fewer people you dislike spending time with, do you ever extend invitations yourself? Not to people you don't like, of course, but to anyone who you're not 510% certain would enthusiastically accept? If you don't, it might explain a bit of what's going on with you.

It's kind of a vicious cycle: when you're generally catching rather than pitching while feeling pressured to say yes to all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, you'll overwhelmingly have interactions you don't enjoy. People who are a bit more perceptive are going to pick up on your annoyance and keep their distance, which leaves behind the people who either can't or don't want to read your signals. This leads to stacking the deck with people and events you don't want to deal with, and it's almost impossible to not feel judgmental and misanthropic under those circumstances.

Speaking of judgmental, many self-respecting people would feel at least a little bit humiliated or horrified if their invite made then come across as a user or really bugged the invitee, or to spend social time with someone who felt obliged to say yes. If you're among those people, it's understandable that you wouldn't want to subject yourself to the same judgement that you're conjuring up, right?

None of this is to say that you ought to invite people you dislike into your life (not at all!), become your social circle's cruise director, or seek out therapy. But being able to reject others with grace (both towards them and yourself) is a skill that's related to receiving someone else's graceful rejection. The latter is an assertiveness and perspective-taking skill that some of us introverts seldom practice, so it would make sense when the other side of the coin doesn't come naturally. There are all kinds of ways of compensating for that without trying to become someone you're not, though.
posted by blerghamot at 11:11 AM on November 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

I read your two previous posts about your boss and colleague’s flooding of divisive politics in the workplace and feel your pain even more. What an unbearable work environment it must be, especially in the middle of what was (is!) likely the most contentious presidential election of our lives. I am also thinking now that they are maybe trying to extend an olive branch but that the same lack of self-awareness that led them to be so awful during the election is also present in their attempts to make peace. So much yuck! I agree that avoiding spending time with them is wise, as your gut tells you. How would you feel about giving them a small token gift for Thanksgiving or at the start of December, like a small potted seasonal plant for their desk with a tiny note like “Have a warm & wonderful December!” This way you can validate them but also keep your distance. You could also use this chance to set a new or refreshed boundary like “I just don’t have the time to walk/hangout but I appreciate your gestures and all you do for our company!” And then keep up with your friendly broken record responses. Flowers can be an incredibly simple yet powerful gift, and a small potted cactus (ha, so prickly!) or poinsettia is a friendly gesture without much work on your part. You know everyone best but it’s another way to both be kind and firm with your boundaries!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:14 PM on November 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

People you loathe are polite to you? They just have annoying personal habits and make you conscious of your own greatness. So you hate them for having them asking to be social be what reminded how beneath you they are plus you cant speak to them to tell them so now they think it's not them.
I hate when unnecessary hostility is created from a place of good intention. Why are you preferring this arrogant indignation over lowering your drawbridge? You want peace? Air out your gripe so they know or leave them alone and find new job. You are no friend of peaceful coexistence.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 2:05 AM on November 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

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