Other People Don’t like Me, and Other Victim Stories

I’ve been feeling an increasing frustration at the difficulty that I’m having making new friends in the suburb where I live. I moved to Bondi about a year ago, and expected that I would be meeting people all over the place, especially considering that there are attractive, interesting people all over the place to meet.

Backpackers from all around the world come to Bondi, and there are plenty of interesting locals here as well. When I first moved in, it seemed really easy to meet people; but since then I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut and have found it more challenging. The local beach is full of pretty, interesting girls from all around the world, and yet something is stopping me from going up and talking to them.

It’s not hard to imagine what that something might be: my old fear of rejection rearing its ugly head again.

I can remember several years ago walking up to a pretty girl on a beach, despite my nerves, and saying “Hello, do you mind if I join you?” to her. She was quite polite and replied “I’m sorry, I’m not really up for a conversation right now.”

I wandered off feeling like I’d been hit in the head with a frying pan as a full blown panic attack set in. The fact that it was a nude beach, and neither of us had any clothes on probably didn’t help with my anxiety. I ended up calling a friend to help talk me down again. With memories like that, it’s no wonder that I’m still a little reticent.

I’ve had several really good experiences of meeting girls on the beach since moving here, and I don’t feel anywhere near as bothered nowadays when they don’t seem to want to engage with me. But a big part of me remembers those old panic attacks, and just doesn’t want to take the risk.

Even now just writing about it, I’m feeling that tense feeling in the head again.

So yesterday, I headed off to my psychologist to talk about what’s going on for me. If rejection doesn’t bother me so much any more, why is it I still feel like I’m struggling to meet new people?

Almost immediately in the session, I felt some powerful feelings of fear, sadness, grief and anger. Anger at not feeling well enough to do all the things I want to do, and at the people who have rejected me in the past; grief and sadness at the times in the past that I haven’t felt accepted or appreciated by other people; and fear about the whole rejection/loneliness/abandonment thing.

It’s amazing how deep some of these feelings can go. Even after years of working on this stuff, I still get strong feelings of not being safe around other people sometimes. Each time I told my therapist that I didn’t really feel safe, I felt the fear, sadness and grief come up again.

Things that didn’t feel safe for me included:

  • Meeting new people, especially cute girls.
  • Expressing my anger.
  • Telling the truth about what I wanted.
  • Making mistakes
  • Getting things wrong
  • Failure

I still did these things sometimes even though they didn’t feel safe; but I really wanted them to feel safe so that I could be more consistent and not feel like I’m pushing through anxiety all the time.

Another friend who used to suffer from social anxiety recently told me that once he had overcome the social anxiety, he still found that he had another fear to deal with: fear of the fear itself, and that really resonates with me. I can see that over the past few years with all the anxiety related to CFS, I’ve been telling myself a story that anxiety is too much for me; that I just can’t cope with it. I’m still afraid of my own feelings, basically.

I came home feeling exhausted, anxious and restless. It made for a fairly sleepless night.

Dealing with anger and anxiety in particular are still quite challenging for me, but I can see that the extent of the challenge is heavily influenced by what I tell myself about these troubling emotions. When I get all caught up in the story that it’s all too much, and I can’t do it, I just end up creating more stress and suffering for myself. It’s like my inner child still wants mummy to come and fix it all for me.

Clearly, that was never, and is never, going to happen.

Whereas when I tell myself that they’re just feelings, that there is nothing wrong, and that I don’t need anyone to come and save me from them, I feel more empowered.

It’s time to let go of that old story that meeting other people doesn’t feel safe, and start seeing it as a fun, exciting adventure.

Author: Graham

I’m a guy in his late 40’s, recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since May 2009. I now offer coaching and support to other people with CFS/ME.

12 thoughts on “Other People Don’t like Me, and Other Victim Stories”

  1. Ah, have just reread and noticed that it was on a nudist beach… Possibly not the best place to talk to those of the opposite sex that you don’t know – but I have no experience of this…

  2. I am concerned to read you are so upset simply because a woman didn’t want to have a conversation with you.

    Have you ever considered what it’s like from the woman’s point of view to be constantly bombarded with men wanting their attention and being unable to simply exist in a public place and be left alone?

    You feel rejected because she didn’t want to talk to you but the fact is that most women simply want to go about their lives and are not looking for some man to come and chat them up. Also every approach by a man can be pretty anxiety producing for women because men can often become aggressive and abusive when women say no.

    I think you are taking it far too personally when a woman doesn’t want to talk to you. You’re filing this under ‘other people don’t like me’ when in fact it probably has nothing to do with you personally and was just a woman not wanting to have a conversation with some random dude who came up to her.

    I think it would help if you did not invest so much of your self esteem in the reactions of strangers and remember a lot of the time it has nothing to do with you personally.

    For anxiety I really recommend “The Five Minute Miracle” by Tara Springett, it has helped me immensely.

    Best of luck with it all.

    1. I don’t mind if men or women come and talk to me. I didn’t get the impression that Graham was chatting someone up – just being friendly. Wasn’t he really saying that the illness makes you lose self-confidence and therefore it is hard to go up and talk to women? I feel totally different confidence-wise if I am having a better day than if I’m having a relapsey day.

    2. I hear your concern Helen; that’s the point of the story: it concerns me too! It’s not a conscious, logical thing. Nobody thinks their way into a panic attack. It’s some kind of unconscious separation or abandonment anxiety being triggered. Logical analysis of the sort you suggest hasn’t entirely made it go away for me; if that sort of thing works for you, I say more power to you. Dealing with the underlying emotions triggered has helped me, and that’s still a work in progress. I’ll keep the book you suggest in mind. Cheers, Graham

      1. I see that you found the panic attack concerning. What I was getting at was that in this post you are describing her response as a rejection. You are putting this story under ‘other people don’t like me’ when I just don’t see any reason to interpret her response as an example of other people not liking you.

        I know anxiety is not a conscious logical thing (although in my experience once you get to the origins of it, there is a logic to it). My concern is that in this description of what happened, you *still* seem to be interpreting ‘sorry I don’t feel like talking to you’ as a personal rejection.

        If this is an underlying belief that you still hold then certainly it will still be feeding your anxiety. That’s what it looks like from what you wrote, that you still see it that way. I was hoping to help by offering another perspective.

        Of course, ultimately you’ll never know whether it’s personal to you or not but for myself it’s been important to redefine such moments as simply what they are – that person didn’t want to talk to me at that time for whatever reason, which I don’t know. It may or may not be a reflection of me.

        But to call it rejection, as you still seem to be doing, is feeding into that mindset of always watching the world around you for cues of your self-worth which in my mind is the basis of social anxiety.

        Anyway I apologise if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

        The book is about meditation/visualization – not about logical analysis at all. I think they go hand in hand.

        Also if you/he’s not chatting them up then why is he only focusing on the pretty ones?

        1. Hi Helen. I agree! I think you have the right end of the stick. Something in me heard your first comment as criticism, even though I get that it was well-intended. It’s probably that same part that has taken everything too personally. My purpose in writing about it was to disclose what was really going on for me, so that it would lose its power over me. And yes, I was talking to them because I found them attractive and wanted to connect with them, which I’m guessing is what you mean by “chatting them up”. 🙂 Cheers, Graham

  3. This post comes at a very pertinent time! While I have no trouble meeting people (it wasn’t always the case during my long life with CFS/ME) I am utterly convinced that i can’t have another serious relationship, after my divorce, and because of my ME. I know that rationally this is not true – and I’d never think that of any other CFS/ME sufferer.

    But I’ve got it into my head that if any decent man was to see how ill I really am (rather than the seemingly capable and coherent person he may see out and about) then he would be horrified/it wouldn’t work etc.

    I know I’ll need help with this at some point. I know that these ‘messages’ of being not worth bothering about come from childhood and from my ex. They are hard core beliefs to shift.

    Good luck with your journey. I enjoy your posts.

    1. Thanks Judith. I relate to the story of “not being good enough” generally, and being even less good now! They tell me that affirmations help, and sometimes they do. Awareness is supposed to be the first step to shifting it, and I think we both have that. Cheers, Graham

      1. Thanks for your reply. I could try affirmations. There is a lot of negative self talk in my head at times, probably more than I think. Yet, to meet me you’d never guess.

          1. “…which is why I’ve been able to hold onto them for so long.”

            Interesting comment!

            What I like about your blog is that you are not afraid to talk about emotional ‘damage’ as a precursor to developing CFS.

            My friend, A, who also has ME/CFS, have observed that many we know seem to have had a fair share of childhood trauma. I believe that this hasn’t necessarily CAUSED my CFS but that it, along with other factors, such as a long family history of immune system weirdness (allergies, chemical intolerance), helped tip me over the edge, as it were, and develop CFS.

            Many in our ME world don’t want to acknowledge this emotional aspect and want the cause to be wholly biological. I believe that a cure/treatments will be biological – and that they will come, in time – but that doesn’t detract from the emotional damage as a contributing factor to developing the illness in the first place. As you are no doubt aware there are lots of illness that have a mind-body connection. Whatever the causes, I just want to be well!
            Keep up the good work. I like the humour in your writing.

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