One of the main causes of depression is the feeling of being misunderstood. It leads to a terrible ongoing loneliness that doesn’t fade when you are surrounded by other people. You can be left feeling vulnerable and like you need to hide away from others, which just creates more of a feeling of not belonging or being liked.
How do you stop this vicious cycle of always thinking ‘nobody understands me’? First, you’ll need to be honest with yourself about why you are creating the cycle. Look at the 5 reasons below and see if they resonate. Then use the list of 10 ways to feel understood to start connecting with others sooner rather than later.
5 Reasons Why You Feel So Misunderstood
1. You are afraid of intimacy.
Do you find it hard to trust others, or worry that if you let someone close they will inevitably abandon you? It could be you are afraid of intimacy. And yes, even if you are friendly and outgoing, this could still be your root issue. Many socially adept people are intimacy phobic. Not letting people close to you then expecting them to understand you doesn’t work. It’s like expecting someone to cook you a meal but not letting them within ten feet of the stove. Read our guide to surprising signs that you might suffer from fear of intimacy here.
2. You are afraid of being judged.
If you had critical parents or teachers when growing up you might have been made to feel that you weren’t good enough no matter how hard you tried. Or perhaps you have a childhood you feel ashamed of because it was troubled. This can all lead to you being an adult who hides certain things about yourself in order to not be judged. We do need to use our judgement about who we open up around. But if you are cherry picking what bits of you to reveal to others for fear of being judged, you are not showing them a full picture they can understand.
3. You don’t trust others.
This is a by-product of both fear of intimacy and fear of being judged. It can also come from a childhood where you couldn’t trust the adults who were supposed to take care of you, or suffered either physical or emotional abuse. If you are projecting an energy of wariness, and people sense you won’t trust them, they might not feel puting in the effort to understand you is something you even want. It’s like you are wearing a sign declaring “I won’t let you close” , but still expecting them to try.
4. You are codependent.
Are you hoping that if someone else totally understands you, you will then feel better about yourself? Or find that in relationships and friendships you change your personality and hobbies to match the other person? Codependency is an addiction to seeking approval and validation from others to the point you can lose sight of who you are. And if you don’t know who you are, it’s hard for anyone else to know and understand you. Read our guide to codependency here.
5. You simply need to learn how to communicate.
Do you speak in a convoluted way where you constantly contradict yourself? Or always say the opposite of what you actually mean to say? Perhaps you are agreeing to things that actually you don’t really believe, out an urge to be polite and accepted (again, a codependent habit). This all results in people having the entirely wrong idea about who you really are. No wonder you feel misunderstood!
Okay, But How Can I make People Understand Me if These Things Are True?
Fear of intimacy and judgement, lack of trust, and codependency are things that we develop from patterns learned from childhood. So they are obviously not something we can just snap our fingers and change overnight. They are rather best dealt with using the help of a coach, support group, or counsellor. A counsellor can assist you in understanding why you act the way you do, and help you find new ways to relate and connect with others.
But while seeking help is highly recommended, not least as it gives you the chance to experience what it is like to be understood by another, you don’t have to totally know yourself before you begin to feel more connected to others. You can use the below tactics to start feeling more understood as soon as today.
10 Techniques to Quickly Help You Feel Understood By Others
1. Learn to communicate more clearly.
Start to really notice the way that you talk. Do you speak really fast? Constantly throw questions at others so they barely have time to even ask you about yourself? Are you agreeing with things you don’t like, and giving the wrong impression? It can even help to record yourself having a conversation and listen to it later.
Also notice if you are starting your sentences with “I think/feel”, or “You did/said” and “You made me feel”. Using sentences that being with ‘I’ invites other people to communicate with us, but sentences that begin with ‘You’ tend to make the other person feel blamed and back off from connecting. And if you aren’t sure you are being understood – ask!
2. Change your body language.
Your body language communicates almost as much as your words. Uncross your arms when you talk to others, it shows them you want to be open. Try to relax your shoulders and smile softly.
3. Slow down and switch perspective.
When we are worked up we tend to revert to habits, including the habit of assuming you are misunderstood. If you feel the thought rising that “nobody understands me”, extricate yourself from the situation and take a moment to slow down. Take a few deep breaths, perhaps even try a 2-minute mindfulness break.
From your new, calm perspective, ask yourself, was I really being misunderstood? Or am I upset about something else entirely, like that they don’t agree with me, or that I’ve had a stressful day? In what ways did they show they were trying to understand me that maybe I overlooked?
4. Become a “me detective”.
The more you understand yourself, the more clearly you present yourself to others, the more they can understand you. So spend time learning about yourself. Make lists of what you like and what you don’t like. Notice what things actually make you happy during a normal day versus what things you assume should make you happy. Start paying attention to how you really feel about things. Perhaps engage with the power of self-help books, or join a self development course where you can learn new techniques to getting to know yourself.
5. Trade in your victim mentality.
There can be something altogether addictive about feeling misunderstood. It can become your identity, something that can make you feel special and give you the chance to feel sorry for yourself non stop. In other words, it gives you an excuse to always be a victim.
What would happen if you decided that you are responsible for your own life and could choose to find people who want to understand you? And wouldn’t it be worth trading in the benefits of victimhood (self-pity, others’ attention) for the benefits of being understood?
6. Learn to see what people do give you.
Being misunderstood can also be a habit to the point you don’t even notice if people are trying their best to understand you. Or perhaps they are giving you other, equally important things, even if they are not easily able to ‘get’ you. Change your focus to what they are giving you. Are they a good listener? Did they donate their time to help you out? Do they always answer your calls, give you attention?
7. Embrace the power of acting ‘as if’.
If you are feeling misunderstood by someone, try asking yourself, how would I treat them if I DID feel understood? And go ahead and try to change the way you are acting, maybe being less aloof, or simply staying put instead of having a tantrum and walking away. Their behaviour might change with yours.
8. Give others understanding first.
At the end of the day, if you aren’t offering others understanding, why would they then offer it to you? Take a good look at your listening skills. Are you taking in what others say without interrupting? Do you accept their opinions, or are you constantly offering them unasked for advice? Do you ask them thoughtful questions about what they said, or just jump in with a story all about you that relates to what they said?
9. Recognise everyone is unique.
The truth is that we all are unique, with our own way of seeing the world. It’s simply not possibly for someone to understand you entirely, or for you to understand someone else entirely. The only person who can understand you entirely is you.
10. Work on your self-esteem.
If we want to be understood by others we need to believe that we deserve to be understood. And for that we need a sense of self-esteem. Make a commitment to notice and challenge the inner critic in your head. Start noticing the good things about yourself. And when someone offers you a compliment, don’t brush it off, accept it. There are many great books on self-esteem as well, so some research can help, as can a therapist.
So Are You Saying a Therapist Can Help Me Feel Understood?
Definitely. Therapy is all about forming a strong relationship with your therapist in a trusting environment. Sometimes all we need is the experience of what a trusting relationship is to then be brave enough to create more of that understanding for ourselves outside the therapy room. And a psychotherapist or counsellor can also really help you sort out what is true, and what is just your inner critic stopping you from being your best self. Best of all, therapy can help you change that mental soundtrack of ‘nobody understands me’ to ‘someone wonderful understands me – I do!’
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