photo by Duong Nhan for Pexels
by Andrea M. Darcy
“Nobody understands me, and I am lonely even when I am with people”.
Sound familiar? Feeling misunderstood is serious. It can lead to depression and anxiety.
Why should I want to feel understood?
Feeling understood leads to wellbeing. A study on undergrads at the University of Virginia connected feeling understood to not just greater life satisfaction, but even fewer physical illness symptoms.
5 Reasons why you feel ‘nobody understands me’
So why do you feel so misunderstood? And what can be done about it? See if the below sound familiar.
1. You are afraid of intimacy.
Even if you are friendly and outgoing, a fear of intimacy could still be your root issue. Many socially adept people are intimacy phobic. Their outgoing exterior is a perfect way to hide their inner fear.
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.
2. You fear being judged.
This can lead to being an adult who hides certain things about yourself in order to not be judged and who always feels ‘nobody understands me’.
We do need to use our judgement about who we open up around. Not everyone is safe territory. But if you are endlessly cherry picking what bits of you to reveal to others, for fear of being judged, you aren’t giving anyone a full picture they can understand.
3. You don’t trust others.
If you are projecting an energy of wariness, people sense you won’t trust them. Meaning they might not feel like investing in the effort to understand you if they’ll just be kept at bay. 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.
5. You need to learn how to communicate to stop being misunderstood.
- 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!
10 Techniques to help you feel understood by others
Talk therapy is of course highly recommended, not least as it gives you the chance to experience what it is like to be understood by another (your therapist!). But you can also use the below tactics to start feeling more understood.
1. Learn to communicate more clearly.
Sometimes we think ‘nobody understands me’ and it’s literally true as our communication skills are lacking.
Start to really notice the way that you talk. Do you speak really fast? Constantly throw questions at others, so that 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 constantly starting your sentences with “You did/said” and “You made me feel”. This is blame, which pushes the person away, creating the opposite effect of them wanting to understand you. Far better to own your feelings. “I feel this when you do or say that.”
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 you want to be open. Try to relax your shoulders, and smile softly to stop any natural tendency to frown.
3. Slow down and switch perspective.
When we are worked up we tend to revert to habits. This includes the habit of assuming “nobody understands me”.
If you feel the thought rising, 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.
Then ask yourself:
4. Become a “me detective”.
The more you understand yourself, the more clearly you present yourself to others. And 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 for 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 for the benefits of being understood?
6. Learn to see what people do give you instead of feeling ‘nobody understands me’.
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. This could be 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.
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. So drop the expectation.
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.
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 here.
Can a Therapist Can Help Me Feel Understood?
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.
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.
When nobody ‘gets’ you as you see the world differently
Again, in some cases, you might always be thinking ‘nobody understands me’ as it’s true. Some people are born unique, and they see themselves, others, and the world differently than most people.
If this is the case, you might find you qualify for a diagnosis of a personality disorder or autism spectrum disorder. In such cases talk therapy can be invaluable to help you understand the differences between you and others. It will help you learn how the ways you communicate need to change so that others can make sense of you and appreciate all you have to offer the world.
Need help being understood with others? Our London-based psychotherapists and psychiatrists are some of the best in their field. On a budget or not in London? Use our therapy listings site to find a registered therapist near you.
Andrea M Darcy is a health and lifestyles writer with counselling training, and the editor of this site. As a twice exceptional child who was also sensitive, she never felt understood. So writing this article was great fun and she’d enjoyed sharing all the things she has learned an experimented with over the years! Find her on Instagram @am_darcy