‘I haven’t heard from my friends in a couple of days!’… queue mental panic! All it takes is a slight change in tone, or a message or two less than usual, and we’re running through every interaction we’ve ever had with our friends, eventually settling on the idea theory that everyone around us simply must hate us!
You’ll be relieved to know two things:
- They don’t hate you.
- This is a really common feeling.
If you battle with low self esteem, mental health conditions, or are dealing with a lot of stress at the moment, it can be really easy to read into subtle changes (that probably aren’t even there) and catastrophise the worst-case scenario.
There are actually a lot of reasons why you might feel like everyone hates you, and none of them are because they actually hate you! Typically, these doom and gloom feelings stem more from how we perceive ourselves, than how people around us actually think of us.
Fact, or fiction?
Sure, it’s probably a little unrealistic to want everyone to like you, and there might be the odd person that you don’t particularly vibe with. But thinking that everyone dislikes you is a little farfetched!
When you’re feeling particularly stressed or your self esteem is wearing a little thin, Dr Sanam Hafeez, suggests that negative worst-case-scenario thoughts are actually a coping mechanism to deal with some of life’s adversities. Worry often wins over logic, and these negative thoughts and feelings tend to spiral until they’re all consuming and your brain is thoroughly convinced they’re fact.
When these negative thoughts are allowed to spiral and take root in your mind, they’re referred to as cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions refer to the irrational patterns of thinking which affect your perception of reality. Most people will experience this at some point in their lives, so don’t panic, you aren’t the only one!
Examples of cognitive distortion
Let’s have a look at some of the most common cognitive distortions that might be leading you to believe everyone hates you.
- Catastrophising. This is the worst-case-scenario thought pattern, where something minor arises and suddenly you’re anticipating the end of the world as we know it. Perhaps you haven’t had a text back from your friend for a day or two. Catastrophising will cause you to think that not hearing back is because your friends hate you and they want nothing to do with you… they’re probably just a bit busy!
- Personalisation. When someone’s tone changes with you, you receive some minor criticism (however constructive it might be), or they come across as more distant than usual, you take it personally. Personalisation tends to stem from low self esteem.
- Mind reading. You assume that someone is thinking or feeling something negative about you, even though they have never said or done anything to indicate that’s how they feel.
- All-or-nothing thinking. It’s either worst-case scenario or best-case scenario, there is no in-between. Either they love you or they hate you, if something small occurs you automatically believe that they have switched from love to hate and want nothing more to do with you.
The first step to overcoming these cognitive distortions is to become aware of them. Whilst you might not yet be able to curb your mind before it leaps to think the worst, you can at least be aware of what is going on in order to reach such an absurd conclusion.
Where do cognitive distortions come from
Some people are naturally more sensitive than others, making cognitive distortions a more common occurrence than for other people. A 2018 study highlighted that people who are hypersensitive experienced greater variations in their self esteem and displayed greater negative reaction to ambiguous or negative feedback. Hypersensitivity tends to originate from, you guessed it, low self esteem. Someone who lacks confidence in themselves and see’s themselves negatively, needs more positive reassurance and affirmation than those with a more robust mindset. Someone struggling with a self esteem shortage is more likely to catastrophise a missed phone call than someone who is confident in themselves and their relationships.
Alternatively, other mental health conditions have been found to trigger or amplify cognitive distortions. Anxiety and depression can leave you feeling vulnerable and helpless, and more likely to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings. When you get in this state, you’re more prone to hyper-fixating on past mistakes or faults. If left unchecked, these negative thoughts can snowball until you’re totally convinced everyone hates you and you’ll probably spend the rest of your life alone.
How to STOP thinking that everyone hates you
There are lots of tips and tricks you can arm yourself with to combat the negative thoughts and feelings that are leading you to believe you’re single-handedly the world’s most disliked individual. All it takes is a little practice and you’ll be able to identify and reframe your negative mindset and assess the situation for what it actually is. Throw in a few affirmations to boost your mental health and self esteem and you’ll be back to popular in no time.
Check in with yourself
Take a step back and think about why these negative thoughts and feelings might be creeping in. In order to successfully get on top of them, you need to understand the root cause. Perhaps you’re dealing with a lot of stress or you’ve been battling anxiety. Listening to your body and understanding the signs is the first step to reframing your negative mindset.
Reframe the situation
Cognitive reframing is a technique in which you take stock of your thoughts and feelings and then analyse if they’re serving you or hurting you. If they’re harmful, reevaluate and find another way to assess the situation that doesn’t involve everyone hating you. Before jumping to that conclusion, try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they got caught up at work, or went to bed early? Put yourself in that situation and remind yourself of a time when you didn’t respond to a message straight away, you most likely had a very reasonable explanation! Don’t get stuck ruminating over the same situation without collecting some much-needed evidence to support your world-ending theory first.
Challenge the negative self talk
Give the little voice spewing all this negative rubbish a name. Sounds silly, but once you associate the voice with something tangible it becomes a whole lot easier to evict it from your mind.
Challenge the negative self talk with some helpful tips like neutral thinking, which sometimes feels a little more realistic than swapping it for a super positive narrative straight away, and keeping yourself grounded in the present, can all help to banish the negative self talk causing you to feel like everyone hates you.
Practice daily affirmations
Affirmations are a great way to rewrite your mindset and boost your self esteem, making it hard for those cognitive distortions to set up shop in your head. Just a few words of affirmation each morning does wonders for your self confidence, as well as making you more resilient in the face of adversity. So, the next time it takes a bit longer for your friends to get back to you, your mind won’t automatically jump to the worst possible outcome! Affirmations are also fantastic for your mental health, so you’ll be actively reducing negative thoughts or feelings more likely to trigger cognitive distortions as well.
And just to prove that your friends don’t hate you, why not send them some daily affirmations of your own to help boost their mental health as well as yours? With Morale, send out affirmations to your closest friends every day and help them feel just as confident as you do. Everyone experiences cognitive distortions at some point, and however frustrating it is, most people will think that everyone hates them at some point or another. So, let them know that you definitely don’t by sending them some words of support and affirmation.
Head over and check out the Morale community on social media. Jam-packed with regular updates and positive vibes, make sure you’re keeping yourself in the loop.
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