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The A to Z of Emotions – M is for Misunderstood

Have you ever felt lonely, even though you’re surrounded by people and have a busy life?  You may have been misunderstood and this can cause even the most popular, fun loving person to feel unseen and lonely.  Just knowing that people don’t ‘see’ you is both frustrating and painful, it brings up questions such as ‘what’s wrong with me?’ and ‘am I really that unworthy?’.  There are those people who hide behind being misunderstood and actively put up a façade, with different personalities for different people/situations.  There are also those who are desperate to be heard/seen and understood but can’t get through.  Both situations are painful and sad and can be damaging to mental health.  My intention in this blog is not only to have a look at helping ourselves to be understood, but also be aware of others who feel misunderstood so that if we recognise this situation, we might be able to help someone feel more comfortable.

As a coach and psychology student, I’m very aware of how some people change when they’re in a group of people and how they put on an ‘act’.  At some point in our lives, we’ve all done this, it might be at a job interview, on a first date or with work colleagues and we might have done it subconsciously.  However, some people do this consciously as they think they might be liked more or fit in better to a certain situation.  They may find themselves feeling stressed by having to live up to the act, and if this is something they do regularly, they become misunderstood and their true selves start to retreat.  This of course, is a process which people go through and only when they’re ready, can they start to show their true selves.  Whenever I’ve faced someone who is obviously not being themselves, I treat them like I would treat anyone and talk to them as a human being, rather than an ‘act’.  I find sometimes that people drop their act, become more serious and start talking more honestly about themselves.

If you’re conscious about putting on an ‘act’ in certain situations, ask yourself what the reasons are for doing this.  Consider what would happen if you were in the same sort of situation again and turned up as yourself.

Feeling misunderstood and unable to get across your true feelings can be both isolating and exasperating.  This is something that chronic illness sufferers deal with regularly and it’s especially true for those who have illnesses which people can’t see.  My first experience of this was when I was in my early 20’s and recovering from the first two blood clots I had.  I suffered badly from fatigue, partly due to the illness and partly due to the medication.  However, I felt unable to talk about it seriously with anyone as I thought I would be seen as ‘boring’ and ‘making it up’.  I remember telling a group of friends I was too tired to go out one night and being told to ‘stop complaining and get yourself ready’.  The reality was that I barely understood my own illness so could hardly articulate this properly enough to tell anybody else how I felt.  When I eventually tried to tell people how it was to be me, I have one distinct memory of being told ‘No, you’re alright’ and everything that I’d tried to put into words was just brushed off and ignored.  I felt burned.  In fact I ended up shutting myself off for years from how I truly felt about my condition, felt nobody understood me and that some of my actions and behaviour were totally misunderstood, all because I felt I couldn’t show the real ‘me’.  It made me angry, lonely and afraid to try again to talk to someone.

It actually took me a few years later to regain control and I decided that I would try to get people to understand me.  The biggest thing was that I finally realised that once I told people how I felt and let them know exactly who I was and why, that the important people in my life would stick with me and get to know me.  Those who weren’t interested in knowing the real me, would fall away and in fact I realised I didn’t need those people in my life.

I think what it came down to was communication.  What had scared me off before was nothing but cruel words from someone who didn’t care.  I spent years feeling bad and unworthy because of those flippant throw away words, but choosing to see them just as words helped because that’s all they were.  The awful feeling those words gave me was given to me by myself and that was what I had to work on.  So I worked on understanding myself first, finding out why I felt a certain way.  It was painful because I’d kept things in a mental closet for so many years, but actually the lightbulb moments I had once I understood myself made the whole journey worth it.  Once I’d gone through this process I was able to show people the real me and be more open.  I have to be honest though and say that I’ve kept some things in my mental closet for safekeeping.  I took them out, understood them, dusted them down and carefully put them back, deciding that I don’t need to show these.  This was a personal decision, but one which I’m happy about as it’s right for me.

Now, when I feel that I’m misunderstood, I don’t automatically think that it’s down to me.  I look at the bigger picture and consider the openness of other people.  I accept that I’m misunderstood sometimes, it could be due to the difference in lifestyles for instance, but accepting that occasionally I will feel like this has helped me deal with my feelings.

Do you feel misunderstood and if so, would it help to talk things through?  If so, contact me for a free consultation with no obligation.

Next month – N is for Nervous.  We all get that jittery feeling sometimes, but do you let it get to you or do you deal with it well?  My blog next month will discuss feeling nervous and how it can actually help you achieve more in your life, out on 1st September.

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