“No one really cares for me” is a common presentation within the therapy room and it often stems from a deeply held belief centred around the fear of being unlikeable or even unlovable.
Long term, this belief can detrimentally impact on the quality of our relationships and the choices we make when choosing partners.
What causes the development of negative beliefs about our likability?
• Our emotional needs not being met in childhood and adolescence. We are born with a number of emotional needs, if our parents or caregivers, consistently and over a prolonged period of time, aren’t able to tune into our needs and understand that we are unique individuals with our own sets of needs and respond appropriately this can create a deep sense of lacking within us, it can feel visceral, often painful and difficult to put into words because we are essentially missing something that we were never given.
• Being objectified whilst growing up. Perhaps you were talented and gifted as a child or perhaps you were labelled as being problematic or a changeling because you were different to your siblings or didn’t match your parents expectations of how a child should be. The adults around you were only interested in what you could achieve and this cultivated your identity. You never received the message that you are unconditionally lovable, wonderful and great to be with despite your achievements.
• Regular bullying and mistreatment within the home environment. The adults in your life let you down, they were overly punitive and critical. You were regularly insulted and shamed; you may have been unfavourably compared to your siblings or told, disapprovingly, that you were “just like your (absent) mum/dad.”
• School based bullying. Many adults hold memories of being horrifically bullied throughout school with little or no intervention from the adults around them.
The physical feelings and emotions associated with our historical experiences can be re-experienced in our daily lives without us realising. This is why our triggers can feel so overwhelming, we are reconnecting with emotional hurt from our childhood.
The Impact on our relationships:
Quite often, if you feel no one cares for you, you will find it difficult to cope within your meaningful relationships. You might often question that your partner, friend and even colleague really does care for you. As a consequence fears of abandonment and sensitivity around any real or imagined criticism can manifest. In response, you are more likely to self sacrifice and overcompensate in relationships in order to try and keep people close or to prevent anyone from seeing any perceived defectiveness. This belief can also cause an avoidance of relationships; you believe you’re never going to get your emotional needs met because you believe no one would truly want to take the time to figure out how to meet them.
Entering toxic relationships is another all too common problem for people who feel unloveable. Being with a partner who treats us badly fits the narrative that we’re inherently unlovable and not worthy of care. Emotional connection is a biological human need and when we are deprived of this we will take the scraps an unhealthy relationship throws at us and stay, usually, hoping things might change, or we begin to believe that the way we’re being treated is normal. People who feel unlovable can often enter relationships with narcissists as narcissists have a combination of charm, intrigue and manipulation. Often at the beginning of a relationship we can be bombarded with messages of adoration and passion and this feels wonderful for people who struggle with chronically low self worth. Initially, we feel accepted, connected and safe it might feel like for the first time our emotional needs are finally being met. Unfortunately, narcissists then tend to begin a protracted process of destruction, destabilising their partners by finding fault with them, being overly controlling, insulting their intelligence, questioning their reality, suggesting they change themselves, blaming, shaming and isolating. This kind of mistreatment will compound any previously held deeply negative core beliefs concerning lovability.
• Know that your past and present are connected. You weren’t born feeling like this, it is something that has been done to you and this isn’t your fault but you do have a responsibility to yourself to work towards finding a resolve; remind yourself it will be worth it.
• Recognise that the part of you that tells you, no one cares and that you’re unlovable, is an amalgamation of those who have mistreated you or a product of you not getting your needs met. This part of you is NOT your authentic self, give it a name, like The Bully, The Critic or worse, instead of listening to it and its negative content tell this part of you that you no longer have to believe it, further still, tell it, that you’re committed to learning to protect yourself from its toxic messages.
• Collect evidence to counter the negative feelings you have towards yourself. Everyday write down the evidence that demonstrates that people care for you, this could be a phone call from a friend or relative, a neighbour saying hello, thanks from a work colleague your pet looking at you. We can get really good at dismissing the evidence and pattern matching to prove our negative beliefs are correct.
• Join a group, whether it’s a therapy group or a social group, learn how it feels to be accepted by others.
• Find a therapist who can help you begin to work through your beliefs. Remember therapy should focus on insight and change.
If you’re reading this and you can relate to the belief of being unlikeable, the relationship patterns and the low self worth, Schema Therapy can help you begin to move forwards.
Schema Therapy helps you to heal from the pain of the past by working with memories, this allows you to experience your needs being met, potentially for the first time, this then allows you to develop a sense of self worth and even love. Schema Therapy also uses cognitive behavioural skills to help you put your work in the therapy room into practice in the wider context of your life.
If you feel you would benefit from Schema psychotherapy, I am based in central Wilmslow and easily accessible for South Manchester and Cheshire. If you live further afield I also offer online psychotherapy.
Contact me for a free telephone consultation.