Think Happy Thoughts

How To Keep “Does Everyone Hate Me?” Thoughts At Bay

Do you sometimes find yourself, after a text is unanswered or a hangout canceled, wondering if everyone dislikes you? You're not alone. This advice can help.

by Ashley Abramson
Originally Published: 
Worried man sitting at desk staring out the window.

An unanswered text, a short response, a canceled hangout — all these not-so-fun dynamics are par for the course in relationships. Yet for some of us, they can feel more like catastrophes than momentary frustrations or inconveniences. When the vibe seems even slightly off, you might even find yourself spiraling into “why does everyone hate me?” territory.

Before you go down a trail of upsetting thoughts, take a beat. Sure, of all the humans in the world, there are bound to be a few who don’t like you. But if you’re finding yourself frequently falling prey to a “why do I feel like everyone hates me?” narrative, there might be something deeper going on — and that something is worth addressing, for the sake of your well-being and relationships.

There’s no one reason these little interactions cause you to spiral, but it could be that you’re unfairly attributing your own feelings about yourself to someone else. You’ve probably heard the adage “You’re your own worst critic.” Sam Marion, a Georgia-based psychotherapist, says people often project that internal critique onto others—especially under stress. “The stress and exhaustion that come with parenthood make it harder to see how someone else could see you differently than how you see yourself,” he says.

According to Grace Dowd, a therapist based in Austin, TX, your negative feelings, whether straight-up self-loathing or a low-grade feeling that you haven’t been bringing your best self to the table lately, are always looking for ways to confirm your own bias. “What ends up happening is people’s insecurity or anxiety can snowball unless they actively work on stopping the cycle,” she says.

If you’re feeling stuck, here are six therapist-recommended ways to keep those “everyone hates me” thoughts at bay.

1. Take a Deep Breath

Ever notice you lose your ability to reason when you’re stressed? Scientific studies show the logical part of your brain — the prefrontal cortex — becomes less active when you’re emotionally or physically upset. Before you work on reframing your probably-untrue thoughts, Marion suggests staving off your stress so you can actually think clearly.

His go-to exercise is deep breathing. If you notice yourself in a negative thought loop about how others see you, take a few minutes to sit somewhere quiet and take a few slow, deep breaths with your diaphragm, with a lengthened exhale. It might sound too simple or even woo-woo, but paying attention to your breathing can turn off your stress response, leaving you with a clearer mind (and hopefully, a more positive attitude).

2. Examine the Evidence

Now that you’ve calmed yourself down physically, you can use your mind to think more logically about your feelings. Start by looking for any assumptions you might be making. Did your friend or co-worker actually tell you they don’t like you, or is there a chance you could be making an assumption about how they feel?

When you recognize you’re probably spinning a narrative that might not be rooted in fact, try to organize and analyze the thought to determine its validity. Matthew Brace, an Arizona-based therapist, suggests creating a list with evidence “for” and evidence “against” your assumption. Can you come up with facts that prove the other person truly can’t stand you?

“The hope in doing this is to slow your mind down to properly reflect on the situation and determine if there’s anything to do,” Brace says. “If reflection doesn’t develop into something actionable, like talking with the person you hold the assumption about, it’s usually not worth much thought to begin with.”

3. Reframe Your Thoughts

While it’s not outside the realm of possibility that someone in the world doesn’t like you, it’s more likely the person in question has a valid reason for the behavior you’re distressed by. Reframing your thoughts to better align them with possible realities may help soothe your anxiety, says Brace.

For example, if your friend canceled plans and you find yourself worried they don’t want to hang out with you, think about all the times you’ve had to cancel plans — maybe your friend doesn’t feel well, something came up in their personal life, or they’re just too tired to exhaust mental energy on small talk. And if your boss snaps at you? Chances are, there’s something else going on. Maybe they’re having a bad day, or maybe their boss is making them feel like crap. Either way: If you don’t have proof of your negative thought, be open to other possibilities.

4. Think About the Other Person’s Perspective

If, when you examine the evidence, you feel like there might be an underlying conflict, dig a little deeper. “It can be helpful to consider the mindset of the other person and ask yourself, ‘If they really hate me, why might that be?’” suggests Brace.

While odds are slim the other person actively loathes you, this exercise might help you become aware of behaviors that could be contributing to relational conflict. You may realize you’ve been dropping the ball on hanging out with your friend, or that you’ve been too busy to respond to texts from. Uncovering something unsavory about yourself isn’t exactly fun, but it can help you address issues that may be creating unspoken tension in relationships — and, as a result, alleviate the feeling.

5. Focus on What You Can Control

The way other people behave in a relationship with you simply isn’t in your realm of control, and fixating on it will only lead to stress and anxiety. Rather than spending time reflecting on what’s outside your control, Brace recommends starting to increase what is within your control. Talk to your friend about your feelings to get some clarity. Work on being a better friend. Get to the bottom of why you struggle with ambiguity in relationships. Shifting your focus not only saves you from wasting time on what you can’t change, but also helps you become more resilient to stress and conflict.

6. Accept Reality, Even When It Stings

If you find yourself regularly worried about how others see you, that feeling may be worth processing — maybe it’s rooted in something that happened when you were a kid, or you’re simply projecting your own thoughts about being a bad dad, husband, or friend onto someone else.

Once you work through your own insecurity, whether by simply reflecting on what’s driving it or talking to someone about it, try to remember that you can feel grounded and secure even when someone’s not happy with you. “Just as you probably don’t love every person you meet, you might not be everyone’s cup of tea,” says Dowd. “That doesn’t have to say anything about your identity or value.”

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