When People Think The Worst

“Why is it I’m always so quick to believe that people are thinking…believing the worst about me?”

— Bette Greene

If you are living with an estranged family, you might believe your family members are thinking the worst of you …. because sometimes, often-time, they are.

It’s no good pretending that your family is some idealized version of the Waltons, when in fact, they are behaving more like squabbling adolescents in the story, Lord of the Flies. Why must we pretend that everything that our senses – our eyes, ears, gut feeling tells us is happening … is not? How is ignoring what we see, hear, think and feel is real,  good for us? The short answer … it is not.

When people are treating us poorly, it is what it is. Prettying it up, wishing and hoping it was something different does not change what is. Many of us wanted the Waltons. I know I did. But it isn’t what we got and the Waltons is not what is real for us, and thinking and wishing does not make it so.  Pretending that people aren’t hurtful … pretending that they aren’t talking smack about you, that they aren’t systematically undermining you, that they aren’t hyper focused on the worst bits of the story in which you star as their presenting problem and their bad guy … is not only helpful for your abuser (it gives them plenty of room and ammunition to keep right on doing what they do) it also keeps you stuck in the past, the past of their perceptions and  its also incredibly dangerous for your self esteem.

We can grow up with and continue  measuring ourselves against the incredibly toxic and myopic perceptions that other people have of us. These limiting, one dimensional stories or views of who were are can only serve to erode our sense of self esteem and self worth. We are not the one story where we got it wrong. We are not even the story of the 3000th time where we messed up. Some of us didn’t even need to mess up. We were the black sheep, the scapegoat from go.

We are more, MUCH more, than any one dimensional story that someone else wants to tell about us. We are multi-dimensional people with entire lives and multitudes of stories. We have our own histories, our own logic and reasons for why we do what we do, and if no one else wants to hear that our story is bigger than the one they tell of us …. so be it. That’s someone else trying to decide how our world is going to be … and guess what? They dont get to choose how our lives and stories look unless we allow it.

When we begin to heal and recover from all the damage and fallout created in our dysfunctional family, we develop increased insight, self awareness and self esteem. We get in touch with a different story, a different reality, one that is our own. A reality in which we truly are the central character and the star. In this story, we are who we decide we will be, we determine what is important,  we decide who our co-stars will be and we determine how we will live our lives.

You see, our life and our story moves on … we are not a static, one dimensional, bit character in someone else’s book. We are citizens in our own evolving, dynamic world of possibilities. We heal and we recover. We write our story. We think the best of ourselves. We move on.

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9 Responses to When People Think The Worst

  1. Meghan says:

    Thank you. I really needed this post and was lucky to find it. I know I am not the monster they believe me to be. And I will never be able to prove it because they are locked in their toxic perception… And despite my efforts to repair, they twist what I say and do to fit their image of “monster”. I have stopped seeking their approval, and have been living in more peace. However, last night I heard a description of their perception of me from my brother, and it stung, it really did. I know they are wrong, but it hurts to know that’s how they see me, and to feel like I can never hope to change it.

    • Fiona says:

      Hi Meghan,

      Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your story and your healing. We can spend many years of our lives trying to disprove the negative and often terribly hurtful stories that others tell about who we are. It’s wonderful that you are able to see that you are so much more than the opinions of others. Often these negative and toxic perspectives say so much more about what is going on for other people, than they say anything at all about us.

      I wish you the best in your healing and in creating a more positive and powerful story about who you are.

      Take care,

  2. Andrea says:

    Really powerful article and very on point to what I am currently dealing with right now. Always feeling as though people are so quick to see the worst in me, or to think that my motives must be evil. The black sheep, the issue the bad one…these are all things I have to deal with in my life, past and present. It is the thing that has stung me the most about people, that they would be so quick to judge and judge harshly at that. I’m a good person, I genuinely care about people but I know who I am and don’t make apologies about the things that work for me in this life. I refuse to let others walk over me so that they can feel better about themselves. I will not enable people to transfer their crap onto me like that. This makes me a problem to others, but it still hurts to experience, and I got to say it stings like nothing else to be seen as something you know in your heart you are not.

    • Fiona says:

      Hi Andrea,

      I also thank you for your courage to share a bit about your experience. It is wonderful to see people taking a step back from the toxicity and reaction that comes from the things other people say and do. It’s tremendously healing and liberating to be able to extricate ourselves from someone else’s story about us … and to instead choose to author our own story, about ourselves.It doesn’t mean that other people’s words and actions don’t, as you say, sting … just we make the decision not to throw ourselves into a downward spiral as a result of them.

      Best wishes for your continued healing.

      Take care,

  3. Lori says:

    Incredible post. I love how the whole blog is organized and how you have uncovered the many-faceted layers of what is such a puzzling and traumatic issue for so many (as I’m finding out). This one issue probably hurts me more than anything. My Mom and through her minions have convinced others in the family that I’m akin to Jack the Ripper (hyperbole). Even to the point where my 84-year old Uncle in response to me asking a carpentry question, let me know that 100% of my Ohio relatives (that’s quite a few) think I’m a “dirty dog”. No one has bothered to ask me what is/has been going on but believe the most absurd, illogical nonsense that my Mom, brother, sister, etc. choose to relay. I’ve been feeling like the last 5 years I’ve had to prove I’m not who they say I am but then thinking, “if they’re that gullible and one-sided to believe such malarky than why do I care?” My Mom has even said she is intimidated by my (what was then) 9-year old daughter, 11 and 12 year old sons. Seriously? The sadness and anger over this mischaracterization and the people that believe it are what bothers me probably the most out of this estrangement.

    • Fiona says:

      Hi Lori,

      Thanks again for your comment, I really appreciate it. I certainly agree with you that wading through other people’s myopic and toxic impressions of us, is painful, destructive and life sucking. Sadly we don’t get to choose what other people think, feel or do – it’s out of our hands. Many of us will go for long periods of time trying to explain ourselves, trying to make others see or understand where we are coming from – and many of us will find that it doesn’t work, and in fact, increases our sense of injustice, powerlessness, and despair.

      When we move forward and get on with our lives – seek relationships with people who can see the best in us, and allow ourselves to feel good about ourselves, we get past the character assassination that is a part of this sort of estrangement and leave the rest of the people in our family to wallow in their own puddles of misperception.

      It’s an imperfect solution, but it leads to our health and well being – and that matters.

      Take care,

  4. Bel says:

    Well done :) love your writing piece. Spot on to what I can relate to and needed to hear. Xoxo

  5. Veronika says:

    This article has changed my life today. I am a pleaser who has made many mistakes (MANY mistakes) but I picked myself up and have made a success of my life, but in my family’s eyes, I will always be the screw up because of past mistakes. I would always ask, when will I be finished paying off that error with good? And I realise, I never will. So I have surrounded myself with people who accept all facets of my life, all dimension, good and bad, and they are still around! Thank you!

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