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I've always felt like sort of an oddball.
It's only been within the last four or five years that I've finally come to appreciate my sensitivity and my unique traits.
But it took a long time to come to terms with how I felt--and how I continue to feel.
"No one understands me."
I still sometimes catching myself thinking that.
So if you feel that no one understands you, know that you're not alone.
Know that there are so many people in this world who feel exactly the same way.
But there's good news.
What I've realized, through much trial and error, is that if you're struggling to deal with no one understanding you, you're most likely not asking the right questions.
Let's consider them now so that you can stop saying, "Nobody understands me!"
The Three Questions You Must Ask Yourself if You're Thinking, "No One Understands Me!"
1. Why Do I Need Others to Understand Me?
Let's start right off with a big one.
If you're struggling to get people to understand you, first you must ask why you need people to understand you in the first place?
And before you jump right in and respond, "Well, because..." seriously consider the question.
The 5 Whys Exercise can help with this sort of situation.
I'll be the guinea pig for you.
Jordan, why do you need others to understand you?
"Well, I want people to know where I'm coming from."
Why do you want people to know where you're coming from?
"So they can respect me for who I am."
Why do you want them to respect you for who you are?
"Because it feels good to be appreciated for being my true self."
Why does that feel good?
"Well, because I think one of the great joys of life is to find people who allow me to feel truly seen and be truly heard."
And why is that important?
"Because, I guess, that's what life is all about. We're all in this together."
Take a look at this question-and-answer path. What started off as a simple question eventually led to an answer rooted in the need for deep belonging and connection with others. It became something much more than surface-level understanding.
This is the reason you must ask yourself questions--and continue to ask yourself questions--until you get to the heart of the issue.
This leads me to another important, vulnerable question you should ask yourself when you're feeling misunderstood...
2. What if Nobody Ever Understands Me?
This question is an example of fear-setting.
It involves getting your deepest and darkest fears out there in front of you so that you can see them for what they are.
And this one is a doozy.
"What if nobody understands me? Ever?"
Let that sink in for a second.
Do you think that's realistic?
In my brain of yesteryear, I did. I thought that no person could ever understand me. As a a child, I felt like an alien from another planet. Turns out, I was just sensitive. Turns out, I hadn't yet found my tribe.
As I got older, I learned valuable skills to get out of my head. I learned to write. I learned to type. I learned to get my thoughts out of my head and down on paper or a computer screen in front of me--and this helped immensely.
Because it allowed me to set my fears in their proper place. I know the same could work for you. Because there's plenty of evidence that writing down your fears can help improve your mental health.
Why Doesn't Anyone Understand Me? Why Does No One Understand Me?
So what's the worst that could happen if no one understands you?
Will every single person stare at you and point at you on the street? Will they call out your name and hold up their index fingers to create an "X" shape and shun you when you go by? Maybe they will laugh at every single word you say! The cacophony of laughter might ring through your entire community!
Now, you can see how ridiculous this fear-setting exercise can get. But it illustrates an important point when you catch yourself thinking, "no one understands me" and THEN do something about that thought.
When you take the time to document your worst fears, 99% of the time you learn that they are unfounded, to say the least.
You'll find that extreme phrases such as "No one cares about me" and "No one cares for me" really don't make much sense at all.
And this brings me to my final question.
3. No One Can Understand Me...But Do I Even Understand Myself?
I bet you saw this one coming.
This question probably could have been asked first.
Because, when it comes down to it, being understood by others starts and ends with self-understanding.
Mental health, as is the case with life, is a continuous loop. Sometimes the loop expands, and sometimes it narrows. But the lessons that you need to learn are always on it, they just take different shapes until you recognize what it is that you need to learn.
And the fastest way to learn those lessons is by asking questions--and then taking action based on the answers that reveal themselves to you.
The more time you spend searching for the answers, the more varied responses you will get.
Eventually, the feedback you receive in your relationships will tell you if you're on the right path.
You'll go from thinking and feeling, "No one can understand me" to "I can understand myself, and that helps people to better understand me."
The Quest to Be Understood - Nobody Understands Me...No More
How Do You Feel Understood?
Imagine you're a pioneer hundreds of years ago. Your task in life is to survive, to roam around, and to make the most of what you have.
For the most part, you're on your own.
You may come across the random person here or there, but, largely, you're exploring the vast landscape before you and in your mind.
Now imagine that you're that same pioneer and traveler, but you're a bit older.
You can't fend for yourself as well as you used to. You need to find others to support you in your journey.
You're still you, but now you need to work with others to survive and get the most out of life.
How might your perspective change?
Most people go through circular journeys of solitude and seeking mixed with community and camaraderie.
One is not necessarily better than the other.
But what happens inside the mind of the pioneer who is used to spending most of her time alone and figuring it out for herself?
She's always going to have her experiences and thoughts to fall back on.
But does her newfound community know that? Do her experiences and thoughts matter to them?
It's a scary idea.
This is the challenge when you're tasked with being part of a group.
When No One Understands You - How much of your own life experiences can you safely share with others?
I struggled with this throughout my teens, into college, and even through most of my adult life.
I thought I could go it alone and figure out the world all by myself. I thought I could be totally self-sufficient.
Because I needed others to help me make sense of what I was experiencing.
And to connect with others, I felt that I needed to put who I was--the Real Me--in the background. I didn't feel good enough, and I didn't feel like people would appreciate my unique take on life.
I felt like a loner, an oddball, a weirdo--you name it.
It was a label I slapped on myself, and feeling lost in life and misunderstood was my reality at the time.
But, over time, it hurt too much to not be myself. It was soul-crushing and zapping my energy in the process.
And so I took the risk to share my innermost thoughts with the world through my writing at first, and then, later, through speaking in front of--and with--groups of people.
What I learned is that we all have a need to be understood. And it's not about the nature of what I was sharing.
It was something else entirely, and this shocked me.
Simply putting myself out there and being vulnerable gave others permission to do the same.
My experiences were unique to me, yes, but they pointed to a reality that we all share: the belief that no can ever know who we truly are.
By talking about my quest, I gave people permission to think deeply and speak openly about theirs.
It was--and is--an indirect way to other people's unique truths.
So when you ask yourself the three questions I listed above, you're not only inquiring for yourself.
You're tapping into something that we all share.
What you choose to share with the world is unique to you, but the process is universal.
The desire to be understood exists within all of us.
It's quite common to doubt yourself and yell, "Why does no one care about me?" or throw your hands in the air and declare, "No one gets me!"
But when you shine a light on who you are, others can choose to step into that light if they wish. They can borrow that light to share their own stories.
Or they can use your courage to create some of their own and switch on their own light at some point in the future.
Your individual experiences are unique, and your choice to share them is yours.
But if you do--and I hope you do--you make it brighter, and therefore, safer, for others to do the same.
To Summarize, Ask These Three Big Questions When You Feel No One Understands You
- Why do I need others to understand me?
- What if no one understands me ever?
- Do I even understand myself?
Ask the questions enough, and then take corresponding action based on what you get.
Trust yourself and learn from both the questions you ask and the actions you take in response to those questions.
The strange part of it all is that the more you ask of life, the more you're going to get.
And others will start to get you.