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How do I stop thinking people feel sorry for me?


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As a brief history, I'm 33 years old and until April 2019 had been with my wife since we were both 18. We've been separated since then. We have a five-year-old daughter together and at this point have worked out most details of our future co-parenting lives together. We are not acrimonious, don't have lawyers, have come to a reasonable custody arrangement. We are basically just waiting for the coronavirus pandemic to pass so we can make our divorce official.

 

I'm posting in this forum because I'm mainly concerned with my own personal "feelings" and "healing" process. My wife was mean to me. There is no other way to say it. She is a good person and a good mother but was highly critical of me. She made me feel like I was not a "real man" and that I could never measure up. She couched a lot of her meanness in jokes, but made me feel like no one else could ever want me, that I was lucky she chose me. I had never known adult life without her, so I came to believe her. I lost touch with a lot of my passions and forgot who I was. I was sad and beaten down. Looking back, I've come to see our relationship as an emotionally abusive one. It's hard to admit that as a "man." I've been told by multiple people that they're glad I've gotten out of the marriage. They tell me to "spread my wings" and find out who I really am when I'm not stuck in a bad relationship. I've done that in large part. I've reconnected with my interests and discovered a lot about myself, both as a parent and a single adult. I've made a few new friends and gotten in touch with old ones.

 

I just can't shake the feeling, though, that people are nice to me and encouraging because they feel sorry for me. That they feel I'm a pathetic wreck and they'll throw me a bone so I don't jump off a bridge. Typing that out, I realize how ridiculous it sounds. People have told me that I have emotional depth, that I'm creative and intelligent, that I deserve a woman who can really appreciate me and make me happy. But still, there's that little voice saying, "No one really likes you. You're not good enough." It was loud enough that I went on one date with a woman who turned out to REALLY like me and I cut it off, because I was scared to move forward. I know my therapist would call these thoughts cognitive distortions. There is no reason to believe that people would lie to me just to make me feel good. But I can't shake it. I've found these forums very helpful over the years. Does anyone have any thoughts?

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Please continue with therapy. You're still hearing your ex wife's voice inside your head telling you you're inadequate.

 

You're not. She was wrong. But working to get her words out of your head with a therapist is an excellent idea.

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Don't fixate and preoccupy yourself with imagining other people's pity upon you because it doesn't exist. People are very busy with their own priorities to care about you regarding pitiful thoughts about you. Don't care what other people think and don't bother because they don't bother to think about you in that much pity depth.

 

Since you're scared to move forward and develop commitments with a woman, give yourself a break from the dating world. Regroup yourself. Continue your professional therapy. Don't rush into dating and relationships because you are not ready.

 

When you're ready, don't be scared because you'll never know if she is "thee one" unless you give a new budding relationship a chance. You have to take calculated risks in order to be happy.

 

In the meantime, do some soul searching and take good care of yourself. You are too insecure at the moment which does not make for a conducive relationship. Work on yourself first before delving into dating and flaking out on a woman again.

 

Take your time. Don't rush. Work on YOU first.

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What’s wrong with people feeling sorry for you?

That’s just empathy.

I feel sorry for you but that doesn’t mean I think anything negative about you.

In fact most of what you have done for the past year has been very positive.

 

Allow people to help you.

 

In saying that the people you do not want to feel sorry for you are potential dates / romantic interests.

That would be a recipe for disaster.

So don’t enter the dating world until you realise it’s ok for people you know to feel empathy towards you and your situation.

 

Good luck, you are doing great!

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Dr Phil says something to the effect of - if you knew how little time people spend thinking about you, you'd be shocked.

 

People are too busy with themselves to spend time worrying or wondering about the other guy. Please keep on with your therapy.

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“I’m not much, but I’m all *I* think about”

 

-Skeptic76

 

Haha that’s actually not mine but I have no idea who to credit it to, I’ve heard it a bunch over the years and it always cracks me up.

 

You sir, wrote my story out in your post. No kidding, if I signed my name at the bottom of your post and showed it to my closest friends and family they’d all have no doubt this was written by me six years ago.

 

The number one thing you need to do is already done: that’s just becoming aware that there is a disconnect between your inner narrative and what’s really going on. The awareness is enough, now just mentally notice that story every time you start telling it to yourself. Just pay attention and observe it, that’s all you need to do! The light of consciousness will dissolve it quick enough.

 

In the meantime, if you want higher self-esteem then make it a point to do esteemable acts. Focus on your character and do even the smallest tasks with integrity. Move the laundry basket over and vacuum underneath, let people over in the lane ahead of you, volunteer at a food bank (they all need help really desperately rn,) floss daily. Do the right thing, the kind thing...as often as you can.

 

Make it a point to love yourself. Eat totally clean and healthy at least one meal a day...nourish your body. Spend 20 minutes a day doing push ups and sit ups until the gym opens up and get/stay ripped. When you mess up don’t beat yourself up...chalk it up to being human and don’t take yourself so damn seriously.

 

You are already evolving away from the lie that you were living into an incredibly strong force of nature & freedom and there’s no turning back now. Congratulations!

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That they feel I'm a pathetic wreck and they'll throw me a bone so I don't jump off a bridge. Typing that out, I realize how ridiculous it sounds.

 

I'm glad that typing that out helped you to see how ridiculous that is.

 

These are your thoughts, not theirs. You are feeling bad about the relationship that just ended.

 

Yes, your friends and family are probably sympathetic. Yes, they probably felt that you could have done better. But believe me, they are wrapped up in the mundane details of their own lives and are not dwelling on your relationship with the same attention to detail that you are.

 

Are you still in therapy? I've always found it helpful to write these feelings out in detail, or talk through them with a good therapist.

 

But still, there's that little voice saying, "No one really likes you. You're not good enough." It was loud enough that I went on one date with a woman who turned out to REALLY like me and I cut it off, because I was scared to move forward.

 

Your feelings are particularly strong right now, mainly because you are recently out of a very long relationship. You are still raw, and these feelings will continue to interfere with new relationships for a while.

 

It's going to take time for you to heal fully and get back on your feet. But it will happen.

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You are correct that your marriage was emotionally abusive and what you are feeling now are essentially like aftershocks. People are being kind to you, caring about you, but due to the abuse, you can't trust or accept that at face value. Your mind is looking for some kind of hidden negativity that's not actually there. The important part is that writing it out made you aware that this mindset is not right and, as another poster said, being conscious and aware of what's going is your road to healing. Any time these toxic thoughts pop up, you have the capacity to either shut them down or change the narrative.

 

Please don't try to date while you are working this out. People who've been in abusive relationships tend to end up with more abusive partners if they don't take the time to get clear of all that and to fix their picker. If it helps to write here, do it. If you like, you might want to peruse some self help books, or pursue some therapy to help heal and move along faster. The critic in your head isn't your own, it's still your ex wife and her toxic drip. It takes awhile and some concentrated effort to get clear of that. Being conscious of what is going on is key.

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Sorry to hear this. therapy would work wonders to unpack and sort all this out. People who hear victim stories tend to respond with pity and that often exacerbates things. Especially if you are confiding in women you are meeting, talking to, dating, etc., you are going to hear about what you "deserve".

I've been told by multiple people that they're glad I've gotten out of the marriage.

I just can't shake the feeling, though, that people are nice to me and encouraging because they feel sorry for me. That they feel I'm a pathetic wreck and they'll throw me a bone so I don't jump off a bridge.

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Hi all, thank you for the thoughtful responses. I should clarify that I don't think people are sitting around ruminating on my life. I mean I tend to overthink interactions. For example, post-separation, I've reconnected with a female friend from college (she's married). She'll send me pictures sometimes, or we'll talk about music or random articles. Of course she knows the details of my situation, but my tendency to see everything in a "worst-case" light leads me to believe that she's just interacting with me because she knows that I'm alone and takes pity on me. The fact is that I'm VERY happy alone (much more so than I ever was in my marriage) and I think my attitude and statements generally reflect that. But one of my worst fears is someone seeing me as just that pathetic divorced guy who they have to put up with occasionally. I feel like my life is basically the opposite of that. I own my house (which I keep tidy), I cook my own meals, I know what I love and actively pursue my passions. I am a great father to my daughter. If I could look at me from the outside, I'd probably say, "Wow, that guy is doing damn well considering what he's been through." But I'm way harder on myself than anyone else would be.

 

To expand on it a bit further, I feel like a lot of this cognitive turmoil goes back to being gas lit toward the end of our marriage. I consider myself a fairly perceptive and intuitive person and I KNEW that something was wrong, specifically that my wife had feelings for someone at work. I spent many months trying to convince myself that I was crazy. I even told my therapist I thought I had OCD, because I could not get these thoughts out of my head. Eventually, I found out that I had been right all along and it was of course crushing. That's just the tail end of the gas lighting, but it had been going on for years. So now, it's harder for me to say, "Oh, you're just being silly...that's just a cognitive distortion talking. That could never happen," because something that I tried hard to believe WAS crazy turned out to be reality. Now there's always this tug of war between trusting myself and my intuitions vs. disregarding whatever crazy thoughts might pop up. Does this make sense? Although I've made a lot of progress, I'm still learning how to trust myself because my identity and reality was always so bound up with what my wife told me.

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I like the way you think, are thinking through all this.

 

Thumbnail sketch here, from what I see? You are still, in the grand scheme of things, just a few minutes removed from one life and a few minutes into a new one. That is a lot of things, including exciting, but it's also destabilizing, transitional, tough. Think of it as a shedding one husk without totally inhabiting the new husk, so there are some nerve endings exposed. These thorny thoughts? That's just those nerve endings being struck a bit. Honestly, it would be weirder if you were on here saying you didn't feel a thing.

 

Thing about people? Even the best of them tend to be pretty focused on one thing: themselves and their story, not yours or mine. Like you, they're just out there, getting through the day, eating this on Wednesday, swiping right on Friday, chasing whatever they think they need to feel good and alive in their own husk. The more you settle into yours—which, by the way, sounds like a lovely one!—the less you'll be caught up in creating you-centric internal monologues in the minds of others. Inhale, exhale, keep stepping in the same direction. Wobbles are allowed, even needed.

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So now, it's harder for me to say, "Oh, you're just being silly...that's just a cognitive distortion talking. That could never happen," because something that I tried hard to believe WAS crazy turned out to be reality. Now there's always this tug of war between trusting myself and my intuitions vs. disregarding whatever crazy thoughts might pop up. Does this make sense? Although I've made a lot of progress, I'm still learning how to trust myself because my identity and reality was always so bound up with what my wife told me.

 

That's how I get when I have anxiety about something. It's a self-reinforcing loop, and it infects seemingly unrelated areas of my life. I have often watched it run its course, thinking, "This is ridiculous!!" while simultaneously unable to stop my mind from running rampant.

 

It will eventually fade over time, and you will learn to trust yourself again. You are still getting your life in order.

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Always trust your gut/instincts. Everyone who has a cheater on their hands is in denial at first. Cheating usually comes with a host of lies and obvious incongruousness.

I KNEW that something was wrong, specifically that my wife had feelings for someone at work. I spent many months trying to convince myself that I was crazy.
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