Do you ever deny that anything is wrong and insist that you are fine when you are upset or distressed about something or someone’s behaviour? Are you afraid to upset the other person, preferring to be upset yourself? Are you concerned that they will be cross with you? If so, do these concerns lead you to people-pleasing behaviour that ends up in a build-up of bitterness that you feel unable to express?
Failing to share your discontent can result in rumination and resentment that festers below the surface triggering feelings of low self-worth. A common mistake is to believe that the person who has upset you or acted in a way that has caused you to feel upset, knows what they are doing and is ignoring your feelings. The automatic conclusion to this thought may be that you are deemed by them to be unimportant, which only increases any negative feelings.
If withdrawal or sulking is how your feelings ‘leach out’ this will probably be noticed by others eventually, but they may not be aware of what has occurred, or who has done what to prompt your silence or change of mood. If the ‘offender’ is someone with whom you have a close relationship, they may recognise your pattern and ‘know’ that they have done something to upset you, but be unclear what it is. Depending on your relationship with this person they may attempt to discover the cause of your unhappiness, thus providing the attention perceived to be lacking initially. This attention might then boost, temporarily, your perceived level of importance to them; if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t enquire, would they?
This, along with more covert passive-aggressive behaviour (which will be explored in a future article) is manipulative behaviour which rarely delivers the desired outcome long-term. This is because it keeps you in ‘victim status’ and relies on ‘the perpetrator’ noticing that something is wrong and taking steps to put it right. In situations such as these, you are waiting for someone else to make you feel ok and this is a very flawed strategy; you might end up feeling worse if the person doesn’t notice or doesn’t care enough to make the effort to enquire, listen, acknowledge or accept their role in your unhappiness.
Rather than covertly blaming the other person for their misdeed, it is far better and more rewarding to communicate your feelings assertively. This may feel like a very large leap if you are accustomed to keeping quiet and saying you are fine, but it will pay dividends in the self-esteem stakes. Start out with expressing your opinions on non-controversial matters in order to build your confidence and progress to more challenging or emotionally charged topics later. You will need to be brave but the rewards are worth it. If it seems too big a step to take alone, sign up for an assertiveness class or book to see a therapist who can help you to work towards a satisfying and self-assured life.