Were they making fun of me behind my back?

In school, I felt like an outsider.

I saw how others connected and had a great time, while I struggled.

Take the other guys in my class for example. I often worried that they were making fun of me behind my back and it felt like it was them inside and then me outside. (We’ve written an article about how to spot a fake friend from a real friend.)

You also might like to read more about how to deal with someone making fun of you.

One day, a new guy came to class. After a week, he was closer with my classmates than I was after a year.

That “proved it” to me: There’s definitely something wrong with me!

Like I’ve said before, I don’t regret that time, because that’s what formed who I am today.

I just wish I knew this back then:

Just because something is in a certain way, doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

You see, back then everything felt pretty dark to me. I had low self-esteem, so I didn’t believe that I would be able to turn things around.

I had good times, too, and I did have some friends.

It was just that being off socially and seeing others hit it off when I didn’t make me think less of myself.

I had little hopes I would improve.

I could rationally see that practice makes perfect, but it FELT like there was something wrong with me and it FELT like this was how life would be.

Here’s what I’ve learned after all these years: It doesn’t matter what it FEELS like. Sometimes, you just have to do what you know is right even if feels like it won’t work out.

How did your childhood affect your social beliefs today? Did you worry about people making fun of you behind your back? Let me know in the comments!

David Morin is the founder of SocialSelf. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. I was always a very outgoing kid. I loved to talk to people and social situations never brought me discomfort. Once I moved schools in 6th grade, I experienced bullying for the first time. I was distraught and begged my parents to homeschool me. Now, my home life wasn’t the best either. I had parents that tried their best, but we were neglectful of my physical health and emotional needs. Around the ages of 11-14, I acquired a new sense of self. No outward social anxiety, but the constant need to please everyone and the altering of my personality to fit every single situation. I felt unwanted during the most formidable times of my youth, and now closing in on 24, I still struggle with believing that I am enough. But I can attest that there are people that will love you for you and that you are worthy of that love. Don’t change yourself to gain approval, giving up my childhood for people who did not care about me is already one of my biggest regrets.

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  2. I had emotionally unavailable parents, so I grew up with low self-esteem, little confidence, and social anxiety. I’m a senior in hs right now and I still have no friends. I’ve improved a little bit and I can talk to people sort of comfortably, but I have no close connections. it makes me feel lonely because I see lots of people my age having fun while I spend most of my time alone :/

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    • I am 53 yrs old and I still haven’t any real/close friends. I’ve gone through some terrible things that have made me shy away from ppl in general. I’ve tried opening up to ppl a bit in my adulthood, but it doesn’t seem to work. Most ppl in life already have others they’re close to and aren’t looking to make new friends. I spend a lot of time alone, except when my daughter comes to visit or vice versa. I do get lonely for the most part. But at the same time, I don’t want to deal with any drama, ppl talking behind my back, etc., So I just stay to myself. Me and my doggie.

      Reply
  3. I’ve been called a quiet person my whole life. I was recently told that even as a toddler I was quiet. There were a few instances where I was reprimanded for speaking while the teacher is talking.

    I was quite lonely throughout primary school, I would only ever speak to a few people until I got to grade 4. Then things started to kick up a little, I met an extraverted friend and then I was a part of a friend group. I had no shame or feeling of being left out.

    Soon came to high school and everything was so chaotic. People moved around a lot in the first few years, but I was never told when they moved or where they moved. It seemed to irritate some people so much that they would purposefully try to keep the group at a stable number of people.

    When another movement occurred in grade 9, I was not allowed to join. I thought it was because of my hairstyle, so I changed it and made a promise to myself that I would never go back there again (they even said to never come back).

    I was left on my own every once in a while because I only had one friend. So if they weren’t present I was alone. One day, things changed.

    I was encouraged to rejoin the group, by that friend. I was reluctant at first, but eventually gave in and went back to those who offended me so much in the first place.

    Throughout the next three years, I was hardly ever in the inner circle of conversation. People would block me out and so I can’t even see who is speaking. They were the only people I would hang out with in the breaks, but it wrecked me constantly being ignored and forgotten about.

    I’m currently beyond high school, yet I am still seeing the same kind of exclusive behavior. Sometimes I wonder if people ever change from the people they were shaped into by childhood. It just seems as though most people retain an adult form of their childhood.

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  4. I have been affected by social anxiety my entire life. It was so bad in high school, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I missed my prom and I constantly struggled with self-doubt and self-esteem to the point where I didn’t walk for my college graduation. I missed parties and social outings I was invited to because I feared I would create an awkward situation. I’m close to fifty years old and I wake up every morning to a tidal wave of regret because of all the social connections I could have made. Just yesterday my daughter’s boyfriend’s parents came over for a cookout. I was so terrified to talk to them that I didn’t say anything to them and stayed inside my house. I wonder if suicide is the best way out of this. I’ve become sick from the regret and how it controls my life.

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    • Thanks Chad, your story reflects mine and I’m guessing a million others. I’m 47 and thought I’d have things sorted out by now, but nope, still the same old me, stumbling through and stuffing up frequently (and beating the hell out of myself for every wrong step I’ve ever made!) I read a quote recently that I need to have in the front of my mind “The optimist invented the aeroplane, the pessimist invented the parachute” Everyone has their place in this world and performs a role – imagine if I took myself off this mortal coil, my wife and boys would be scarred forever for nothing. Nobody gains, everybody loses. Hang in there brother, being shy is not a failure and being quiet is not a weakness. These things I need to remember when I’m on the brink of throwing in the towel.

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    • Hello Chad,
      You are not alone on this train. There are quite a number of us. The realization that you know what the problem is, is a step in the right direction. You must BANISH all negative and self-defeating thoughts. Try using positive affirmations. They work great on me. I use them as alarm labels on my phone so each time my alarm rings, the affirmation shows and I am reminded of my self-worth. I do this as many times as I care to be reminded in the course of the day. Chad, you are ENOUGH!

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  5. When I was in high school I had a best friend I will say she is j and we had another very close best friend, I will call her C. I believe C left her notebook in my car. I curiously page through it, maybe to figure out who it was. But what I found changed my path forever. The two had written notes back and forth planning to banish me from our group. We were part of a group of girls called the great 8. We had some great times by senior year we all but a couple had boyfriends and jobs and went our own way. But reading this broke my heart in pieces that will never come back I’m 58 and still have no friends. My boyfriend now-husband is my best friend. I have children and grandchildren that I love I just close up around people that I should consider friends, I don’t let them know me.

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  6. I’ve always wanted people to like me more, not long ago I was going to church in the morning and I saw my cousins, usually, my cousins would come and sit with me since I always sit alone in my row, but that day, they saw me but didn’t come to my row to sit with me. They ignored me. Even After church, they ran off with speed as if they were avoiding me. I felt broken since they were one of the few friends I made in my school. This has happened to me many times in my childhood too, I didn’t know what I did wrong, and ever since that time I decided “I AM A LOSER, NO ONE LIKES ME, THEY ALL HATE ME”.

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  7. I often felt judged by everything as a child. I used to play the piano when I was young, but I didn’t actually enjoy it. I did try to tell my parents it’s not a hobby I enjoy, but they will just say that I can’t see it’s something that will be really useful in my future. I continued to play it but I did it just under the pressure of my parents. Similarly, when I was choosing subjects to study in university, I wanted to do psychology so bad as I was always interested in how people think and human behavior etc, people might think that I get to choose what I want as I’m already an adult but no, my parents did not like it as they wanted me to do something professional like accounting. I could have easily done what I want but without receiving the support of my parents I feel really upset. I wasn’t that strong before and I could be overwhelmed with pressure easily. Looking back now I feel like I could have stood up for myself more, and I’m still working on it now.

    Reply
  8. Sometimes my social awkwardness triggers some suicidal thoughts. I have always been very awkward and shy. My close relatives change their tone and expression when they talk to me. I become more awkward on family gatherings. But I am good at meeting and greeting new people and very less awkward there. But I don’t know how to maintain the newfound relationship and eventually lose connection with them.
    PS: I daily check my inbox for your mail. I find this gesture of yours so heartwarming. Please continue your efforts as it is a ray of hope for many like us.

    Reply
    • Hema, I experience the same thing with my relatives. Change of tone when they talk to me. It’s truly disheartening. Makes me not want to have anything to do with them anymore. So much so that I packed up, sold my home, and moved down south to be closer to my daughter. Part of me would like some of them to come to visit. But the other part of me could care less if they did. Take care

      Reply
  9. “Why don’t people like me”? This is what goes through my head every weekend after church. I don’t feel nervous about conversing with people. I try to engage with asking questions about themselves and limit freaking about myself too much and I avoid being negative. I try to start conversations and people seem so uninterested and then I start to thinking “why do I even bother, people suck because they are only concerned about themselves”. It seems when I make a new friend and exchange numbers, that’s when I get nervous because they text me so much and I really don’t know how to respond. I start to feel like I’m really boring and something is wrong with me because I don’t know what to say so I just try to be nice as possible. I hear people with their funny comebacks and I just don’t have that quality. Plus I don’t have much to say really. I use to be very outgoing and could talk all day but now that I’m older, I just really don’t feel the need to be talking all the time. I really dislike texting and prefer face to face and I feel that scares people off too. I don’t know what’s going on but I’m glad I found this group and look forward to reading the emails from David and see some positive changes.

    Reply
  10. During my child years my mom would often say “kids are to be seen and not heard”, so I took this quite literally. Cutting myself off from anyone because I was scared that she would be angry with me. Even now, in my teenage years, I have a big problem with expressing myself, despite the fact that she told me not care what others thought about me, all the while she was judging me constantly. I’m always worried about what people think and what they’re saying about me. I only have two friends who I don’t trust fully after knowing them for a good few months. She raised me to independent and courageous, but it seems to have blown in both of our faces.

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    • I have the same situation. I think moms don’t realize that the small phrases they say to us can stick with us for years. I’ve always been socially awkward because my mom always told me not to trust anyone and I rarely went out. That sentence is the reason I find it difficult to confide in my 9-year long friendship with someone. It’s the reason I never truly made any close friends. Honestly, I feel like we need to ignore our parents ‘advice’ sometimes because it can really affect you in the long run (unless it’s actually good advice hehe). I wish you all the best though =)

      Reply
  11. I had no friends at all because of a skin condition that scared others to get it from me. This made me think I am an extra in this world and taking my life off would be better for me.

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  12. I had a lot of friends in childhood through college, but I always felt that I got lucky by being “picked” by charismatic people and was not worthy of or good at making friends on my own merits. I just moved across the country after graduating college and am newly single, and I feel like these beliefs from my childhood are making me feel pessimistic about my ability to make friends.

    Reply
  13. I am not sure how I ended up receiving mail from you but there is so much of me in your comments, I totally relate to a lot of what you write about, you make my day and lift me up. Thank you. Linda

    Reply
  14. my childhood was full of others making fun of me. This caused me to put up walls and to always hold people at arm’s length. I’m trying to change this, but I don’t quite know how to trust. It seems every time I do let my guard down and trust someone they take advantage of me and end up hurting me. Apparently, I have issues.

    Reply
  15. Hey David, I feel like I can make good conversation I have many times in the past but, there are some days I get lost with everything and I don’t speak much. I think it’s a lack of confidence.

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    • Same here… I could be very confident communicating with people the one day, and don’t have much to say to them the next day, it’s like all the bravado (confidence) from the previous day has left me, and even stumble over my words, you’re not alone.

      Reply
  16. I was considerably older than most people at work, especially when I started working there. My wife and I had split up 8 years earlier, so I arrived at my new job (in a new small town) single and unacquainted with anyone. I also find the town in which I live to be unusually unfriendly, but that could be because of me too (I’m not sure). However, the one thing that concerned me was fighting the notion with many people in our office that I’m gay. I’m definitely not gay (just single), nor do I have any desire to be gay…but because our office (like all offices really) are gossip factories I was a bit concerned that this is how many people regarded me…which is NOT a good thing in a small town where rumor and gossip are rampant. All of which makes it more than difficult to meet new people for sure.

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  17. hello David, I knew people were not making fun of me behind my back because I am very observant and I would have easily found out if they were. there is no such thing as behind my back. I just can’t bear with other people’s differences. I mean it.

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  18. Thanks a lot for your emails David, the scenarios you use are really relatable which is a big part of what makes them helpful and inspirational.
    I feel like I’m pretty good at small talk and self-confidence and all that but only when I’m around close friends and considering how difficult I find it to introduce myself to new people sometimes, I don’t really have many of them but you’ve inspired me to open up a lot more to new people.

    Reply
  19. I am about to reach 40 and I have almost lost all my friends. I am not good on small talks and always struggle to find what I should talk. I am scared of situation with I and some other person is left in room. With more person, at least I am give sometime fake smile to just pretend that I am part of their conversation, but internally I know they ignore me. Sometime I try to say something, but mostly it is ignore and then, I am back with more fake smiles.
    Anyway, All of mail from David email campaign touches me so much that it fells like it has been written about me & for me. Thanks David. It is like you know me, something I can not even mention or describe to my most close person also. Thanks again.

    Reply

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