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 over here.)

Go here 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 SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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  1. I struggle with making friends because I feel like no one wants to talk to me. I feel like I’m not interesting enough or don’t have anything to offer others. My mother criticized me terribly through my childhood into adulthood. I have 5 brothers who picked on me and always made themselves feel better by beating me at everything we did together. I was an excited full of energy child and loved to talk but I was told over and that I talked too much and was picked on by my family. I can remember the feeling of withdrawing and becoming very quiet because I had been beaten down. I felt my family didn’t care or didn’t want to know anything about me. I was extremely quiet and shy. I’ve come a long way since turning 18 and going into the world a very shy and unconfident person. But still struggle with making friends. I would love to make some female friends. I think I have a block making friends with women because my mother was so critical and unpredictable I think deep down I don’t trust women.

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  2. I was bullied when I was in school. When kids are always watching you to see if you fail or looking for something weird about you to make fun of, you’re conditioned to think that everyone is paying attention to you in a negative way. You just want to melt into the background, hope no one notices you, stay away from people all together. My mother was also a perfectionist and wouldn’t let anyone into our house unless she thought it looked perfect. Her belief that we would be judged reinforced my own belief that it was important to present a good outward appearance to avoid being ostracized.A

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  3. I was homeschooled, but went to a big church. Everyone went to the school run by the church except me and a few others. So I always felt left out, especially when new people came and were instantly popular. I had two friends but always felt like they treated me like trash. They were super smart, talented, and outgoing, and I wasn’t. I knew there was somthing wrong with me but didn’t know what, or how to fix it. Your emails have helped a lot, know I know there is nothing wrong with me, and that there are lots of people who feel the same way.

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  4. My mother wasn’t the most affectionate when I was growing up. Her hurtful words would keep me down to such an extent that I believed every word and though others had the same opinions about me. I missed out on childhood friends. It’s just strange and hard to socialize as an adult now.

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  5. I was also a loner in my school years — still am. I’m now in my 60s and nothing has changed. I just recently got on Facebook and no one accepts my Friend Requests and no one answers my messages. It’s like my past has followed me. You can change all you want but if people remember you from the way you were, you don’t stand a chance.

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  6. I was a loner throughout my school years. Not by choice! I couldn’t make small talk and still can’t! So, I’ve given up on the thought of ever having friends. Plus I’m getting older. I had a lot of verbal and physical abuse growing up. And I was adopted at a late age. I had no positive role
    Models or anyone to support and or encourage me. It is what it is!

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  7. I can say that what happened in my childhood has had an effect on where I’m at socially. It is 2 fold. I did get picked on a lot when I was young. Combine that with my parents had a terrible marraige where I got a really distorted view on how relationships should work.

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  8. Three years ago I moved to a gated community where we have a club house, pool and all types of events available. I’ve noticed new people making more friends in a week than I have made in 3 years. As a child I was extremely shy. It seems to be in my genes, but was exacerbated by my mother constantly calling me clumsy, awkward and pretty much worthless. I have attended functions where no one remembers me being there. Even when I’ve made an effort to talk to them. In office meetings I have mentioned solutions to problems, had them adopted and then a co worker is complimented on having suggested it. I feel like the invisible woman. Many of your tips are right on. Wish I had been introduced to this as a teenager. It helps to know I’m not alone. I do realize my natural shyness makes it comfortable to be alone. Having social get togethers at my home freaks me out, unless it’s family and very close friends. I prefer going to someone else’s social get together so I can leave if I’m not comfortable. This does nothing to help me make friends.

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  9. I’ve had extreme social anxiety and lack of self-confidence for most of my life, in part due to all the teasing and bullying I suffered as a kid. I was teased constantly from third through eighth grade as well as at summer camp, which I detested! Some of the bullying was extreme. At camp, kids threw rocks at me and tormented me in numerous ways. After over 40 years, I’m still struggling to come to grips with much of this bullying.

    By the time I went to high school, the bullying and teasing had stopped, for the most part. But this was in part due to my withdrawing from any sort of social activity. At first this felt great, but after a year or so, it began to take its toll on me. I started becoming interested in girls, but it was hopeless for me to try to get a girlfriend or engage in any sort of romantic or sexual activity. As a result, I became extremely depressed. I fantasized a lot about suicide, but fortunately I never made any attempts to end my life.

    My undergraduate years were much better than anything I’d known previously. I made my first friends in college as well as my first girlfriend. For the first time in my life, I was happy. I was still very socially awkward and lacking in self-confidence though.

    Things took a turn for the worse again when I was in graduate school. Once again, I became desperate about finding a romantic or sexual partner. I began fantasizing about suicide again, but I never made any attempts to kill myself. I ended up being hospitalized though and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, for which I have taken medication ever since.

    By my thirties, my life began to improve significantly, though I still had few friends. The few I had were very close friends, though. I never liked superficial friendships or small talk. I ended up with two more romantic relationships, the last of which lasted about ten years.

    Things have continued to improve for me during the past 20 years. Gradually I became much more confident, started feeling much less awkward about meeting people, and started making many more friends. It hasn’t been an easy road though, by any means! One thing that has made it difficult for me is that I have Asperger’s syndrome, which I only first learned about 15 years ago. Nevertheless, now I feel more confident than I ever have before. However, I still feel I have a long way to go.

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  10. I relate to this a lot, school was really rough. I think unfortunately low self-esteem was a self-fulfilling prophesy, since I had low self-esteem for not fitting in but it was this same low self-esteem and the resulting behaviour from it (isolating myself, not contributing in conversations, not standing up for myself, etc.) which encouraged bullies to target me even more and reduce my self-esteem further.

    Problem is, at a young age if your environment doesn’t feel safe and your peers are unsupportive then it’s natural to go inwards and assume that you are the problem. You don’t have the life experience to prove otherwise. Cramming hundreds of kids with different personalities and levels of maturity into the same building and expecting the more sensitive ones to come out unscathed is ridiculous when I think about it. Forcing the quiet kid to sit next to a group of loud, obnoxious people can be traumatising. In the adult world you can largely just walk away from it and protect yourself.

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  11. I feel like this article is one of the most relatable articles I’ve actually read regarding this problem of mine. Like in school eventhough I have quite a few good, reliable friends and a few acquaintances too, I still sometimes find it hard to fully connect with other people in my class because it feels like they’re much closer with each other than they are with me. It’s honestly so annoying because when I want to join the group conversation I get scared that people are going to judge me for what I say and think I’m weird and get excluded. But by doing that I don’t say what I wanted to say and the topic changes which makes me feel even worse because I know I could have joined in but I didn’t and that makes me feel even more isolated which reinforces my first beliefs of inadequacy. It’s a vicious cycle which needs to stop now. For me it’s not initiating conversation through small talk that’s the problem but rather starting the more personal conversations AFTER the small talk. I want people to see me for who I actually am rather than who I used to be but it’s hard when the only thing some people know you as is “the quiet kid” so they don’t bother replying to you anyway. I honestly hate that label so much and now I’m trying to work on my social skills to hopefully become the confident kid that I used to be that people genuinely enjoy being around. Hopefully I succeed for good this time…

    Reply
  12. After reading your E-mail, I had just feel that you are talking about me. All of this, happen to me all the time. I also felt awkward to add my comment. I hope I can get rid of this kind of awkwardness in future. Well, Thank you! Your e-mails help me a lot these days.

    Reply
  13. I can totally relate to all of this. I was socially awkward as a kid and I’m very much an introvert due to social anxieties that stemmed from childhood experiences. People who have taken the time to get to know me, like me very much, but most people don’t take the time and usually misjudge me and any of my actions. It’s difficult.

    Reply
  14. Ur inbox kind make me feel that m not only the one facing this problem..but thanks for the help..
    Even l have a very unique case..I have a very wierd personality..I am so puzzled about myself..I feel now lm lost somewer in myself..from childhood constantly m facing issues with myself..I am good in other things except for socialising with people..my conversation never lasts long with anyone..it always becomes awkward wen l talk to anyone..

    Reply
  15. When i was younger i had lots of friends and close friends .But for some education i took gap of two years and all my friends went ahead of me and now they all are ahead of me and became seniors ,now i am left alone .And now when i started my college i am unable to make any friends,it feels like no one likes me ,My confidence and self-esteem is draining day by day because of this lonliness ,i have no one to talk .

    Reply
  16. I do have good friends. Very close friends, but I can never talk to anyone new. I can’t talk to girls, and I don’t like places with a lot of people since I just tuck myself into a corner and never talk to anybody. I’m so bad at small talk, and I can’t even keep a good conversation going even with my closest friends. So what I try to do is I gain trophies and medals in the hope that in doing so other people would want to be my friend, but now it just feels even more awkward when I talk to people. I thought that when I got older, it would be easier to talk to people, but it just doesn’t and I don’t know why.

    Reply
  17. To be honest, I usually feel somewhat introverted too, but mine is a slightly more unique case. I’m sure some Will see me as liars, but I’m telling the truth and just want to show another way you can become introverted. As a kid, I was always the smartest in class. I got awards and was skilled in sports, and was even taking college courses at 14 years old. I began to feel I had nobody I could truly talk to because everybody would be jealous of my achievements. I know it’s not true and my friends arent jealous, but I can’t talk to people because I’m slightly socially awkward, in the way that I would just rather not talk to people, and I feel like I can never just talk to others and them understand me. Well, thanks for reading.

    Reply
  18. Hi there!
    Thanks for your work. I´ve found it helpful to look at what part of my social anxiety (the feeling that something was wrong with me) was there because something was really wrong with me. Many do not know that social orphans and children of addicts/alcoholics share many characteristics related to what you write about. When I found that out years later I used that information to support some of the socially weaker kids I had as students.
    Cheers

    Reply
  19. I have always felt the exact same way. It hurt to see when someone was new at my school and after weeks they were closer with most people than I was with them after years. I’m currently at university and even though I had close friends at school and still do now, I still feel the exact same way and I always
    instinctively know it’s just me. I just know there has to be something wrong with me and all this is just happening because I am me. I thought I had become better for months but now I still feel exactly like you described it. I wanna change this so badly but I just don’t know how. And honestly I don’t know if I can ever turn this around.

    Reply
  20. I became a bit introverted and quiet for my parents were very outgoing. They had parties for companies at our house on weekends. Very social with neighbors which made me outgoing too but when I starting getting older I felt like running . It felt pushed and I had to do it for my parents . So as an adult I became interverted.

    Reply
    • Thats so interesting, I never knew you could be introverted if you re parents are not. I always thought i was like that because they were too for the most part

      Reply
  21. I remember growing up as a pre-schooler, was very brilliant and as a result, my teachers were fund of me. Fast forward to my basic one, I lost my mom and boom! life happen. At that tender age, I became responsible for my siblings, all the house chores were on me. Due to so many responsibilities, I became withdrawn. My life changed, my dreams were shattered, I lost my friends, my smiles. All that’s in mind all the time was home, what to prepare, what to restock etc. I lived a lonely life and now that we’re all grown, I find it difficult to socialize. But am really trying and Dav here has helped me a lot. I look forward to living out that dream I had as a child and becoming more fulfilled in my career

    Reply
  22. Yes when I was growing up I tended to be more quiet and also picked on .Although that did make me an outsider to a degree. When it was time to hangout in high school I was not popular to be asked out with my other peer group. Nevertheless, as a adult now I have maybe only 1 girlfriend which sometimes makes me feel like a loner .Nevertheless, men tend to like me more and I tend to have more Male friends than women.

    Reply
    • That’s true for me as well.

      Even though I’m often critical of men for monologuing and interrupting and I really value the deep relationships you can have with women, I always seem to like the husbands better and have more in common with them.

      I’ve never understand why I’ve never been well liked by women, especially since I value being a good friend and try my hardest to be loyal, a good listener and an advocate.

      It’s frustrating and lonely.

      Reply
  23. When i was in school in like 5th std i had only 2 best friends others were just like only hii and hello friends. Those two friends meant everything to me i use to talk to them a lot or i can say i use to only talk to them in school. But like when i was in 9th std our friendship broke and we din’t talk to each other ever since. And becoz i use to talk with only those two people i was not able to talk to other people in school i become reserved and shy from that time and also i thought that people think that i dont speak much so they wouldn’t be interested in me and so i started distancing myself from the people but like i want to make some friends but i dont know how to interact…but i am still reading your emails and i guess i can see some improvements in me

    Reply
  24. When I was younger, I had no trouble making friends. I was pretty social and I never felt alone. After some time, though, I started to feel that people didn’t actually like me and that others thought I was annoying. I started distancing myself little by little, and after a while, I became reserved and extremely shy. I have terrible social skills and I find it very difficult to make a real friend now. I jumped into a hole that seems impossible to get out of.

    Reply
    • I feel like it’s much easier to make new friends when you have a few friends. Once you are down to friends, it is an incredibly hard hole to crawl out of. When I’m friendless (it’s happening now and comes and goes), I feel self-conscious and also like I’m being judged and it just makes it so much harder.

      Reply
  25. I remember in school, my first years i was pretty shy, i saw my other colleagues starting to talk to each other and building relationships step by step. I was just standing there alone looking at them and expecting for somebody to just start talking with me. I think this might have been a reason for being bullied in school. There were some people talking to me now and then but i didnt really have the courage to start a conversation with all my classmates, only with some of them with which i would talk more often. Anyways when i got to the 5th grade i felt i was making some progress in building some friendships but then after 6th grade i dont know what happened and i became very introverted, i kinda closed in my own shell and wouldnt talk to anybody, i think my self esteem gone down pretty hard by then. I also felt it was something i couldnt change and just ignored it for all these years. It was only when i saw other guys make new friends so fast and me sitting around them without having the courage to talk to them that i decided to look deep into myself and outside to search for answers. One thing that struck me is that practice is the biggest part of it, even if you re scared you have to do it.

    Reply
  26. Hai David,
    First of all, I need to thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts and how to deal with social anxiety. Yeah even I also felt the same when I was in my school.The worst part was that my class was a very brilliant, vibrant smart class, who were extroverts and bold.I was completely different from them. I am a very silent, shy, not even confident to speak ( not even confident to look at a person’s face). And all of my teachers stared at me in such a way that why was I so strange. Even if they talked they would be very rough and serious to me (I don’t know but that’s how I felt) . That made me feel even more worse. I had completely withdrawn myself from others. Everyone including my parents, relatives, cousins and neighbours treated and looked at me as if I was so strange. This made me so insecure and lonely and I felt I was so worthless

    Reply
  27. My childhood was a true blessing…. A lot of friends, a lot of laughs and happiness, lot of fun.
    Unfortunately that all changed as I hit early teenage years… My social status went down hill fast.
    I was so conscious of this that I went further and further into a shell.
    I would also get a little jealous when people around me were so easily forming new friendships/relationships because that’s what I wanted!!
    To this day I wonder “what went wrong?” “Why didn’t they like me?”
    So yes, personally I think past social experiences come into play.

    Reply
  28. A little, I guess. Because growing up, I wasn’t close to my brothers. We don’t talk often. And I was a very shy kid. And the bad thing was, I was always concerned about what other people would think about me. I was always weary of my surroundings and the people around me. And because I was taught that if I make mistakes, people would judge me and laugh at me. And since I have a very provincial accent, I was always afraid to talk to others. And I always get this feeling that people are not interested in my story, and bore them to death.

    Reply
  29. I always found it difficult to make friends or talk in public as I watched others do this. This made me feel as if I was the only different person and I hated that as I felt it made me miss out on many opportunities I wanted

    Reply

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