You feel your sadness, stress, and anxiety taking over you. Your mind is in a whirlpool of thoughts as you struggle to crawl out of this hole. It has been days since you haven’t answered any phone calls from your closest friends. Your parents knock on your door; “we are here for you; talk to us”. Your adolescent self, with built-up frustration, responds, “No one understands me. You just do not ‘get’ it!”. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you feel like nobody understands your bad days, or no one can relate to the problems you go through?
Feeling misunderstood is a frequent cry echoed by individuals across the globe irrespective of external circumstances. This inner critical voice is present in the majority of people. As human beings, our innate desire is to be appreciated, accepted, loved, and most importantly – understood. The feeling of belongingness is present strongly at the age of adolescence when trying to rediscover their identity and place in the universe. Psychology suggests the phenomenon of ‘Personal Fable’, which occurs during this age when the individual thinks they are unique and special with an egocentric perspective. At this vulnerable age, it is common to feel like the centre of attention. It also implies that life is single-handedly treating you uniquely that others do not understand or relate to.
Statements like ‘I know what I am doing, I am in control of my own life”, “You will not understand, you do not know what it feels” are often used by teenagers to make themselves feel powerful and superior. This stems from the egocentrism of the ‘personal fable’. Pioneers in developmental psychology suggest that the ‘personal fable’ empowers individuals with the false belief in grandeur. It also leads to young minds facing inferiority complex, loneliness, and involvement in risk-taking behaviour. The false perception of uniqueness and disconnect with the real world causes cognitive and behavioural difficulties, leaving teenagers to often feel alone and misunderstood.
Imagine this: while going through a hard time, you reach out and share it with a friend. You have to repeat yourself multiple times before feeling a sense of validation. After attempting this pattern numerous times, it leaves you feeling impatient and helpless. On the one hand, ‘personal fable’ commonly takes place during adolescents. On the other hand, the feeling of being misunderstood can also be grounded in reality. An individual may get overwhelmed with day-to-day activities, stresses at school, home, or work causes us to often cry for the need of a good listener. If this emotional outlet is not found, it may lead to deep-seated feelings of resentment and isolation. Here are a few reasons why you might feel misunderstood:
Humour as a defence mechanism. Individuals who may not be in touch with their emotions often respond with humour as their safe space. Joking about your misery may lead to frustration and feeling misunderstood.
Trivialising mental health. People tend to trivialise the intensity of your problems by brushing them under the carpet. Providing perspective in a way that makes you feel small gives rise to infuriating feelings.
Misunderstandings arise from a lack of communication. Although there are times when there are clear communication lines, and the listener still leaves you feeling alone. If you think you are commonly misunderstood, you can try specific alternate ways of reaching out:
Guide people. One of the biggest reasons for misunderstandings is a lack of knowledge, be open and honest in sharing your feelings so that others are empathetic.
You are empowered. Remind yourself that you are authorised, respected, and accepted and surround yourself with people who make you feel the same.
Be in control of your inner voice. Question yourself and your inner voice. Ask yourself questions, “who are the people I can confide in?”, “Why am I feeling misunderstood?” “How can I communicate better to feel validated”?
We must keep in mind that each time an individual feels misunderstood is not due to a ‘personal fable’. It is a genuine phenomenon leaving one to feel isolated and alone. In today’s world, where each one is trying to race ahead of one another, it is essential to take a step back, pause and reflect. Today, go out of your way to be there for someone, reach out to a friend you have not been in touch with. Today, remind your close ones that they are enough, and their feelings are validated. Most importantly, today, be a good listener to make one person feel less alone in our fast-paced world.