It can start with the smallest thing: you make a bad joke at work, forget to text back a friend or say the wrong thing in class and bam — the thoughts start. Suddenly you’re worthless, you’re horrible and everyone hates you.
Or at least, that’s what it feels like.
It might not make sense to “know” everyone in the world hates you because of a small mistake or awkward moment — after all, you don’t hate someone for making a corny joke or accidentally saying the wrong thing. But for some people with anxiety, this feels real. Very real. And once the thoughts start to cycle, it can be hard to pull yourself out.
If you ever feel like this, like your negative thoughts are flying through your brain so fast you can’t even catch one, we understand you can’t just “snap out of it.” But there are some things you can do to talk through your thoughts and (hopefully) lesson the anxiety. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask yourself before concluding everyone hates you.
This list is based on skills you learn in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). For a more in-depth look, this piece on Psych Central and this online CBT course are great resources. This list cannot replace receiving cognitive behavior therapy. Consider it your emergency starter pack.
So everyone in the world hates you? Ask yourself these six questions first:
1. What caused me to feel this way? Can I identify the moment that started this cycle?
Identifying the moment that started your negative thought cycle (making a bad joke, tripping in public) can allow you to pinpoint the scope of what really happened. So yes, although your mind feels like running away and living in isolation for the rest of your life, does what actually happened warrant that response?
Also, it’s just good to know your triggers in case you’re ever in that same situation again.
2. What’s the worst-case scenario? What are other possible scenarios?
In this situation, if the worst-case scenario is “everybody hates you and you die alone” — try to think of other possible outcomes. If you didn’t text your friend back, maybe they’ll be annoyed. Maybe they’ll be worried about you. Maybe they’ve already forgotten about it, and you guys will talk again soon.
3. What evidence do I have to support this worst-case scenario?
Like a detective, examine the facts. Do you have enough real-life proof to support your worst-case scenario? Or is one of the other scenarios you’ve identified more likely true based on what you know?
4. Am I fortunetelling?
In your reaction, are you taking into account things that haven’t happened yet? For example, do you feel like your friend is never going to talk to you again, or has your friend actually stopped talking to you?
5. Am I mind-reading?
Similarly, are you assuming you know how the person feels? Are you predicting what they’re feeling based on facts, or are you guessing how they feel?
6. How would I view this situation if I was an outsider looking in?
Oftentimes (a lot of the time) we’re more compassionate to other people than we are to ourselves. If the situation was flipped — and you were the friend/person you “bothered” or let down — how would you feel? Would you be annoyed? Forgiving? How would you expect someone to react in your situation? This different perspective can help you weed through your emotions and get to the truth.
Everyone probably does’t hate you. You’re going to be OK.
Or as mental health advocate Mark Henick once tweeted at me:
@saraheliztweets Well, some might, but that's ok too
— Mark Henick (@markhenick) January 25, 2017