2 ways I thought my way into unhappiness

As we gain more awareness and knowledge about how we think, feel and behave –and what happens for other people too- we can look back and make more sense of our experiences. I used to take things seriously and as absolute. I can see now that much of my pain came from believing everything I thought was the way things actually were in reality. This, in turn, led to other unhappy experiences, such as feeling isolated. But our thinking isn’t reality. And despite blaming others for isolating me at the time, I can see now that it was down to my own thinking and behaviours that I became isolated. Much of my unhappiness was the result of my misguided interpretation of my experiences. Here are two habits of thinking that I noticed were key in creating unhappiness for me:

Running a ‘victim mentality’

A common thinking pattern was that my life was unfair; like life was out to get me, and it was only me being punished and it was always me. It reflected an attitude of taking everything personally. As if I was the only one with difficult and unhappy experiences, with little consideration for what others were going through. It was self-focused thinking and the result was that I imagined I was worse off than anyone else and had a tougher life.

Looking back, I can see this habit of thinking was an obstacle to being able to effectively deal with stressful situations. I would take pity on myself before, whereas now, I aim to accept whatever it is, and think about what I can do about it. Despairing was more like a self-preservation and defence mechanism which never got anything done. I learnt that treating my life this way, I was putting myself in the position of victim without even realising it. I saw myself at the effect at everyone else’s behaviours and any situation, and I would take it personally. I just didn’t see that I had the power to make a difference at the time. I later realised this was self-inflicting behaviour, and things weren’t always as they seemed. In fact, by seeing myself as the victim in life’s situations, I was actually unintentionally causing situations to play out that way through my own unconscious responses. This mentality and subsequent self-infliction can be summed up by the phrase, “Why is it always me?”

Taking others’ criticism as the truth

Taking what others said about me personally was related to the victim/defeatist mentality that I was running. I took what others said about me very personally because I took it as true statements. However, whilst it seems like I am taking all the responsibility so far, it is important to note that my interpretation of situations –my own thinking- is only part of what I was unaware of. Because other people have their own thinking patterns too!

Oftentimes, people’s behaviour towards you is not a statement on you as a person, but rather a reflection of their relationship with themselves or their own thinking, sometimes giving insight into their own insecurities. Getting curious about what could be going on for others, internally, is a way of not taking what they say about us personally.

Though it may seem like they are attacking us, that is only our side of what is going on; we are often unaware of how the other person is feeling. They could also be running a victim mindset and be thinking the same thing about us, as we are about them. It is not that they have a problem with you; but that they are projecting their insecurities onto us as a defence mechanism instead of facing and accepting them. That’s why it is important to take other people’s unhelpful or hurtful criticisms with a pinch of salt – and at the same time, consider what part we are playing in our interactions with other people.


  • Lewis Gwilt

    Lewis is an introverted person who will happily talk at length about subjects he is deeply interested in. He loves to write and explore words, with a passion for poetry and Hip Hop: its culture; its consciousness; and its music. Lewis has learned to manage feelings of social anxiety, low self-esteem and shyness and feels his experiences have helped him to develop as an individual and discover how best to approach challenging situations. He hopes sharing his experiences will help to empower others to grow in confidence too.

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