I am always rejected by people and I don’t know why

I have done counselling, joined online forums and started courses, but nothing works

PROBLEM: I have gone to counselling, tried speaking to people I felt close with, joined online forums, started courses and pursued different activities but nothing has worked.

I dropped out of school because I had no friends there; lunchtimes were spent in the library or in the bathrooms by myself. I was bullied constantly and my lack of friends only made me a bigger target.

Every time I try to meet people or get to know anyone, I am always rejected and I don’t know why this is. I try everything and nothing works. I’m a grown woman living with my parents, afraid to work or move away from home because of this fear of rejection.

I lived away from home for six years when I went to university. My classmates would organise parties and meals and trips together and would never invite me. I hated my time in college. At this time I was living with an abusive and cheating partner who had a very active social life. He would belittle me because I had no friends.

I eventually left him once I finished my degree and moved back home to my parents. I was determined that I was going to make some friends and live the life I wanted, but it’s been three years and, although I’ve tried, I haven’t connected with a single person.

The only people who have “befriended” me were men who were just looking for something else; when it was made clear to them that nothing would happen between us, they often turned very nasty towards me.

I went to counselling in an attempt to try and figure this out but the counsellor didn’t seem to take me seriously and was often very patronising. I went to her for two years but found her to be no help. I did volunteer work and made efforts with people. I even did part-time courses.

I’m so afraid of socialising now and meeting people. It feels like everything I say or do is wrong or not good enough, as the feedback I get is so negative. I’m tired of being left out all the time and am completely clueless as to what I’ve done. I never fit in and it’s preventing me from living my life.

ADVICE: You are in a very difficult place. It seems that you have tried many things in order to create a better life for yourself, but no major change has happened. You stuck with counselling for two years even though you say it it was patronising, and this tells me that you have the capacity to endure.

I am wondering – just as you are – why all the things you have tried have not reaped any reward for you. You say you have volunteered, done courses, and made lots of effort, yet you find that you are isolated. I wonder if your history of rejection is playing a part here. Could it be that you are sensitive about being ostracised and you move away so that you do not suffer further rejection? Being outside the group is intolerable for human beings, and everything in us pushes us to rejoin, as we are wired that way since our survival depended on it.

The good news is that you still have this motivation for connection and you have not given up on the idea of a social life. I wonder if you could focus on who you like spending time with rather than thinking about what other people are thinking of you. This means that the other person is picking up your admiration or interest rather than your defensiveness or fear.

If you actually admire someone, it makes it very easy for you to offer to help out or support them, and this can be a step towards connection. Some of the people you have relationships with in the past were not good for you, and this might have added to the idea that you are not worth knowing. This is not true.

It seems that it would be very useful for you to have some real feedback from a group of people. I wonder if now is the time to risk this. If you live in Dublin, GAP (Group Analytical Practice, on Abbey Street) runs group therapy; this might offer you some answers.

These groups are voluntary and confidential and run for a long period of time. They might offer you connection and understanding. Around the country, both Grow and Aware run life-skills programmes for people trying to develop their psychological and emotional skills. They are free.

It takes courage to join a group, but you say you are now afraid of socialising and this is no basis for a good life. Sometimes we only act when things get very difficult for us, and if you do not consider yourself worth fighting for, then it is unlikely that others will see worth in you either. Be brave and keep trying.