You know what they say, “Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean I’m wrong.”
If you wonder, “why do I feel like everyone’s out to get me?” you might be unconsciously putting out certain beliefs into the world. Others might reflect those beliefs about yourself.
So, here’s how to examine what you’re putting out there. Let’s look at how you can change the narrative to one with more positive, productive results.
What You Believe, You Create
I worked with a guy—Kevin—who was in a mid-level sales position. He was frustrated with the way certain situations were going in his department, including a manager who was unclear with expectations. Team members were pitted against one another in a highly competitive environment, which included a lot of passive-aggressive behavior.
Kevin told me, “I’m starting to feel like everyone’s out to get me. I don’t trust anyone in my department, and I don’t know where I stand.”
I posed the questions to Kevin, “Well, have you asked about the intentions? Have you confronted them on it? Did you ask your manager to lay out the expectations in a straight-forward manner?”
“No, because I feel like it’s not going to make a difference. They’ll think I’m an idiot.”
When you go into the situation believing they already think you’re an idiot, chances are high, they will believe it. You see it’s easy to get stuck in what we call a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We all have beliefs about the world and ourselves. As Alfred Adler taught, we carry these unconscious beliefs about who we are and what we expect from the world. These beliefs are ingrained deep in our minds since childhood. In fact, some are established well before we remember the experience that reinforced them. Even if you had a seemingly perfect childhood (which no one truly has), you still carry limiting beliefs about yourself and your abilities. These beliefs are automatically reinforced and validated by the way people interact with you.
As a child, you’re small in a big world. Many activities are a struggle. You can’t read, you aren’t able to do “grown-up” activities, you’re told to be careful and that the world is dangerous.
Even as you grow up and become an adult, you will carry some of these misconceptions about the world. Some people are in denial about the dangers of the world, other people believe the world is highly dangerous. The truth is both views are right and wrong to a certain extent. We end up creating self-fulfilling prophecies that reinforce our beliefs.
How Do We Determine the Reality of the Situation?
So, when we’re in a situation where we’re trying to separate our perception from reality, the key is to carry out what’s called “reality testing.”
Explore your perception of a situation. How do I check this out? What is the intention of the people around me? What did they mean by their comments? What emotions am I feeling? Is this reality or my interpretation of events?
The other important step is to ask. If you’re feeling courageous, explain why you’re asking. Offer up your feelings. “I’m concerned I was misreading your comment, could you clarify?”
As we discuss in our book, “The Heart of the Fight,” there are rules of engagement. Whether engaging with our partner, our boss, our family, or coworkers, we’ll get productive results if all parties follow the rules of engagement. The goal isn’t to avoid conflict or get along all the time (conflict can be productive and bring us even closer). The goal is to communicate openly and honestly, to break down barriers to engagement, so we can better connect with others.
One of the critical rules of engagement is to assume goodwill. You can’t experience a significant connection if you believe the other party is out to get you. In most cases, they aren’t. They’re probably concerned with their situation, not yours.
Another rule is to speak and agree with the truth, always. We must also remember the rule no one gets more than 50% of the blame in any situation and the rule we’re 100% responsible for our own happiness.
If you struggle to believe everyone isn’t out to get you, you may need a therapist or a great coach to help you work through this perception. The reality is, most people are so busy concerning themselves with their own problems, they don’t have time to plot out ways to “get” you.
Turn the Channel on Drama
People LOVE soap operas. The love reality television and over-the-top shows where someone is an evil villain.
In the real world, people are much more nuanced—no one’s all bad or all perfect. People have layers of wants, needs, and different motivations. It’s not nearly as clear-cut as what we see on the screen.
Dramas are so popular because the stories are based on the Drama Triangle. Stephen Karpman, MD, developed this idea over 40 years ago, but it continues to apply today. In the drama triangle, there’s a victim, a bad guy (persecutor), and a rescuer. We get engaged when we see it on the screen because from the outside we know how they can save themselves, turn around their personality, and so on.
Most of us like to identify with the rescuer. We want to look down on the persecutor and save the victim. This identification translates to our real-life drama triangle as well.
When we engage in the drama triangle at work or within our families, we can see the same patterns playing out. One person says something hurtful or critical. One person identifies as the victim and looks to another person to swoop in and soothe their feelings. This reaction creates a cycle of disempowerment and enmeshment that keeps chasing the tail around and around.
Instead, we can choose to disengage from the drama by speaking the truth. Rather than allowing ourselves to step into the role of “victim,” we can state what we want from the situation and request what we need.
When someone else is taking on the victim role, we can empower him or her to speak up rather than rescuing them. Even with the best intentions, rescuers don’t get their own needs met, and they may actually take away the personal power of the victim.
It’s important to remember everyone isn’t out to get you. Stop creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Speak out and express your feelings, speaking the truth always. Don’t engage in the drama cycle. Operate openly and honestly, empowering yourself and those around you.
You will discover you have more power than you may have previously thought.
For more on finding your personal power, visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming More Life Training, where you’ll connect with others on their transformational journey. Don’t miss our special downloadable courses available now at a special introductory price.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.