Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Have You Long Been Unwanted?

Toward improvement and self-acceptance.

Key points

  • People who feel rejected or unwanted may be displaying traits that turn others off, such as bluntness or self-absorption.
  • Assessing one's own personal characteristics and identifying areas of weakness is the first step toward improving them.
  • Conversely, reframing one's traits in a positive light—for example, remembering that directness is sometimes welcome—can promote self-acceptance.
Gan Khoon Lay, Noun Project, Public Domain
Source: Gan Khoon Lay, Noun Project, Public Domain

Have you spent much of your life feeling unwanted, personally and professionally? You’ve probably spent much time trying to figure out why.

So, after just a few questions that might help to unearth new ideas you might want to try, most of this post focuses on how to improve the situation and to come to deserved self-acceptance going forward.


These four questions may help you identify something on which you'd like to improve.

Imagine that a group of people who know you well anonymously answered these true/false questions about you. What would the consensus be? You:

  • usually make other people feel good about themselves
  • are a good conversation partner
  • are diligent enough
  • are competent enough


Do your answers suggest something you’d like to work on? If you're not sure what to work on or how to do it, is there someone you should ask? In the meantime, here are some examples:

Making people feel good about themselves

Let’s say the aforementioned people believe that you often don't make people feel good about themselves, and you want to improve.

A common reason is that you like to show that you're superior by showing off or by playing gotcha with people. For example, you might unnecessarily pointing out their errors or hypocrisy, for example, "You crow about how liberal you are while living in an expensive house rather than living modestly and giving the excess to the poor."

A related way to make someone feel bad is to be too blunt. Let’s say you’ve already tried hard to restrain yourself and be more tactful but to no avail. Sure, you might continue to try to be more measured about when and how blunt to be, for example, ever asking yourself, “Will this make the person feel better or worse about themselves?” But you also might want to accept that people sometimes benefit from that rare soul who is direct: That could benefit them if they are willing to push aside their annoyance at your style and judge you on your ideas' quality.

Of course, many of your listeners will dismiss you for being blunt, but you might legitimately come to self-acceptance by not caring unduly about such people. Also, in that you'll probably always be quite direct, remember that the world is better for having some straight shooters rather than just people who always couch, equivocate, even dissemble. That mindset may allow you to walk the earth with a legitimate basis for feeling better about yourself.

Yet another way that a person can make people feel bad about themselves is by being self-absorbed so other people don't feel cared about. A baby step toward improvement is to get in the habit of asking people about themselves, and not with the tossed-off standard “How are you?” "Fine" "How are You?" Rather, for example, look the person in the eye and, after asking "How are you?" in a caring tone and listening carefully, ask a follow-up, for example, “I’ve been thinking a lot about vaccination. What are you thinking about or doing today?”

Look for opportunities to give earned credit for their idea, their work, their recipe.

Being a better conversation partner

Shy? Shyness has many causes but one possible helper is to learn to embrace rejection. Everyone gets rejected, often, and less-shy people realize they can survive it and/or believe that better-suited people won't reject them.

Keep your utterances under 30 seconds, certainly under a minute. If you don’t have a good sense of how long that is, practice with a timer. And put yourself in the listener’s shoes: Are they likely interested in those details or tangent?

Do your utterances too often seem self-absorbed?

In most two-person conversations, aim to talk a little less than half the time.

If you'd like to have more to talk about, should you read more, perhaps the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today ?

Becoming more diligent

Start with one task that could use more diligence. Do you want to get in the habit of starting it earlier? Doing it more thoroughly?

Becoming more competent

Start with one thing on which you’d like to be more competent: writing, time-management, something technical, whatever. Should you tackle it with self-study, getting feedback, for example, from a coworker or tutor, or by taking a class?

Looking better

Unfortunately, we are a lookist society, but unless you're willing to pay a big price, you might want to devote some attention to your appearance. Of course, the standard advice has legitimacy: Take some care in clothing, hair, and personal hygiene. But let’s take the worst case, the unusual situation in which your face is irretrievably unattractive, at least in terms of society’s norm. A legitimate way to feel better about yourself is to recognize that if, on the substance, you’re a good person, that will be noted by some people, thereby striking a small blow against lookism.

Going solo

Despite all such efforts, if for much of your life, you’ve usually been unwanted, you might reduce your efforts to worm your way into the mainstream's heart and instead, minimize interactions with people unless they or the situation brings out the best in you. For example, you might ask your boss if you could do more solo than team work. In your personal life, spend lots of time in solo activities or with the discerning person(s) with whom you click.

The takeaway

Do you want to try at least one of the aforementioned suggestions for improvement, and/or is it time to focus on self-acceptance?

I read this aloud on YouTube. and expand on it at this YouTube link.