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Fear of not being loved/fear of being liked less

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I hope the title is not misleading, but that is the essence of my problem. I am 20 years old now, and have been in one serious relationship - I had insecurity issues about my body in high school, pretty normal ones, but my body is now no longer a source of anxiety for me - in fact, hopefully without sounding arrogant, I don't have any reason to think that my body would be an impediment to a relationship. The problem is characterised by an extremely acute fear of having possibly said or done something to someone that will make them not like me, or like me less.

I find it easier to give examples...

When a girl is attracted to me, and I to her, I find it virtually impossible to make physical contact out of fear that she won't like it or will shoo me off, even though I have every reason to do so and she is giving signals for it - nothing sexual, but like gentle touching. The same for when someone goes in for a hug with me, but when they do I make sure it's not too close and I don't hug too hard because I fear they may not like it. I just cannot hug someone without feeling extremely nervous before and during the hug, and I don't think I have ever hugged someone sincerely - every time I hug someone, the only thought going through my mind is anxiety, fear that I am hugging too closely, too far, etc.

The one serious relationship I had saw no problems, and I think this was because she was older than me and extremely extroverted.

I am currently seeing a girl, we are not really together yet but we're going out. I'm overseas for Uni holidays and every time I look at her facebook profile and see pics of her going out clubbing or whatever, or with other people, my heart sinks and I almost get palpatations. I get extremely anxious and nervous and, most of all, paranoid that she either does not like me anymore or is with someone else even though I have no reason to believe this. Our relationship isn't even that strong yet to warrant such intense feelings of jealousy, or at least that's what I think, but I can't help it. I became so obviously depressed that my parents immediately confronted me and asked what the problem was, but I couldn't tell them and don't think I ever will. Things that usually comfort me in such times, i.e. friends, TV, books, anything - nothing can get rid of that dreadful 'sinking' feeling in the back of my throat. I remember similar past experiences where I would literally not be able to sleep for the whole night because I was paranoid that the girl I liked, liked someone else or did not feel the same way about me. Oftentimes I would be reduced to tears.

Regarding the physical problem, it does not help that the girl in question is quite shy, as I am the one who has to make all the first moves. One example, which is the source of a lot of depression for me occurred when we were sleeping in the same bed. She turned around to me and I leaned over and started kissing her. Then I just stopped after a few seconds and said "alright, I'm really sleepy, good night!" when in reality I wanted to get more intimate with her. She turned back around and I was almost in tears because I had absolutely no idea why I did that, I was so angry at myself. There is like a big brick wall between me and intimacy. And I know the problem is not shyness, or at least not exactly, because I am not a virgin and have been intimate with the girl with whom I had a serious relationship a few years back. I just have this incessant fear that if I make any kind of move, whether it be physical or emotional, it will have the effect of making her like me less or not at all.

The problem for me definitely concerns romantic relationships, but is also present in social ones. Whenever I leave a social setting, any kind of setting whether it be formal or informal, the only thoughts that enter my brain are paranoid thoughts about whether I did or said anything that may have offended anyone, or made them think less of me. I am always worried that I leave a group of people worse off than when I joined them, even though I never have proper reasons to believe it - it is like a subconscious intuition that even though I conducted myself in a friendly, genuine etc. manner, there is still some degree of likelihood that something I said or did offended them. I often hear that problems like mine are to do with low self-esteem, but I don't feel my self-esteem is particularly low. However, and I don't know whether this is a cause or result of the problem, I have had a series of personality crises because I have never been able to find the perfect way to conduct myself, i.e. in a way that won't make people not like me. I say this because I never fear that people won't like me enough, or fear that I need to make them like me more, it is always a fear that they will like me less. In the past I was more extroverted, at one stage I was extremely quiet, now I'm somewhere in between.

I really do not want to be in this position anymore because there is nothing more that I want to do than to have a fulfilling and loving relationship with someone I like, but I don't seem able to do it. The worst is the feeling of powerlessness, that sinking feeling I get when I think there is nothing I can do to make people not think less of me, no matter how hard I try, after I present them with my personality. One word that may sum it up is impotence. The intense desire to act upon my instinct to love people and to feel loved in return, but the sheer inability to do so.

When I return to Australia, I am seriously considering seeing a psychiatrist...no matter how trivial or superficial the problem may seem to someone all I want is for it to be over, so any helpful advice is much appreciated.
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replied June 29th, 2011
Your post was very well written and comforting to me. I am a woman in California with similar phobias, and it made me feel less isolated to know someone else had similar challenges.

I hope you followed through with your plan to see a psychiatrist.

If you care to give an update, your insights will be welcomed! Best regards!
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replied August 29th, 2011
Hi my friend. I dunno if you've recently managed to get over your phobias or whatever and if you'll even read this but if so thats great. Your phobia / fear sounds exactly like one i'm currently managing or not as the case maybe, for about 4 years now.

I started to break it about 3 years ago simply by facing my fears, looking into peoples eyes make physical contact and try being myself in social situations and it works well. The main problem I had was recognising why I felt like that. I was watching the film Good will hunting just now and the scene where robin wiliams tells matt damon he feels he has fear of rejection etc and started to wonder what my fear was. I believe my fear is the fear of not being loved, and without really knowing I try for positive attention in other ways by trying to excel in education or being a good musician or a good artist etc. And I think this fear stems from my childhood not feeling a perticularly loved child by my parents and my brother leaving my house without saying when I was so young.

I think it's a good thing to identify why you are the way you are, and then just accept it, know it, and then try to beat it.

It has to be said, when it comes to feeling like you do in social situations that not everyone may like you. But I cant imagine theres one person in the world who is liked by everybody. That's just a fact, and the reason people may not like you might just be because they see things in you they dont see in themselves.

If you're in bed with a girl and you find you wish you were more intimate try thinking literally outside of yourself whats happening. e.g. 'I'm a boy. In bed with a girl, and she just kissed me. When people kiss that usually means they like each other. People that like each other more than other people often have sex, therefore Ive no reason to fear touching her and doing that.'

I find that rather than trying to please everybody else, theres nothing like pleasing yourself, and youll find that by pleasing yoursef youll make others happy in the process, whether it be by making a bunch of new friends who really want to be around your because your you, or because you do something positive you like that makes others happy.

I hope this helps, and if not, I helped myself in the process of writing it. Best of look in the future overcoming your problem.
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