Let’s face it, expressing ourselves in an honest and vulnerable way can be a difficult feat for most of us. Especially when revealing to others how we feel when it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
For people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), another layer gets added to the struggles of communicating. Many of those who have BPD share a background of a dismissive, invalidating and abusive childhoods, which only furthers those difficulties with self-expression more. Sometimes that manifests as acting in a way that’s “code” for how they really feel, since it’s not always second-nature to verbally express how they feel.
Perhaps you ghost people in your life who love and care about you to protect yourself from potential rejection or hurt. Maybe you “test” people and hold them to unrealistic standards just so they fail and you can be reassured that you were “right” about them. You might even start fights and lash out as a means to push them away completely.
If this sounds like you, trust us when we say you’re not alone. We asked The Mighty’s BPD community about what the things they do that are code for feeling unloved.
Here’s what they told us:
“I ghost everyone I know for various periods of time because I feel as if they don’t need or want to hear from me anyway. I end up putting myself in a really bad headspace and don’t mean to take it out on those around me, but that’s what happens.” — Susan R.
“I close myself off from people and reply less, or sometimes not at all, to messages from loved ones. This is usually in hopes that my absence will be noticed, and my presence or attention will be fought for. Sometimes, though, it’s because I feel not only that I’m unloved, but undeserving of love, so I avoid being loved as self-punishment.” — Taylor C.
“I don’t talk to or see people outside of work for days. Sometimes weeks. I refuse to return texts. Ignore calls. Don’t return comments on social media. I just cut everyone off.” — Heather C.
“Isolate. Kind of counterproductive but if I feel like I’m not wanted, then I’ll spare others my presence.” — Alexis D.
“Isolating myself is an indicator of when I’m doing poorly. I would rather be alone by my own choice than because I have been rejected, so I push people away and isolate myself before it happens.” — Jessica S.
3. Shutting Down
“I shut down and am not very communicative. I also cannot handle being touched during these times.” — Kerrie W.
“I close up [and] don’t talk to anyone. [I] stay quiet [and] basically try not to breathe. I feel like I’m annoying everyone and I’m unwanted and unworthy. I won’t eat. Just drink water, no candy or sweets, because again, I feel I don’t deserve it.” — Marie L.
4. Picking Fights
“[I] start fights to see if they will leave me.” — Amy C.
“Rage. I get so angry and yell about everything. But really I’m screaming, ‘Please tell me you love me!‘” — Crystal M.
“I will get an attitude and start a fight about anything or nothing at all just to get them to not walk away, or to get some type of attention.” — Brenna B.
5. Throwing Away Sentimental Things
“I will throw away anything and everything to do with the person or people I feel unloved by. Letters, gifts, pictures. All of it.” — Lisa M.
6. Keeping a Guard Up
“I build a wall up so high it’s impossible for anyone to climb over it to get close to me.” — Lydia B.
“I have lived my entire life, not allowing myself to get close to people and when I feel that they are emotionally getting close to me, I push them away.” — Andrea S.
7. Asking for Validation
“I become extremely insecure. Needing validation and over-explanation for every little thing.” — Marissa L.
“I get pouty and start to ask for validation and get super clingy but then I get scared I’m being too clingy and I distance myself and have a melt down and cry until I’m over it.” — Cassy R.
“I do things to ‘test’ how much someone loves me, and once they don’t live up to my impossible standards, I isolate myself and start spiraling until someone notices something is wrong.” — Dakota Z.
“I ask questions like, ‘Would you sleep with her?’ ‘Do you think she’s hot?’ And I’m hoping to hear something affirming I’m the only one he’s interested in. Rarely does this tactic work out.” — Danielle H.
9. Making People Feel Guilty
“Guilt trip. I’ve done it since I started dating and never realized it. I’ve made people feel absolutely horrible about themselves because I’ve emotionally manipulated them to feel so guilty about the way they thought they made me feel.” — Daniella M.
“[I] do things to become a victim in a situation, and lash out on my loved ones.” — Bethany M.
“I cry. A lot. Mainly to other people about the stuff that’s happening in my life… major or minor stressors, it doesn’t matter. I cry to anyone who will listen.” — Mary W.
“Sitting in a room, crying my eyes out because I feel that no one loves me . Sometimes I create situations in my head that aren’t there. And it has consumed my life.” — Amber O.
11. Turning to Substances
“I used to start drinking to numb the pain. I realized I had become an alcoholic and now going to meeting and working the 12 steps! What a horrible way to cope! Have a binder of new coping skills and a lot of support, which I have to constantly remind myself!” — Az A.
“[I] overthink about situations that aren’t happening.” — Jenn L.
“I overthink, then push away, or accuse them of not wanting anything to do with me. Which actually pushes them away.” — Jolene L.
13. Pushing Others Away
“I push/avoid getting close to people in fear of disappointment, heartache and abandonment.” — Mattie G.
“[I] push them away because I feel hurt, then regret it and cry if they don’t stop me. Pull them back close then punish them with lectures for hurting me. Then I feel bad because they don’t look happy so I try to say all kinds of sweet things.” — Elaina R.
14. Overcompensating With Kindness
“Going above and beyond for everyone — even those who aren’t friends, yet rarely getting kindness myself no matter what.” — Christina S.
“Sometimes I become overly generous or go out of my way to do things for others just because I want to feel like a better person.” — Kim A.
15. Ignoring Personal Care
“I’ll stop looking after myself. I won’t shower or eat. I usually start using substances more.” — Lara A.
“I’m so insecure I do everything possible to make myself look ugly. To keep people away. For instance, not showering, exercising, wearing makeup, etc.” — Angela C.
“[I] self-harm, the feelings of abandonment are too much.” — Jen B.
“I start self-harming. When I feel unloved, I feel like it’s my fault.” — Krystal V.
Expressing ourselves isn’t always easy, especially when we fear that the people we trust to keep them safe won’t. Protecting ourselves to keep ourselves from harm’s way is survival and it’s natural to cope this way when you feel threatened. However, if you find yourself struggling with feelings of unworthiness or being unloved, check out the resources below:
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.