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Why is it that every time someone does/says something positive toward me, I fear that they have ulterior motives?

20 Answers
Last Updated: 04/28/2020 at 12:53pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
Moderated by

Jennifer Patterson, LMFT, ATR-BC

Art Therapist

Life can be messy. Sometimes you need a little support to make your way through it. I love to help guide people through their challenges & to find the beauty in our messes.

Top Rated Answers
April 22nd, 2015 2:33pm
I feel like this sometimes too. For me, it stems from having done the same thing to someone else (I was on the side of having ulterior/different motives, other than just complementing them, such as wanting them to be more open to me physically), but it can also happen when you've had that sort of thing happen in the past. If it happened before, I think it's not totally unreasonable that it would happen again, but then you won't be able to trust people.
April 25th, 2015 8:14pm
When we have established learned behavior/habits they tend to stick with us for a very long time. We must reshape/recondition our thinking that not everyone is out to harm us.
March 18th, 2019 8:54am
I live with depression and when someone pays me a compliment, my mind won't readily accept it. One of depression's superpowers is to convince us that we're worthless by diminishing or even filtering out any positive evidence to the contrary. When evidence that we're not worthless (like a compliment) is presented, depression resolves this dissonance by asserting either the compliment is trivial or the person offering it must have some nefarious motive - or both. This game depression is playing in our mind is known by a cognitive therapy term called Diminishing the Positives. It's a type of thought distortion and it can become so automatic as to be difficult to interrupt and challenge. If you notice a tendency to think that positive moments in your life "don't count" because "I got lucky" or "they said that just to make me feel better", then you understand how this distortion applies to you. Challenging thought distortions with evidence of our worth is a powerful and effective skill against Diminishing the Positives. Now that you're aware of it, you can practice interrupting and challenging the habit of your mind to look for reasons why a compliment shouldn't be trusted or accepted.
December 28th, 2015 12:24am
because you don't believe in yourself, which you should because you are capable of way more than what you are doing now
February 16th, 2015 7:45pm
You may have trust issues. Or just a general fear that everyone is going to end up hurting you in some way.
April 11th, 2015 6:04pm
This could be due to the fact something has happened in your past which makes you think everyone has an ulterior motive- of course, there are many other reasons, but having trust issues often springs from past events.
May 7th, 2015 12:28pm
This is a consequence of low self esteem. You don't believe the compliment, so you think the person could be making fun of you, when that is almost always not the case.
June 17th, 2015 4:11pm
You may have seen someone or you yourself have gone through betrayal where another person has put on a kind exterior but they actually weren't kind at heart.
August 15th, 2016 6:41pm
Trust issues are completely normal, everyone has them at some point, the problem is sometimes they can take over and get in the way of day to day life. The trick is to evaluate the situation, if you are talking to a really close friend or family think about how long you have known them and think about why they would want to do anything to upset you. If you don't know the person very well, then they are clearly not worth getting worried about.
May 8th, 2017 3:45am
I understand what you're saying, I've felt the same way. You feel this way because in the past, someone has used you through flattery/praise. As a result, you're suspicious of anyone who says nice things about you.
November 6th, 2018 5:27pm
if you feel like someone says something positive toward you and don't believe in what they are saying or they have ulterior motives in your mind maybe you don't have a full understanding of that person or persons. i don't know but they could give off vibes that are negative even though they are saying something nice to you. to get past that uneasy feeling you may inquire more information from the person. asking a question to get more understanding of where they are coming from. you may be suffering from a mental condition if it keeps happening every time. it is difficult to make friends if you think there is an ulterior motive involved. you are not alone.
April 24th, 2015 10:04pm
This is most likely to do with your past experiences in life. We learn to react to things in many different ways based on our past and if you find yourself looking for threats and are unable to find any, you'll often fabricate them into existence because you wish to avoid the same pain that you had experienced in the past.
June 18th, 2015 2:28am
Distrust is something that people learn socially. Either through experience or what others have said, we often learn to be wary of kind things because we don't want to get hurt, so we assume the worst of people.
July 20th, 2015 1:27am
Perhaps it would be helpful to look at past relationships. Have there been times when people have made you feel that they were using you in some way? You can also ask yourself why you don't believe someone would have something positive to say about you. More than likely you're a wonderful human being!
January 18th, 2016 10:12pm
You are probably not happy with yourself, so you question everything that people say about you that is positive. This can stem from depression or anxiety. The best treatment is to start to work on yourself and your thought process, so you can become happy with yourself. It will help you see that compliments are just what they are, compliments.
May 23rd, 2016 7:08pm
So many times our negative thoughts get turned inward; So, you may be fearing jealous motives from everyone because you are still struggling with them yourself. Try sending everyone you meet LOVE, first and see how that effects the flow of energy!?!
July 20th, 2016 12:02am
Maybe your past experiences involved being let down after a compliment so it is your natural instinct to fear them.
February 28th, 2017 2:04am
Your brain may have correlated a pattern such as: positive feedback equals they hate me. This can happen a couple of ways: If you have a history of mistrust or emotional abuse, your brain have made an emotional map that points at this feeling of mistrust every time a similar situation arises Your past does not define your future. Similarly, if you have very low self-esteem and do not think you are deserving of these compliments, you may be mistrustful. You are more than what other people think of you, even if they are complimenting you. You have to be your own best-friend first.
May 9th, 2017 8:22pm
This comes down to a lack of trust and love for yourself. I have never been good at accepting compliments, for example, because I have such high standards for myself. Regardless of how well I may do something, I almost always believe I could've done it better, therefore how true could their compliments be? It is an act of humbling to accept compliments. And it is an act of vulnerability and being okay with being vulnerable to trust anyone at all, let alone when they are nice to you. Perhaps you have been wronged in the past that would cause you to have this fear, but vulnerability, though never easy, is ever so necessary and worth it. I encourage you to watch a TEDxTalk called "The Power of Vulnerability." It changed my life.
April 28th, 2020 12:53pm
I find myself doing this exact thing whenever my self-esteem is particularly low. I ask myself, "why would they possibly want to do something nice for me?", or "do they actually mean that compliment or do they think the opposite?" In these cases, I try to work on my self-esteem, first by trying to challenge my thoughts. Instead of thinking "what if they're doing ____ for me because they're just putting up with me?", I try to think, "what if they're doing ____ for me because they genuinely care about me and I am worthy of their care and attention?". It's easy to fall into the trap of doubt, especially when you're not at peace with yourself. In these times, trying to find peace with yourself, reminding yourself that you're worthy of all that positivity that is shown to you, and trusting others to be good to you have been key, at least for me.