For a lot of us, one of our greatest fears in life is that other people will cast us out and reject us. We’re afraid that no matter what we do or how hard we try to be likeable, they’ll think badly of us, dislike us, or worse, feel repulsed by us. And while you should never worry too much about what others might think of you, the collective response most people will have towards you speaks a lot about who you are and how you come across to them.
Disgust is defined as a strong sense of aversion towards something we fear might contaminate us or violate us in any way. It’s usually rooted in prejudice and similar negative experiences, and will often manifest as avoidance or outright hostility towards another person. Disgust shares many similarities with hatred, contempt, and dislike, but it shouldn’t be confused for mere disinterest.
So how can you tell when other people are emotionally disgusted by you? Here are 8 telltale signs that can help you figure out if someone is repulsed by you:
1. They keep their distance from you
Physical proximity is a good indicator of another person’s attitudes towards you. How much of their personal space they invite you into can tell you how comfortable they are around you, so when you start to notice the other person always making an effort to keep their distance from you and only you, then it might mean that they find your presence off-putting or unnerving.
2. They give you the cold shoulder
When someone feels disgusted by you, they will most likely not want to talk to you or even be seen with you at all. Sure, they will be civil if you approach them or start a conversation with them, but nothing more. They won’t make any effort to engage, look away when you’re talking, and give curt, dismissive responses, hoping that you’ll get the hint and back off. People who are less polite might even tell you to your face, “I don’t want to talk to you” or just ignore you completely.
3. They’re always in a hurry to leave
Another way you can tell if you are driving people away is by how eager they are to stay and be around you. Do you get the feeling they want to get away from you as fast as they can? Have you noticed them avoiding you or making a hasty exit when they see you? Are they quick to come up with flimsy excuses to leave when you approach them? While all of these things might mean that they’re simply too busy to spend time with you, you shouldn’t rule out the possibility of them feeling repulsed by you, either.
4. They never accept your invitations
Similar to the previous point, the reason why other people don’t accept your invitations isn’t necessarily because they’re disgusted by you – it might be that they’re too busy, otherwise preoccupied, or simply uninterested in the plans you’ve made. On the other hand, if they’re quick to decline every single time and lie or make excuses about why they’re not available, they probably have some sort of problem with you and dislike spending time with you.
5. They pretend to be distracted
Pretending to be distracted is a clear but non-verbal way of communicating to someone that you can’t stand to be around them or interact with them. Usually, when someone is talking to a person they are repulsed by, they will try to look busy with their phone, constantly check their watch, or pretend to have a phone call with somebody else. This is so you will sense that they have somewhere else to be or something else to do and leave them alone.
6. They don’t share personal details
If someone finds you repugnant, they will most likely be very wary towards you and share as little information about themselves as possible. They will give vague answers to even the simplest or most straightforward questions, and they don’t feel comfortable talking to you about personal matters. This is especially telling if this person is usually open and trusting towards others, but very secretive and unforthcoming towards you.
7. Their expression changes when you’re around
Try as we might to seem polite and mask our true feelings towards someone else, sometimes our facial expressions just give us away. It’s particularly hard to conceal our emotions when it comes to displeasure and aversion towards something or someone. Most people scrunch their nose, press their lips, frown, and furrow their eyebrows when they meet someone they detest.
While all these signs don’t always mean that someone is repulsed by you when taken on their own, it becomes more likely that they are the more frequently and consistently that they do it, especially if you have no other possible explanations for their behavior towards you. Consider what you might be doing that is turning people off from you, and assess whether or not it’s something you can or should change about yourself.
The fact that someone is repulsed by you doesn’t really say anything definitive about your character if it’s only a few people who feel this way. It might actually speak more about your relationship with them or how they treat others than who you are as a person. You should also be careful not to misread the situation and let your own anxiety, neuroticism, or insecurity trick you into thinking others are disgusted by you when in truth, they’re not.
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- Eickmeier, K., Hoffman, L., & Banse, R. (2019). The 5-Factor Disgust Scale: Development and Validation of a Comprehensive Measure of Disgust Propensity. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 35(3), 403-413.
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- Yoder, A. M., Widen, S. C., & Russell, J. A. (2016). The word disgust may refer to more than one emotion. Emotion, 16(3), 301-308.
- Miceli, M., & Castelfranchi, C. (2018). Contempt and Disgust: The Emotions of Disrespect. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 48(2),205-229.