I know a four-word sentence that has the power to get a negative response out of almost anyone who hears it.
Are you ready for it? Brace yourself, because it might sting a little:
“I don’t like you.”
See? It hurts, doesn’t it?
For years and years, I did anything humanly possible to avoid having those four words directed at me. Believe me, I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve come a long way from being the guy who desperately needed to be liked in order to be happy.
If you’re currently someone who has a desperate need to be liked by others, get comfortable because this blog post is for you.
Recognizing the Problem
As many of you already know, I’m a recovering people-pleaser who used to be incapable of saying “no” to other people.
What you might not know is that I also struggled mightily to overcome my need to be liked by other people.
The key word in that sentence is: Need.
It’s perfectly okay to want to be liked by other people. I will always want to be liked by other people, and I’m sure 99.9% of the people reading this will agree with that too. Given the choice, who in their right mind would rather be disliked than liked?
That’s a no-brainer for me.
But we’re not talking about wanting to be liked.
The problem comes when we need to be liked in order to be happy. Once it becomes a need, we’ll do all sorts of dumb things to fill that bottomless pit of craving acceptance in order to feel whole.
Trust me, I’m speaking from recent experience on this one. Case in point:
When I launched The Positivity Solution, I committed myself to writing about hard-hitting topics that you wouldn’t see on most positivity blogs (e.g., dealing with toxic people, staying in the moment, workplace bullying, developing resiliency, etc.)
I promised myself that I would always write from a place of passion, and I proudly declared that I would never hold anything back.
Well, that commitment didn’t last very long.
Recently, I wrote one of my favorite blog posts ever, called “What You Allow.”
It was an in-your-face, call-to-action type of blog post intended for people who were allowing themselves to be treated a like doormats by others in their lives.
It was well-received…for the most part.
After I posted it, I received angry emails from readers saying that my blog post made them feel guilty, pissed off, or worse. Some people actually unsubscribed from my blog after reading it.
I was crushed. Even worse, my “need to be liked” by everyone made me compound the problem by breaking my commitment to myself.
Specifically, I removed the blog post from my site, and started writing watered-down blog posts in hopes of not upsetting anyone ever again.
Pitiful, right? It actually gets worse.
After I removed that blog post, I noticed a disturbing pattern in other areas of my life.
There was a guy in my neighborhood who would never acknowledge my “hello” or “good morning” attempts. Instead of just dismissing it and letting it go, I became obsessed with getting him to say hello to me. Each time that he ignored me day after day, I felt like a piece of my soul died.
If I gave a presentation to 100 people and 98 of those people absolutely loved it, it barely meant anything. The only people who I would obsess over were the two people who were completely disinterested. A 98% approval rating was the same as a 0% approval rating in my eyes.
If 100% of people didn’t like me, then what was the point?
That’s when it finally hit me.
I needed everyone to like me in order to be happy.
The good news is that I finally recognized the problem.
The bad news is that this was a very serious problem that needed to be dealt with quickly.
The Worst Sacrifice
The saddest part of “needing to be liked” are the countless sacrifices you’ll have to make in the attempt to reach the impossible goal of being universally liked.
Here are some things that I’ve sacrificed in my life:
- In college, I sat in silence as I watched my friends tease and ridicule a girl with Down Syndrome.
- I broke up with a girl who I really liked, solely because my friends didn’t think that she was attractive enough.
- I wrote a long-email to a woman who unsubscribed from my blog, basically begging her to stay and that I would change my blog posts from that point forward.
- I agreed to a free speaking engagement on a Saturday to talk about a topic that I didn’t even care about, and I ended up missing my daughter’s first-ever swim class.
Believe me, there are so many more examples of me sacrificing my dignity, values, and self-respect during my 40+ years on this earth in hopes of being universally liked, but you get the idea.
It didn’t matter if that meant ignoring my values, lying to myself, or pretending to be someone I wasn’t, I would do it. As long as it resulted in me being well-liked by others, it sounded good to me.
But here’s the point that I missed:
What if I didn’t like myself because of it?
Live Your Truth, Always
Let’s be real–Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jesus and many other great people throughout our world’s history never achieved the impossible goal of being universally liked. So what sense does it make for you and I to keep striving toward that goal?
Instead of trying to be universally liked, shouldn’t we be focused on living our truth instead?
What tied these exceptional men and women mentioned above together was that they lived their truth regardless of whether or not everyone liked them.
That’s powerful stuff, and it’s something that all of us can do.
In case you’re wondering, living your truth isn’t about walking around saying, “I don’t give a damn if people like me or not–I’m keeping it real!”, and then use that as an excuse to be an insufferable ass to everyone you meet.
To me, living your truth (or more specifically, your positive truth) is about being real and being kind.
This means rejecting the urge to change who you are based on the company you’re surrounded by on a moment-to-moment basis. Not only is being a “social chameleon” an exhausting way to live, but you won’t succeed in your goal of being well-liked either (actually, it will have the opposite effect.)
So, how did I overcome my need to be liked by everyone? Simple.
By committing to consistently live my truth.
If nothing else, remember this: No matter who you are, you will always (yes, always) have people who don’t like you for whatever reason.
People will dislike you because of how you look, dress, and talk.
People will unsubscribe from your blog, trash your business on Yelp, or fall asleep during your presentations.
People will be repelled by you for reasons you may never know.
I have plenty of people who don’t like me for whatever reason (so do you), and I can’t control that (neither can you.)
Here’s what we can control: Being a better person than we were yesterday, knowing clearly what we value, and living our positive truth.
Every. Single. Day.
Living your truth will always be so much soul-nourishing than chasing your tail in hopes of getting everyone to like you.
Most of all, this quote says it best:
It’s not your job to like me–it’s mine.” -Byron Katie
Since it’s our job, it’s time to get to work.
Do you suffer from a need to be liked? How has that affected your life? Have you been able to kick the habit? If so, how? Jump into the comment section below and make your voice heard!