There is one thing I’ve learned in my life that has helped me more than anything else. It was a hard lesson, but it has inspired in me the ability to be honest with myself and totally open with the people around me.
Sometimes, people just ain’t gonna like me.
I’m a people-pleaser and always have been. I’m fed by appreciation and/or admiration more than anything else. If I go too long without some positive affirmation, I start to feel depressed. Some people call this being an attention whore…I’m OK with that label, except that it implies selling a part of oneself for attention. I am definitely a reformed attention whore – I used to mold my views, my likes and dislikes, my behavior, who I was or, more accurately, who I showed them I was, based on who I was interacting with and what I thought they wanted me to be like, in the hopes they would like me more and therefore give me more attention. I didn’t used to be intellectually honest about my attention-seeking — I would do things just to get attention without either realizing I was doing them for attention, or letting people know that’s why I was doing them.
But since I embraced the fact that no matter what I do, some people would never like me, I no longer feel the need to sell myself for affirmation. Now, I’m just an attention slut. I still need affirmation, but I’m honest about it and have no shame in seeking it. My husband thinks I’m pretty demanding because I’ll say things like, “Hey, I need a compliment at some point today,” or, “Honey, I really need a gift soon.” In reality, I’m not any more demanding than I would be if I didn’t say those things – I’m just more vocal about my needs rather than expecting them to be met without asking or trying to manipulate him into meeting them without me having to say anything.
Don’t confuse my affirmation-seeking with low self-esteem. Anybody who knows me knows I have NO shortage of self-esteem (more like an over-abundance, probably). I don’t need people to tell me I’m smart or attractive because I don’t know I’m smart and attractive (because, hello! I’m totally smart and attractive!)…I need people to tell me I’m smart and attractive because hearing that I’m smart and attractive feels good. It’s one source of electricity to charge my batteries.
I learned two very important things on my journey from whore to slut. One is that somebody giving me a compliment about something I really am is much more valuable and charges those batteries a whole lot more than somebody giving me a compliment about something I was only pretending to be. And two, people in general aren’t all that dumb, and they could usually pick up on the fact that I was faking it…and faking it makes people not like you. In short, my efforts to make people like me were backfiring in more than one way. So I stopped, and voila! Far more people began to like me.
But the simple fact remains – not everybody is going to like me. It’s tempting to turn that very fact into an affirmation of sorts. “Oh, they’re just jealous of me! That’s the only explanation of why somebody wouldn’t like me, because I’m awesome! They just aren’t awesome like me, and that’s why they don’t like me.” Well, that’s nothing more than ego-stroking. I can’t think of a single instance in my life when I didn’t like someone because I was jealous of them. Can you? I’m guessing no. I’m jealous, or at least envious, a fair amount. I have kids and no babysitter, and a Facebook friends list with many world-traveling, movie-starring, beautiful, single (or at least babysitter-having) people. I know all about envy. But never once have I felt that longing for what someone else is or has turn into dislike. So, I’ve stopped trying to kid myself that people not liking me is yet another result of my awesomeness affecting other people’s lives.
So, what is it then? If I’m convinced I’m pretty neat, and I’m honest and open about who I am with people, why would they not like me? Well, I can think of three reasons:
1) They have issues. This is another easy fallback, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t true occasionally. Sometimes, people just like being mean and cranky, or they’re having a bad go of things for awhile, or they don’t have the positive energy inside them to be friendly and find nice things about people. Once in awhile – but not the majority of the time, I don’t think – somebody not liking me is about them, not me.
2) We have inherent personality conflicts. I know of at least one person I just can’t stand. It’s not really anything wrong with either of us…I just don’t like her. She’s true to who she is, I’m true to who I am, and we find each other annoying as hell. You just can’t like everybody. People can be so different, and sometimes even the few common threads you can always find with someone aren’t enough to bridge the chasm of difference.
3) I have flaws. Yes, I said it! It’s true, I really do. And that’s the reason I don’t think it’s always a good idea to just write off people who don’t like me as jealous or wrong. Our perspective of ourselves is so limited — all we can see is what we already see or what we know where to find. That means, to some extent, we need other people to be our mirrors. We certainly shouldn’t let other people’s perceptions of us define us completely, lest we all become attention whores (instead of the much healthier attention sluts). But at the very minimum, it’s always possible that we’re not projecting ourselves as we really are, and giving people a false impression. Or, it’s always possible we have a big fat flaw, that we haven’t realized we have, that’s driving people away from us.
So, to sum up: Love yourself. Be yourself. Don’t be afraid of other people not liking you. But don’t entirely ignore it when you grind somebody’s gears, either. Find a healthy balance of considering others’ view of you against what you know (or believe you know) about yourself. And good luck with that. 😉