Wanting To Be Liked. . .

. . . is a crippling disease. People let others walk all over them at home, at school, at work, among friends, etc. guided by this dangerous and unproductive need.

If you suffer from this illness, I suggest the following remedies:

- realize that you cannot be liked by everybody no matter what you do and how much you sacrifice. Some people won’t like you by default. If you perceive this simple fact of objective reality as tragic or hurtful, you really need to get over yourself. Just think about all the people you don’t like. Does it look like they are suffering as a result of your dislike of them? Or are they, rather, quite happy, rosy, and plump?

- choose a small group of people whom you really want to like you. Make sure everybody in this group really matters and is worth the effort. Then – and this is the most crucial part – establish the lengths you are willing to go to in order to please them. It is useful to write this down. What are the things you are never going to sacrifice to be liked even by these crucially important people? Make a list of such things and reread it on regular occasions.

People keep telling me that my all too methodical approach to interpersonal relationships is cold and even scary. But it works and that’s what matters. Right now I’m seeing a very good person of quite an advanced age being demolished personally and professionally because he can’t get over the need to please everybody in sight. And you know what is the only payback he gets from all this? People lose respect for him and trample on him with glee. Not all people, of course, but enough to make the poor man utterly miserable.

You are not a $100 bill. You are not supposed to be liked by everybody. The only person who really needs to like you is yourself. And everybody else can just go stand outside.

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10 comments on “Wanting To Be Liked. . .

  1. I’ve had to do heavy battle with this issue — not because I’ve wanted to be liked, but because people kept telling me it was the main criterion for succeeding in a job. You need to “win them over”, get them to like you. But how does one do that and still retain integrity, or — in a teaching job — authority? “Give them candy!”

    I really found this didn’t work for me. It was like I kept getting wrecked on the rocks of my inability to gain control through conventional feminine wiles and subtle machinations. The threads I had to weave were too thin for my eyes to see.

    Then along came some apes and said, “The reason for this is you have the wrong gender identity.”

    That sure confirmed my view that the system I had to adapt to was not only coercive but insane. One must develop a mode of behavior that is unsuited to one’s personality, background or experience, and then, if one doesn’t develop it, this is because one is confused about who one is.

    I was expected to believed this, but that is total madness. The opposite was true. I couldn’t adopt a personality that wasn’t my own in order to comply with expectations, and my recognition that this public expectation was founded on a ridiculous gender stereotype was a moment of insight that saved my true self.

    However, there were people who would say anything to get me to stray off-course and end up losing my mind.

    • In a teaching job, especially, the key to being liked by students is not to care at all whether they like you.

      In a professional setting, this is more difficult. I have had one boss a while ago who was a very harsh, tough, aggressive woman. Nobody dared to emit a peep in her presence because she would have cut that down, fast. She was extremely fair, so everybody respected her. And there was also this other boss who truly aimed to please, to make everybody content. He would explain every decision to everybody ad nauseam, trying to avoid looking like a tyrant. As a result, his employees drove him to a nervous breakdown. The employees were really nice people but it was kind of fun to pull his strings and see him jump. Not everybody has the integrity and strength to avoid abusing somebody who lends himself to abuse so easily.

      • I’m actually not somebody who cares at all whether anybody likes me. But I got embroiled in the whole project of getting liked because my father said to me, the moment we arrived as new migrants in Australia: “it is vital to get people here to like you, even if you have to say you really like things that you don’t like”.

        So, I got the message from that that I ought not to say what I thought, but to find other things to say instead. Indeed, he was right in a way, since whenever I spoke without thinking, that is without censoring myself, I walked into trouble. Moralists took deep offence at my identity, in rather the same way they would if I were to profess to be a Zionist right now without fully understanding what the term meant and believing it to be morally neutral.

        So, trying to figure out what I could or couldn’t say and how much I was allowed to be myself, became a real puzzle for me.

        Postmodernism was a severe blight on my thinking processes, too, as it asserts, idealistically, that can be anything one sets one’s mind to be.

        Well, that’s not true. I have a character structure that is suited to being on the peripheries, but not in the mainstream of social life — and certainly not representing norms or conventions, particularly conventions of gender.

        I’m not sure if American schools have more leeway in terms of how gender is allowed to be expressed, but in Australian schools, the female teachers are not allowed to be harsh, tough, or aggressive. They have to represent motherhood.

      • “I’m not sure if American schools have more leeway in terms of how gender is allowed to be expressed, but in Australian schools, the female teachers are not allowed to be harsh, tough, or aggressive. They have to represent motherhood.”

        – Nowadays, reviewers are exhorted not to use words like “nurturing”, “caring” or “helpful” on female academics’ reviews and letters of recommendation because doing so would tank their careers.

      • I wouldn’t be a part of the system now at any cost. The very fact that it is necessary to tell people not to use ridiculous terminology that indicates near-blindness doesn’t reassure me. People see what they want to see. I grow tired of that. The only people who see accurately are those who have not been primed to adopt a particular way of seeing.

      • “The very fact that it is necessary to tell people not to use ridiculous terminology that indicates near-blindness doesn’t reassure me.”

        – Oh, I agree completely that having to explain this to people is evidence of a hugely problematic situation already.

        Thank God, nobody ever expected me to be nurturing. Or I would have had to get very very aggressive with them. :-) :-)

      • I don’t have the remotest maternal instinct in my body. I don’t feel it and I can’t imagine feeling it. Therefore it is hugely discriminatory if people make having such feelings a requirement for doing a particular job.

  2. Just want to say that you are dead right when I was younger I drove myself crazy trying to make everyone happy trying to be all things to all people before realising that it was getting me know where and in the long run I was just hurting myself.

    I don’t think your approach in this instance is cold or at all in fact these are the very codes I try to live my own life by. I’m a kind and polite person by nature (this is just my own personal perception of myself other people’s perception of me maybe be quite different) I have to recognise there are some people out there for whom I will always be a figure of suspicion and it’s not about winning them over to my side or changing them it’s about understanding that for them I’ll just never be the right sort of person and that’s ok because “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not”.

  3. You’re absolutely right. I think wanting to be liked sets in during adolescence when you want to be part of the crowd and unless you can shake it off in adulthood it can become toxic.

    Wanting to be liked can happen in relationships too which is even worse (I speak from experience).

    • “Wanting to be liked can happen in relationships too which is even worse (I speak from experience).”

      – This is why I always suggest a list of things that one is definitely not likely to sacrifice for the sake of the relationship. What will tip the balance and make you end it? Without knowing exactly where one’s boundaries lie, it is impossible to avoid sacrificing too much.

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