I spent the formative years of my life worrying about what other people thought of me. So much time was wasted getting ready in the morning so that I would look presentable. So much mental energy was wasted trying to self-monitor to make sure I behaved appropriately. So much of my tears were wasted feeling sad that, despite all of my efforts, there were still people who didn’t like me.</p>
And you know what is the most ironic thing about that? I didn’t even like every person that I was so committed to pleasing. Sure, there is a time and a place for trying to present yourself so that a person will like you. A job interview, for example, is an appropriate place for self-monitoring. But for the most part, trying to gain the approval of others all of the time is pointless.
I think society puts too much pressure on us to appeal to everyone. We are all expected to conform and be agreeable in order to create harmony in society, but being similar isn’t the only way to create harmony — and it definitely isn’t the best one. Greatness is achieved when everyone is focused on being the best person that they can be. Trying to please everyone will only get in your way.
When you try to be a person that will by liked by everyone, you waste a lot of time that can be used for personal growth and development. Imagine what could happen if you spent a day being truly committed to embracing your strange quirks and impulses. You would learn so much about yourself, and you would probably attract many like-minded people. You might lose some friends if you stop self-monitoring, but if they can’t handle your true identity, were they really your friends in the first place?
People will like you for who you are. How can I possibly know for sure? Because there are way too many people on this planet for not a single person to like you for your authentic self. It’s just statistically improbable.
I have a rule now where I only surround myself with people who I like and who like me. Ever since I whittled down my social circle, I have felt free. You end up living more meaningfully when the people who you live with are special to you. Sometimes it stings when I clash with someone, but just because I like them does not in any way mean they were obliged to like me back. It might sound cheesy, but instead of feeling sad that a friendship didn’t work out, I am optimistic that it means I’ll have more time for someone better.
I don’t think that I am alone in having spent many years concerned with what people thought of me. Sadly, I think that I was lucky to realize when I did that I should stop trying to win people’s approval. I see it all the time where grown adults are still trying to be someone that they are not. There is no one type of person that everyone in the world will agree to like because we are all so incredibly different and we all have different tastes. Baskin Robbins sells 31 different flavours of ice cream for a reason.
We are all better than the people we try to be when we try to please others. When I interact with you, I don’t want some watered down version of the person that you are — I want to see your authentic self. If I don’t like it, that’s my problem. But you are the best person that you can be when you are yourself, and nothing else. The person that you try to show me because you want me to like you is going to be a lot less likable than the person that you are trying to hide.
Step one is to find peace in the fact that you won’t like or be liked by everyone. Step two is to still love and embrace even the people you don’t get along with.
If you haven’t already made this realization in your own life, maybe you should consider making it your New Year’s resolution. Take it or leave it… I can handle your disapproval.