The Desire to Be Liked and Why We Don't Need to Be
By Monica A. Ross, LPC
There’s been somewhat of a lull in my writing and posting lately on social media. It’s that feeling you get when you know you haven’t been to the gym in a while and you need to go—that feeling of muscle atrophy. I can’t remember when the last time it was that I’ve posted on this blog, it just seems like too long.
And now as I glance to my left and look at the timeline, I see that it was July 11th. I guess that’s not so bad. Classes are going well. I’m very much enjoying the material. Sessions with clients are going great. I have someone whom I’m working with on this book publishing idea. All around things are going good barring a couple of minor incidents outside of work.
It’s interesting shifting perspective from the material we’re covering in class, which centers around innovation dynamics and coming up with ideas for starting a socially conscious business, to clinical practice to this blog and then to the book(s) ideas. There’s just a lot going on right now. I love it! But it can be exhausting as well.
Maybe today I’ll write a little bit about the concept of being “liked.” Random topic, I know. I hear it a lot though in my practice, the feeling that it’s important to be liked. I can relate to the impulse in wanting to be liked or accepted or in wanting to fit in. It’s completely relatable, this wanting to feel like we belong. I’ve definitely entered settings where I thought to myself, “I hope they like me.”
But the older I get and maybe the more I realize that it’s impossible to be liked by everyone, the less I care if people like me. There are those walking around today who I know for a fact do not like me, and I’m actually okay with that. I’m okay with it because there are people in the world that I know that I don’t like. And somehow the world goes on despite all that.
My not liking someone else is not a comment on their personhood any more than their not liking me is a comment on mine. We all have inherent worth and dignity and are deserving of respect. But if there comes a moment where I stand up for my values or there is some conflict in personality or there is some injury caused another, for example, I don’t let whether or not I will be liked get in the way of what for me seems like the right thing to do. Sometimes the right thing to do is simply to walk away.
Walking away from a relationship—romantic, familial, professional, or otherwise—is not about passing judgment on others or even holding onto resentment; it’s more about “Do I believe that this person or persons through their actions show me the respect and love that I deserve, or do they not? Do I believe that they will going forward? Will I give them that chance?”
If not, I try not to waste time in proving to anyone that I am deserving of love and respect. But it’s not always easy. Once that trust has been breached and someone casts doubt in someone else’s mind of intentions it’s often hard to go back. And that’s okay too.
Sometimes in life, we feel so disrespected it’s everything we can do to suppress the desire to PROVE. We want to prove to the other person that we are valuable, that we are in some sense worthy, or good, or even right about something. But that worth and value or goodness, for that matter, is not under review.
It never is. And yet some people go about showing disrespect to others without any forethought. It’s not something to take personally. Sometimes, we ourselves are the ones showing disrespect without even realizing it. But by the same token, no one should be made to feel as though they have to tolerate that kind of behavior.
In terms of being right, I’m willing to let that go as well over most things. I might lose the argument over whether or not it was right to speed if I had an important meeting to get to, but I don’t feel the need to argue or convince someone of the things that I know to be true or inherent. Those things are that we all carry inherent dignity, worth, and respect.
We carry value simply as being human beings. These things are true whether or not our spouse cheated on us, whether or not we got the job, whether or not we have been bullied or harassed or sexually assaulted, whether or not our kids are talking to us at the moment, whether or not we got accepted into the academic program, whatever it is.