I struggle sometimes when I write because I can get lost in an unhelpful circle of doubt. “Will people like this? Should I say that? Should I write it differently? Should I skip it altogether? What if people don’t like it? What if they decide they don’t like me?”
No matter how much we try to tell ourselves that we genuinely do not care what other people think about us, most of us are lying, either to one another or to ourselves. Humans are social creatures and, therefore, most of us relatively well adjusted souls want people to like us. There isn’t anything wrong with that at all.
It can become a problem, though. Like when we end up internalizing it when someone else doesn’t like us – mistakenly believing that we are bad people because one person isn’t a fan. Or when we stop being our authentic selves because we are trying to gain approval. Or when we make the mistake of compromising ourselves in order to maintain the approval of someone else. As Admiral Akbar would tell us, “It’s a trap!”
At some point we all need to learn (and often relearn) that not everyone is going to like us, at that is okay. In fact, it’s actually a great thing, when you think about it. There is so much diversity in humanity that two perfectly fine people very well may end up just not being able to stand one another. It's like when you have two friends who both get along with you fine, but they just cannot find common ground with one another. Sometimes this is because they are too different, sometimes it’s because they are too similar, but most of the time it is because, at the point in their lives where they meet, critical aspects of their personalities are just opposed to one another. That may change over time. People are actually often capable of a great deal of change, if you really pay attention. Then again, it may never change. People actually often also manage to stay largely true to their core being throughout their lives, if you pay attention.
I, personally, don’t usually see much point in holding things against people. All people make mistakes, and those mistakes are often due to a lack of knowing a better way to do things at the time of the mistake. I’ve found that this is most true with regards to interpersonal relationships. I know I have made mistakes and hurt people in my life, and I regret that. I try not to beat myself up about it, though, because that doesn’t improve anything. I’d rather apply my energies to understanding where I went wrong and learning how I might improve in the future. I try not to hold people to higher standards than I hold myself, and I try not to hold myself to impossible standards.
That said, just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you need to, or even should try to, be best buddies with them going forward. In fact, sometimes it is better for everyone involved if you try to limit contact with one another. Forgiving someone is not necessarily equivalent to forgetting something.
Of course, there are some situations where you may want to be able to forgive AND forget but it just isn’t as simple as that. There are people in my life who have hurt me badly enough that the thought of them can cause me stress, sometimes very high levels of stress. (i.e. I have a degree of post-traumatic stress). In these cases, forgiveness is something that you have to practice continually. If you’re very lucky, you don’t have this sort of situation. If you are less lucky, then you do, but you don’t have to interact with them on any regular basis. If you’re very unlucky, these people are part of your life and you have to figure out how to manage that. In those cases, I recommend honesty and a lot of self-care. Set your boundaries and try to enforce them as best as you can. If you need to, extract yourself from the situation. Yes, you risk offending people, but it’s important to remember that they are offending you and that needs to be addressed, by you, in the most effective ways possible at the time.
I have, as usual, digressed a bit, but I think that the things that I have written are valuable enough for EVERYONE to hear that they are worth keeping.
Another thing that we need to learn (or relearn), is that it isn’t any of our business what other people think of us. Honestly, it is not. People have a right to their thoughts and opinions. You don’t need to convince them otherwise or endeavor to show them the errors of their ways. They may not have given you a chance. They may be going through life with false notions about who you are as a person. None of that matters for you, though. Not really. Yes, it is nice when people like us and it is easy to interact with them, but that just won’t always be the case. More importantly, the issue lies with them and their intransigence. If someone fails to get to know you, then they are the ones missing out, and that’s more sad for them than you. If their dislike extends to how they treat you, then it still isn’t your problem. How can that be true? It’s true because you ALWAYS have a right and, really, a responsibility to maintain boundaries. We teach people how to treat us every day, for good or for ill. If someone treats you badly, then you have a right and a responsibility to explain that you find their behavior unacceptable and that you expect it to change immediately. This works best if you explain what you think acceptable behavior from them would look like. If they refuse to behave in an way that you find acceptable, or if you simply cannot endure their presence any longer, either remove yourself from the interaction, or insist that they do (i.e. if they are in your home, office, or anywhere else that is your space).
What you don’t need to do is simply endure poor treatment. You don’t need to behave a certain way, do a certain thing, or accept a certain way of being treated in order to reach the goal of being “nice” or “liked”. I think that both of those things are really quite overrated. I would rather be respected than considered “nice”, and trying to be “liked” has led me into the darkest chapters of my life – a pattern I don’t wish to repeat. I, of course, always try my best to treat others with dignity and respect. I endeavor to be polite. I try to make kindness and empathy cornerstones of my interactions and thoughts. If others perceive that as me being “nice” and “like” me for it, that is their right, but it is important to me that those things are a byproduct of me being who I choose to be rather than an attempt on my part to chase those nebulous words of approval.
One way or another, there will be people that don’t like you. This is just a fact of life. Sometimes it is as simple as a matter of incompatible personalities. Sometimes it is the result of a present or past conflict of some sort (even if that conflict is really more in their head that yours). Sometimes it is because they can’t forgive you. Sometimes it is because forgiving them is an ongoing process for you. Sometimes it is because they disagree with you about something they consider significant. Sometimes it is just because they want to pressure you into behaving in a manner that suits their needs but is contrary to your best interests. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons and to varying degrees, people can just suck.
In the end, all any of us can, or should, do is our best at being what we consider to be the best version of ourselves. Some people will love us for that, but not everyone. Regardless, it is in none of our best interests to let someone else’s opinion stop us from trying our hardest to be true to ourselves. It is better to have someone dislike you than to compromise yourself are to please them.
Happily, when we act like the people we wish to be, then we attract the sort of people who like us for who we are. Those relationships are most often the deepest and most sustainable.
If you’re doing the best you can to be the person you wish to be, then that’s all you can do. If people still dislike you, then that is their business. Some people don’t, or won’t, like you, and that’s okay… you probably wouldn’t really like them anyway.
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Photo Credit: Teresa Fowler