What is this strange, sad, desolate need that hides deep within so many of us that drives us to be liked by others?
Why is it that so many of us dedicate huge amounts of our time to worrying about what others think of us?
Why are so many of the decisions we make that precede our actions governed by our desire to impress others?
What causes many of us to do what is popular rather than what is right so as to retain or regain the acceptance of others?
These are some of the questions I’ve asked myself several times over the past few weeks as I have met with a variety of people and listened as they have shared some of their life challenges with me.
And as I listened, I was struck by a common thread that suggested that some of us are willing to sacrifice our own happiness, our dreams and desires in order to be liked and/or accepted by others.
And the question that repeatedly penetrated my thoughts was this one. “Why?”
One of my conversations was with a young man telling me of his struggles to carve out a career for himself in the financial services industry.
He told me that he believes deeply in the value of the services he offers his clients and strongly in the quality of the financial products he sells. And yet, he has not been able to reach any of his own financial goals over the past several years and was at risk of losing both his job and his house.
He told me that he struggled greatly with the notion of closing sales. It is extremely difficult for him to “ask for the order” as he does not want his clients to view him as being “pushy, aggressive, or hard sell.” So his preferred method for trying to close sales is not to try and close them at all but rather to hope that the client will ask him to “write up the order.”
Any salesperson will tell you this is not an optimal sales method. And yet for this young man his need to be “liked” by his clients supersedes his desire to build a successful career.
We have often discussed how we only ever do one thing – we do what is important to us in the moment. And for this young man it seems that it is more important to be liked than it is to survive. To him, starvation was preferable to being disliked or thought of in a negative manner.
So I asked myself “why?”
A few days later I spoke with a lady who talked about the pressure she felt in being obligated to join her colleagues for drinks at the end of the workday each Friday when her preference is to go home to her family.
She told me that she found these outings to be quite unpleasant as the conversation invariably turned to coworkers and managers who were then trashed by those present at the bar. And while she chose to never participate in the trashing of others she also felt the need to attend and be seen as being part of the group. She also feared that if she chose not to attend she would be the subject of the conversation and would be trashed by all of her coworkers.
It was more important to her, in the moment, to be accepted by her colleagues than to be with her family
And so I asked myself “why?”
My next conversation was with a newly promoted supervisor who shared with me that she now wished she had never applied for the promotion.
She told me she had no idea how stressful managing people could be because of the constant need for her to make decisions with the knowledge that in making those decisions some people would be dissatisfied with those decisions and would probably think poorly of her.
She also told me of a conflict situation with two of her employees that required her intervention and that she was delaying putting off doing that because she didn’t want to upset either of them and have either of them be mad at her.
And so I asked myself “why?”
And then just two days ago I listened as a long-time client of mine bemoaned the fact that she had no time for her own life because of the expectations that were constantly placed upon her by members of her family.
Her siblings expected her to be available as a babysitter whenever needed, her parents expected her to drop whatever she was doing anything to attend to their needs when required, and one of her aunts expected her to be always available to drive her to wherever she needed to be taken.
She always met all of these expectations and was now exhausted.
She acknowledged that by so doing she was extremely unhappy in our own life and yet did not want to say no to any of her family members because she felt a sense of obligation to them and did not wish any of them to think ill of her.
It was more important to her to have her family view her as being “a wonderful person” than to have any time for herself.
To avoid any confusion with her story it is important to note that all of her family members are healthy, active and fully capable of meeting their own needs.
So I asked myself “why?”
Why are so many of us willing to lead lives that are completely inauthentic?
Why are we so concerned by what others’ may think of us?
Why are we driven to please others at the expense of our own happiness?
I don’t get it.
I’m not for a moment saying we should dedicate our lives to selfishness and think only of our selves.
I’m not suggesting we should behave in any manner we choose without regard for the impact that may have on others.
I’m not recommending that we dedicate ourselves to deliberately offending others.
What I am saying is this: I believe at our core we would all prefer to be liked rather than disliked but we have absolutely no control over the thoughts, actions and behaviours of others/
I can no more make you like me that I can flap my arms and fly.
I would prefer it if you did like me but this is out of my control.
I don’t think there is much to gain in going out of our way to cause people to dislike us but here’s the truth: some will like us, some won’t. We might want people to like us but it is not healthy to need people to like us.
I think it is important to be ourselves and let the chips (likes) fall where they may.
This does not means we shouldn’t strive to improve, it means, I believe, that our lives will be filled with far more joy and happiness and far less stress and anxiety, if we commit to being true to ourselves and to always strive to being the best we are capable of being – which are two actions fully within our control – and to quit worrying about what others think of us – which is something over which we have zero control.
I never worry about what anyone thinks of me because, frankly, how could anyone possibly not love me.
Till we read again.
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