On Being Liked

I’ve started a new chapter in my life. In my situation, that’s meant I’m in an environment with people who have passions that are similar with my own but who have by and large very different life experiences than I. In previous environments, I’ve met more people with similar experiences to my own, but different passions. In either situation, there’s the process of finding common ground; in both, I’ve experienced mild insecurity that people won’t like me. I think it’s a pretty common worry, even if it is in the back of ones mind. I think in part we worry about this, because being liked seems to make us feel more valued.  

So, sometimes people don’t like you. 

One popular reaction to that I find really interesting. Namely, I’ve often heard the proper response to that situation is to not care. Don’t care if people don’t like you. Live your life, do what you need to do; do you, let me do mine. You ought to value yourself above all the opinions of others.

The motivation for that way of handling this sort of situation is easy enough to see. If you care about what everyone thinks of you, you’ll never do anything right. So stop caring, and you’ll at least do some things right. 

However there seems to be something dismissive, even dangerous, about that way of thinking. There are instances where we probably should care that people don’t like you (like if your decisions are causing harm). 

I think there’s a different way of dealing with this situation, at least personally I find to be more constructive. As an aside I should say, it’s not that anyone has openly disliked me recently, but this is a way I handle any mild anxieties I might have about being disliked. Anyway, I think it’s fine to admit it’s unpleasant that someone doesn’t like you, because it is. Due to that, it’s fine to say you care a little. However, the important point is that their liking you or not shouldn’t validate your sense of value as a person. This doesn’t mean that no one shouldn’t validate you. I think as people, we naturally are validated to some extent by the approval/disproval of others. The important point is that they need to earn that privilege. I’ve seen so many people desperate for validation, that they grasp for it from the wrong people. I’ve been guilty of this at some points in my life. It’s a miserable and draining experience.

I care if my family and close friends like me, but that’s because I learned about who to seek validation from and I trust them. If one day they stopped to like me, I’d reassess if there is something about myself that I need to change. That’s why it’s important for me to surround myself with good people I can trust to call me out when I need to be called out. I want to do good things in the world. I have good people around me, and I know that they want to surround themselves with good people. So I know that having people like that who do like me will help me achieve one of my goals as a human-to be a good person. If my circle like me, I know I’m on a right path. 

If someone makes a judgement that they don’t like me- especially by someone who doesn’t know me well, what highs and lows I’ve had in my life, and indeed make superficial assumptions about me based on superficial characteristics-then though their liking is unpleasant, it can also be ok. 

And maybe more to the point if someone doesn’t like me knowing all of these wonderful and horrible things there are to know about me, that realization may be even more unpleasant but that’s ok too. I might be more inclined to reevaluate myself because of why it’s so unpleasant, but nevertheless their dislike doesn’t necessarily invalidate me. This is because I respect myself and the journey I’ve had, and I’ve people in my life who are wonderful people, who do amazing things, who want me to do wonderful things who do like me. 

To the point, I think it’s important to care what others think of you because all of us are flawed and it’s important to know where you go right or wrong. However, the people that do that validating needs to be selective. It’s ok to allow yourself to feel the unpleasantness of the disliking. It makes you human. That dislike though shouldn’t mean you aren’t validated as a valuable person just because someone doesn’t like you. 

Moreover, this way of thinking gives you the tools to challenge your own feelings of like or dislike. Sometimes there are intuitions of dislike that are good to have. Saved myself a lot of grief at some points by listening to that. At other points though, you can be wrong about people. I think in allowing yourself to care, in that acknowledging being disliked is unpleasant as opposed to not caring at all, it makes one more readily able to see when we are wrong.

Bit of a meditation I suppose, but I’ve been thinking about it a little bit.

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