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.

The Beginning of 2018

A while back, I got a paddle board and for my first trip with it I went out into the ocean. When I got out, it was beautiful. Calm serenity, looking out into the horizon and floating out, just touching the unknown. When I tried to get back to shore though, it was the first time in a very long time I felt fear. I should say, a specific type of fear; emotional fear I’ve felt. This fear was a twilight of primal/survival fear. I was out in the middle of an open ocean, not in prime physical shape, never had been out in the water with my board, trying to fight currents and waves to get back in. I was realizing I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was and for the first time in a very long time, I wasn’t sure if I was capable of saving myself. I was never in true danger as there were plenty of surfers around me. Pride wouldn’t let me ask for help though, so I pushed and paddled through as though no one was around. It took me a  long time to get back on shore and I was a bit away from where my friend was waiting for me. I was completely drained and the following day my entire back was in pain from pulling all of those muscles that I had never used before.

It was exhilarating.

I was afraid, but I was pushed (in a small way of course) out of my comfort zone. We get complacent sometimes, but I think in those places of the unknown when you get to test your own boundaries you learn so much. That’s what I want from life. I want to learn, grow, bring some joy to others, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to contribute in a positive way to the world.

It’s been an odd time in my life. I have been trying to get into graduate school for two years now. During that time I have had a job that-though not ideal (which job is?)-it provided some security for me during this interim. I’ve had amazing coworkers, it provided a supportive environment for the pursuit of personal goals, and for some time I even learned a bit about business and the people within it, so I waited for things to come together; I kept staying. But life doesn’t work in the way we plan, so even though I wasn’t being used to my full capacity it was easy for me to become complacent with where I was.

But I wasn’t happy. Perhaps it’s an irrational part of me, as how often do you really get a job that’s as relaxed as mine was and has coworkers who are as smart, funny, supportive, and talented as they are? But somewhere in me I want to feel that fear; I want to be pushed ahead of my limits. I want to use and extend my potential.

And so, perhaps against good judgement, I decided to leave my good job at the end of this month. Perhaps I’ll wind up in a worse situation, but hopefully that will propel me even further. I’m not truly sure what’s in store for me; I’ve nothing waiting for me. But I’m done waiting for nothing.

And so, here I go to make some more mistakes.