Finding the Courage to be Disliked
I recently rented a lakehouse with a group of people. I was going to say “friends” … and they are friends … but they’re not yet what I would consider my friends. Not all of them, at least. They’re my boyfriend’s friends, and slowly, inevitably, they’re becoming mine.
Because I am awkward Meggan, it takes me a rather long time to bridge the gap between casual acquaintance and actual pal. I have a people pleasing issue. I don’t want to be disliked. You’d think this would help, but it doesn’t.
I talked about this to a friend, who suggested I read a book that another friend had suggested a year before. While I haven’t even read the book yet, I suppose I’m already writing about it (which is hopefully the sign of a good book).
The Birth of Dislike-ability
Growing up, I was not a cool kid. I sat at the end of the lunch table up through third grade and got weird looks from the pretty, social kids. I mostly stopped trying to socialize because I was afraid of getting these looks and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.
This changed in fourth through sixth grade because I switched schools, but then the tides turned for me again, and once more I found myself often rejected for reasons unexplained.
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner” — Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher
My sufferings, in retrospect, were minor. I don’t recount them to be a martyr, but to ruminate on a reason behind why I might today feel so touch-and-go when it comes to making new friends.
I see viable options at new connection as risky and unpredictable. People might turn on you for no good reason, says my history. I still carry that feeling of not understanding how I might screw things up, and the result is that I doubt the sustainability of whatever it is they think I’m offering.
I decide, instead, to keep to myself, my partner, and my small circle of existing friends with whom I mostly stay in touch over the phone.
But I do want new friends; I do see a brightness in building new things with certain people. And when I get those feelings, there’s a voice inside me that says, “Be careful. Don’t screw this up. Play your cards right so they’ll like you.”
But I don’t know the card game, and the only cards I have are myself, anyway, so the hesitation effectively encourages me to be overly-conscious of myself, which never tends to end well. I become quiet, the careful observer. I measure my words and try to be pleasant and likable.
I think things similar to what I used to think about romantic prospects:
“If I strive to be as nice, intelligent, and attractive as I can be, they won’t have a reason to leave.”
I thought that if I hid the less-desirable parts of myself at first, then by the time they had “fallen” for me, it would by then be okay to slowly reveal the rest. But being all-good is a lie, and people see right through it.
(so to all the assholes who left without an explanation … you were onto something.)
Everybody has grit and shadow, so trying to minimize your own just comes off as confusing and elusive. It’s only half the story, and whether realized or not, people sense they’re not getting the full truth.
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care about their opinions more than our own.” – Marcus Aurelius
Confusing Likable with Real
I love people who cannot keep from speaking their mind. I love people whom I can trust to be real with me. I love the people who seem literally unable to hide their facial expressions. They’re so rare, so few and far between.
So I don’t know why it is that I try not to be that person.
(I want people to like me. I don’t want them to leave.)
But the thing is, I do want people to leave. The ones who don’t like me as myself, they can move right along. That is good filtration. If I am being my best self and it doesn’t jive with you, that’s nothing personal. We just don’t vibe.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. – Unknown
Still, I have to be courageous enough to release the part of me who feels hurt when she’s disliked. When I was young, people were often just being mean. It was confusing and shameful, and now, perhaps, I associate a person’s disinterest with the old emotions of that confused little girl.
But I’m older now, and people are just being people. Yes, maybe some are still being mean, but those are now the people who’s approval I do not want. Ain’t nobody got time to mesh with everybody.
The Courage to be Disliked
At some point, I began telling myself an untrue story about what it takes to make people stay: pleasantness, humor, and absence of unkind thoughts. But it’s not those things, it’s everything. The whole picture.
People will stay if they like me—inclusive of my abrasive/irreverent humor, sometimes-robotic way of dealing with emotions, and tendency toward isolation.
… So it won’t be tons of people.
But if I want to find the people with whom I actually mesh and have a chance at truly connected friendship (scary, I know!), the only option is to stop being so conscious of myself around new prospects. If I’m measuring myself, I’m not being present as myself.
The feeling of simply “being” with minimal self-consciousness is still new and clunky. I suppose it will take time to develop a public self-being habit. It will take courage to be disliked—to watch as people don’t follow up, cancel plans, or pass me by.
And it will take courage to see that as a blessing.
Maybe most of you have already figured this out. It seems simple, basic … but I still have difficulty shaking the anticipatory anxiety toward speaking my true mind. But if I’m not myself, I lose out the gates; the people who come to like me aren’t seeing the real me, and the people who pass me by are doing it for a good reason.
How does it work for you?
What do you to to be dislike-able?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section …
Get a head start on the this post’s namesake: The Courage to be Disliked.
Oh, and get an email when I post something new.