DEAR KATE…HOW DO YOU STOP NEEDING PEOPLE TO LIKE YOU?
TODAY I’m back with another Agony Aunt column.
I haven’t done one for a while (if you’re interested, you can catch up on the others here) so when this letter popped into my inbox, I knew straightaway that I needed to answer it quickly.
Because it’s something I have personally struggled with my entire life.
Many thanks to the person who sent it in. I really hope it helps. x
I have always cared far too much about what other people think of me.
I’m a complete people pleaser and the thought of anyone not liking me is just awful. Even when people are in the wrong I will end up apologising so they’ll like me. I find it hard to stand up for myself.
When friends have cut me loose I’ve been devastated – even if I know they’re bad for me. Lately it’s affected my writing as I am so worried about saying the wrong thing and negative comments, I hold back. How do I stop caring so badly about being ‘liked’ and pleasing everyone?
We shouldn’t do it. But we all do.
We all care far too much about what other people think about us.
It’s human nature I guess because who doesn’t want to be liked? But if I’ve learned one thing during my 36 years on this planet, it is this: you cannot make people like you.
You may think you can. And as you say in your letter, you’ll even do your best to try and make this happen.
But regardless of your good or selfless deeds, the truth is people will either like you or they won’t. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
So why are you trying so hard?
Like you, I have struggled with the need to please people my entire life. I have always wanted to be liked by others, to get along with people and live in harmony.
Which is all well and good, until it became unhealthy. Until it started to affect my happiness when the relationships in my life didn’t echo this back to me.
I’ve got myself in so many pickles over the years, some I’ve shared on here, many I haven’t. And when I look back now, with the beauty of hindsight, it’s clear that these situations arose because ‘I wanted people to like me’.
Because my need for people to like me used to be so strong, so urgent and so pressing, that I always preferred to hurt myself than hurt – or even disappoint – anyone else.
I just wanted to be liked.
So, just like you, I would overlook bad behaviour, apologise even when I wasn’t in the wrong and look around and think, why are some people so awful to me when all I do is help / support / be nice to them?!
After years of soul searching, I figured out the answer.
I attracted what I felt I deserved.
I had paid more attention to getting others to like me, than I ever had on working to like myself. Which is why everything seemingly went wrong.
Because when you don’t like yourself enough: you look to others to make you feel better.
Because when you don’t like yourself enough: instead of walking away from people who treat you badly, you apologise.
Because when you don’t like yourself enough: you attract the worst kind of people who sense that you are vulnerable ‘to needing to be liked’.
So this is what I urge you to do.
Stop working on other people to ‘like’ you, and start working on yourself.
Take a step back. Get off social media for a while. Reign yourself in whenever you feel that desire rising and dig deep.
Spend some time alone. Start a diary. Meditate. Figure out why it is you don’t like yourself and why you crave validation from others to feel good.
Because this all stems from somewhere.
And then when you have got a few answers, work on building a healthier self esteem.
Yes be a good person, yes do the right thing, but when the little voice inside your head warns you about someone or their behaviour, listen! And then, the important bit, do something about it.
You do not owe the world your niceness my friend, and certainly not at your expense.
Stop letting people treat you badly. Find and work that no muscle. Use your voice and write those pieces, even if you’re frightened, especially if you’re frightened in fact.
Stop hiding in the shadows to make others feel more comfortable and shine your light!
In terms of relationships, look for balance. If it’s off, you’re either giving too much or someone else is giving too little. Both very telling. Pay more attention to people’s actions too. How do others treat you?
If you want to know how someone really feels about you, observe what they do (or don’t do) for you and listen carefully to how they talk about other people to you.
And finally please stop feeling like you have to give yourself to everyone. It’s exhausting, it’s demanding and it will do nothing but bring you misery.
Concentrate on being the best person you can be, for you.
And if people don’t like you? Well so be it. Many will. And some probably won’t.
But as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror every day and as long as you know you’re happy with your actions and behaviour, then that really is all that matters.
Like YOU more. It will change your life for the better, I promise.
If you’ve got a dilemma – any kind of dilemma from motherhood to marriage, style to careers- that you’d like some ‘non expert’ advice for, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my very best to help.
It’s true I’m not a trained professional but I do have a very kind pair of ears. (Or so I’m told).