I had a revelation the other day (and no, it isn’t that I should be better about writing this column, though I have also come to that conclusion). I had the revelation that it doesn’t matter if everyone likes you.
Most of my life, like most relatively insecure people, I wanted to be liked. I wasn’t the prettiest or the ugliest. I was fairly smart, but not the smartest. I was, however, often the nicest and the friendliest. It didn’t really take a lot of effort; my parents had taught me to affable and sweet, and the be a caring and sympathetic person. Once in a while I was teased in the way that young people are teased, and my feelings were hurt, but once I got to college, things got better. I was easygoing and low maintenance. Things didn’t bother me, which my friends and acquaintances appreciated. The truth is, I liked people back. I found people interesting.
As I matured and pursued my career, though I still liked people and most people seemed to like me, I was gaining the understanding that people weren’t necessarily as affable as they had been in college. In general, they had more stress in their lives. Sometimes they were short with me, or would raise their voices. Sometimes they would be friendly, and other times they would be nasty. Sometimes they were different in person than they were when I wasn’t around.
I began to internalize these slights, and think it was something that I had done, because I didn’t have the self-confidence to do anything else. Maybe if I had been friendlier or more understanding, they would have been nicer to me. Maybe if I were smarter or more established in my profession, they would respect me more. Maybe if I were…anything else. What can I do to make them like me?
I finally reached the conclusion that it didn’t matter. What they thought of me had no bearing on who I was or what I can offer. As Steve McGarrett said on Hawaii 5-0, the way to avoid criticism is to “say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” Even if I had been sweet and friendly and accommodating, it wouldn’t have mattered. And frankly, it wasn’t even always about whether they liked me or not. Some people just haven’t gained the maturity to keep from offloading their internal issues onto other people. Honestly, if someone doesn’t like me, it is far more a reflection on them than on me.
This realization, which I just came to the other day, makes all the difference. Ironically, it has given me more confidence. Life is seriously too short to feel slighted by the insecurities of others made visible. I will continue to live by the Golden Rule, and leave others to their own devices.