Do you like me?

Why do I care if people like me? Why is it so important that other people think that I am ‘nice’? Is this something that is taught to girls at a young age? I don’t know, but I do know that wanting to be liked has caused me more pain than pleasure. And how do I know that someone really likes me anyway? They could smile at me and not be mean to me, but I will never really know how someone else feels in their heart about me. They don’t have to have a reason not to like me, I may just annoy them for no particular reason. So, in trying to get people to like me, I am aiming for an unknown target. I am doing the actions that I think will please them so they will have good feelings towards me. But it could be that no matter what I do, they will never like me. So why am I using my energy to please someone that may never be pleased?

Maybe it is societal pressures stemming from our school experience, we don’t want to be that person eating lunch alone. We want to be part of the group, accepted, and ‘liked’. For me, that feeling has continued throughout my life. I feel like I analyze my actions to make sure I am being fair and a good person, so that if someone doesn’t like me I have a good defense of why they should like me. I can go back on all my past actions and point out all my sacrifices and the times I was there for them. Even if I don’t point it out to them, I point it out to myself and I feel better. I can say to myself that I did everything ‘right’, I followed the rules. I was giving, sympathetic and available for them. If they decided not to be my friend anyway, that is their problem. But, why does this matter? Why is it so important to me to prove my case? To try and be a good person, and do the right thing? Why can’t I state my feelings in any situation and be ok with it regardless of how the other person feels? Why do I hold back sometimes for fear of offending? Where does that really get me? I feel like I am doing them a favor, but they don’t see it. How could they see it? I am not telling them. I have always thought that my silence is a good thing, and I am doing it for them. But I have realized lately, that I am doing it for me.

Who taught me to stay lost in this maze of silence and confusion? Originally my parents taught me this by giving me a blank stare when I would ask a question. And with that blank stare came the words, ‘Because we said so’. I had to accept it. I had to sit with my confusion and integrate it into myself. I had to be ok with things not making sense but still being in a relationship with someone. My questions seemed to cause bad feelings in my family so I stopped asking. I developed the skills to read my parents emotions and act in a way that they would accept me. I learned to become a emotional chameleon and blend in so that I wasn’t kicked out. Instead of asking questions and getting answers, I found ways to deal with my confusion and frustration. Writing in my journal about my feelings became a release. And in high school I discovered jogging, which not only released my emotions but made me tired and stopped my brain from going in circles. So, journalling and working out became a huge part of my life. I discovered the ‘walkman’, which was the 1980’s version of an IPhone, where I could listened to music when I worked out. So, when my family situation would overwhelm me, I would put on my headphones and run out the door. These ways of releasing my emotions have served me well. I am sure I would have self destructed somewhere along the way if I didn’t have them.

But, these ways are distractions. They aren’t real methods to state my truth, stand up for myself, and be ok with not being ‘liked’. I don’t have to worry anymore if people ‘like’ me. So what if they don’t? What will happen if they don’t? They probably will stop calling me, and won’t want to be my friend. If they don’t like me then that seems like an appropriate action, and neither of us waste our time. Most likely they are not going to yell at me and call me at all hours of the day to try and break me down like my mom used to do to me. And even if they did, I don’t have to listen, or take their calls. I have that fear though, that fear of severe punishment if I take an action that someone doesn’t like. It is an ingrained fear that I know logically doesn’t make sense, but it is there all the same. So, when I am conflict, my mind goes blank, I become that scared child again that can’t speak and protect herself. It is almost like I play dead until it is safe to get away, and then I run as fast as I can.

But I don’t want to do this anymore! I want to be present in interactions when they become confrontational and be able to state my truth without feeling my heart pound or feeling like running out the door. I don’t want to keep a scorecard anymore of all the times I have compromised myself so that someone will like me. It just makes me feel bad.

I have imperfections, insecurities, and a traumatic history that I carry around with me, and I will always carry with me. I learned ways to cope in order to survive a childhood that many people do not survive. And even if they do survive, they may turn to drugs, alcohol or repeat the abusive pattern in order to deal with their emotions. I am here, I am writing this, I am speaking from my heart. I made it out of the confusion of my past. Either you like me, or you don’t. But more importantly I have to state my truth, stand up for myself, and not stay silent so that I like myself.

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  1. Wanting to be liked is such a hindering and painful bummer. It’s the memory of a school girl who rarely gets the ball tossed to her… such fear. Nobody understands me fits right in. I got so much better after I understood and felt the word “self love”. When I looked in the mirror and told my inner girl that I loved her, the need to be accepted begin to shrink. It’s amazing when people “see me” but it started happening because I am living my truth not because I was running after likes. Each time fear or envy comes up I’ll breathe and tell myself to my truth is my happiness:)

    1. Angie, this is so true. I felt like I was the ping pong ball for so much of my life, trying to do whatever it took to have people like me and see me as a good person. It was hard growing up in a family that had conditional acceptance for me, then going out in the world I was always scared of people not liking me if I said the wrong thing, or took the wrong action. It caused so much pain for me. Self Love is the answer,I 100% agree with you! Breathe, and feel my truth. Love, Peta

  2. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you for writing this. I, too, carry baggage from the damage done in childhood, but I’m so thankful I’ve found resources and strategies to cope and survive as you have.

    1. Thanks Lisa. I have written my whole life, but just recently decided to start sharing it. I find that putting my writing and emotions out into the world somehow allows me to let them go. Especially when others say they understand and have been where I have been. There is so much shame growing up in an abusive household, so many secrets and hiding that making all of this public helps to get out of being ashamed. Love, Peta

  3. You are a brilliant writer, and you speak for pretty much everyone. It is really hard to feel the fear of rejection. And I think we have all felt it. I am sorry for the fears and doubts that it caused. I have felt it too. And some of the same people who may have hurt you could actually go through a bit of an awakening and change for the good. Regardless, I read your writing, and I can see what a beautiful heart you have. The world is lucky to have you, Peta! I think you are fantastic!

    1. Thank you so much Amy! I like your thought that the people that hurt me may go through an awakening. I know that they are hurt too, and so much lashing out at others comes from a place of hurt. I know in my 20s I was pretty self centered and probably hurt people without realizing it, so I understand that people can change. Thank you again for your kind words, and I am so glad you like my writing! Love, Peta

  4. Peta your courage in rising above your childhood is truly inspiring. I think we all carry that “People Pleasing” gene within us – some more than others, and each for our own reasons. I know it’s something I’ve battled all my life and it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started to put it behind me and move forward. I’ve allowed non-productive friendships to fade into the background and have invested more in the ones that really matter. Brene Brown said recently that we need to let go of worrying about the opinions of those who don’t count, but still invest in those who do. I think that was a good way to break it down – we all need feedback and connection – but only from the right people – not the peanut gallery!

    1. Thank you Leanne. Isn’t it a great feeling to end those friendships that just take from you? They are exhausting and don’t let you learn about yourself. In being honest about my past and where I am in life, I feel like my real friends have gotten closer to me. People I haven’t talked to in years have found me on the internet and reached out and we have reconnected, but at a deeper level. My belief is that we have to let go of worrying about the opinions of everyone, even those closest to us. I don’t believe there is a ‘peanut gallery’, they are just people that are scared so they lash out, and they are in a different stage of development. I think everyone counts, and we just have to be strong enough to do what we believe even if our spouse or our best friend, or a stranger doesn’t agree.