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.