You Don't Have to be Likable

Saturday, March 5, 2022

I've never been comfortable with the idea of people disliking me. I know, I know: Nobody is universally liked. Intellectually, I know that. But I was still blown away, years ago, the first time I ever read this Dita Von Teese quote: "You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches."

I don't know why it impacted me so much, but it put it in such a straightforward way: Even the most likable things in the world still have their haters. And fruit has a hell of a lot less personality than humans! Most people, myself included, simply are not the most likable things in the world.

But that hasn't stopped me from trying. 

I wouldn't say I'm a people-pleaser, per se, but I do want people to like me. I do try to get people to like me. I hope against hope that somehow, everyone will like me. And when they don't, I feel this deep sense of disappointment, like I've let both them and me down.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I like almost everyone upon first meeting them (unless they're, like, truly & obviously terrible). It's always a little baffling to me, then, to realize that other people just don't approach others with that frame of mind — that some people actually dislike most people until they can prove themselves likable. 

In other words, I like most people, so I expect most people to like me.

And hey, maybe they do. I don't know. There's no way of measuring exactly how many people like you & how many people hate you & how many peoplefalls somewhere in the middle. And the truth is that, to a certain, extent, it doesn't matter. Because as functioning adults, we have to regularly interact with people who run the gamut, regardless of how they feel about us or how we feel about them. 

The other day, though, I had a real lightning bolt of a realization, similar to the day I read that peaches quote. It was part two of the same realization, I guess — but, like, 10 years later. (Listen, sometimes I'm a slow learner.)

Recently, I'd been beating myself up about the fact that someone does not really like me. It's driving me nuts. Why don't they like me? Can I convince them to like me? Look, I am so charming & friendly! Why don't you like me?

I feel fairly confident this person is not my biggest fan. And then all of a sudden I realized: I do not like them very much, either. 

Holy shit. Whaaaat?

This person isn't a bad person; they are smart & funny & insightful. But they are also snippier than I like for people to be, & they never go out of their way to be friendly, the way the people I like most seem to do. I just don't necessarily want to spend a lot of time or energy on or with this person.

And yet. I'd been expending all this mental time & energy on wishing they would like me, lamenting that they didn't. And they, meanwhile, never did a single thing to make themselves more likable to me. So why the heck was I bothering?

It's such a small thing, almost a stupid thing. What a no-brainer! But for some reason, to me, this was a  groundbreaking moment. I spent all this time flustered that someone dislikes me, & I never, not once, stopped to think whether it matters — whether I like them, either. 

Essentially, I had been so stressed about being perceived as unlikable that I didn't take the time to think about about the fact that I don't like everyone, either. It doesn't make either one of us unlikable; it just means we're probably not compatible. And that is fine. Move on.

Weirdly, I don't think I've ever taken the time to think about this — to consider whether I am upset because a specific person I like doesn't like me, or if I am just universally upset upon being disliked. It's one thing when you're disliked by someone you really like — but how often does that even happen? For the most part, the people I really like tend to like me back, as far as I can tell. And everyone else... doesn't matter?

Look, don't interpret that wrong. I'm absolutely not saying that anyone who doesn't like me sucks. I'm not that self-centered, geez. All I mean is that if someone doesn't like me, & I don't really like them, either, I should be able to just move along. I'm not for that person, which is OK, because that person isn't for me, either. Case closed.

It's strangely freeing, as someone who always wants to be liked, to realize: So what if somebody I don't really like also dislikes me? That is the last thing in the world worth worrying about.

It's a wide world out there. Find the people who like peaches, & don't spend too much time trying to convince the people who don't. 

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