- Gender and Relationships
Some People Will Never Like You — Get Over It!
Your Self-Esteem Should Not Depend on Popularity
Are you obsessed with whether or not people like you? Does the fact that you might fail to make a good impression on someone cut you up terribly? Does your self-esteem depend upon how well liked you are by other people?
Well if so, stop it!
The simple fact is that you will never be liked by everybody. No matter how hard you may try, it will never happen. A few people may like you, the vast majority will be indifferent to you, and, yes, some will take an active disliking to you. That will always be the case, and you might as well get used to it and accept it.
Not Just Politics
I'm not simply talking about politicians here. We all know that nearly every politician, no matter how hard he or she may try to be liked by his or her constituents, will be lucky to get a majority approval rate. No matter how hard they may try to serve, they will be disliked or perhaps even despised by a large percentage of the population.
But this applies only to politicians, right? Surely we, as individuals, can be well liked by everybody we meet, at least as soon as they really get to know us? Right?
The late author, educator and social activist Dorothy Canfield Fisher was once giving a talk at a women's college. When asked how she handles a negative review of one of her books, she pointed out that no book will be received favorably by every reviewer, just as nobody can expect to be liked by everyone she meets.
And then the author noticed a strange thing: the young questioner's eyes widened and her face noticeably paled. The awful truth had never dawned on her! It had never occurred to her that anybody could ever possibly dislike her — no, not her!
Shyness and Likeability
It's nice to think that if one is simply a "good person" then he or she will be well-liked, but this is not necessarily the case. Some unquestionably good, caring, and decent people are occasionally disliked by others.
This is a particular issue for shy people. One of the basic characteristics of shyness is having difficulty putting oneself over to others, perhaps due to difficulty in making conversation, inadequate eye contact or other unconscious factors.
This can cause others to think of the shy person as uninteresting, unfriendly or even shiftless. Some people see past the shy person's timidity and recognize the worthwhile person behind it. But it would be a mistake to expect that everybody will.
Trying to be liked by everyone, or obsessing over whether you are, is merely the road to neuroticism. In fact, the very traits that will cause one person to like you may cause another to despise you!
For example, one person may interpret a quiet manner as being discreet and unassuming, while another will view it as being unfriendly and sullen. Having a sense of humor may be valued by some and disliked by others who see it as "frivolous" or not taking matters seriously.
It is true that some people can become more easily liked by more people than others, but nobody is liked by everyone.
The Mystery of Being Likeable
What's worse, none of us really understands the whole issue of likes and dislikes. The fact is present in everybody's life, and yet it remains a mystery.
You may be able to make a list of traits which you think will lead to somebody being well-liked, but there are no guarantees. Surely you know the charming rogue — the irresponsible fellow that you nevertheless couldn't help liking? By the same token, you probably know someone who was basically a good person but nevertheless always rubbed you the wrong way.
Although the problem of likes and dislikes affects every one of us, it never seems to be seriously discussed by writers, philosophers or psychologists. Very few books have been written on the subject.
Sure, there are some books on how to effect a veneer of likability in order to be a better salesman, but few books have gone much farther than that. Many self-help books have implied that if you merely adopt a policy of positive thinking, you will automatically be popular, successful and well liked. But most of the discussion of likability has been superficial, at best.
What is the answer then? It is to accept the fact that some of those we meet are bound to dislike us. It is a universal phenomenon that we might as well accept as philosophically as we accept the weather—simply because there is nothing we can do about it. Acceptance is the only way to inner peace.
My grandmother used to recite an old bit of doggerel that sums up the mystery of likes and dislikes rather neatly:
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell,
But this I know and know full well —
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.