Your Need To Be Liked May Be Holding You Back

"Look, I know it sucks to be rejected — but is social acceptance worth sacrificing the things that separate you from everyone else?" Image: Thinkstock

We really want people to like us. It’s just human nature.

You may say you don’t care if people like you, and on the surface, that may be true. However, there’s a part of you that understands that openly not caring about being liked immediately makes you more likable — self-assurance is an attractive quality to have.

There’s no shame in it. Being liked is a necessary part of our survival.

Over the span of millions of years, human beings have evolved to be highly social creatures. We’re capable of reading and understanding the expressions on others' faces, we’ve developed language and culture, all because social connections between us are such an integral part of us thriving as a species.

However, that doesn’t mean the same thing it used to. Back in the day, social rejection could mean the farmer who lived next door wouldn’t trade goods with you and your family wouldn’t have enough potatoes to make it through the winter — nowadays, social rejection mostly means people think you’re a bit of a weirdo and you get bummed out seeing Snapchats of how other people spent their Friday nights.

While social acceptance is still an important part of emotional development, the glorification of “popularity” makes it a lot more intimidating to try and be yourself in a world that reveres certain types of people while casting others aside.

In the pursuit of social cachet, we might run the risk of losing the things about ourselves that make us unique.

Look, I know it sucks to be rejected — but is social acceptance worth sacrificing the things that separate you from everyone else?

 

There’s no one who really benefits from you giving up aspects of your individuality in the pursuit of being liked. The gratification of having a lot of friends is wonderful, but the shine is really taken off the apple when you realize the “you” these people like is a vague reflection of what you can see others want. It’s a hollow victory.

 

I have a lot of experience with this. Like everyone, I went through a series of awkward teenage years trying to learn the ins and outs of delicate social interaction while also going through the most uncomfortable and hormonal changes of my life. During this time, reaching “popularity” became more of a pressing issue than it had ever been.

Put simply: I was a dweeb. A socially anxious, unfashionable, pop-culture-and-comic-book-loving dweeb. Though I denied it at the time, it becomes more obvious the further I get from that time in my life. You never really outgrow being a dweeb, you just get better at it.

Now, I’m King of the Dweebs.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for a popular teenager. I was already bullied for being overweight — and my love of education, The Universe, Spider-Man comics, old sci-fi movies, and action figures certainly didn’t help. When I finally started to notice girls, I made the subconscious decision to try and be the kind of person I knew people liked.

Most of the time this was mainly through acting as though I hated things I actively loved.

Over time I found my teenage self becoming someone who profoundly wasn’t me in the most subtle ways. I pretended to care about things I actually didn’t, wore brands I normally never would, and feigned disinterest in school when I truly loved learning.

In the hopes that more people would like me, I aimed for the lowest common denominator.

This is something that happens to a lot of young adults to varying degrees, and it’s troublesome for many different reasons.

There’s no one who really benefits from you giving up aspects of your individuality in the pursuit of being liked. The gratification of having a lot of friends is wonderful, but the shine is really taken off the apple when you realize the “you” these people like is a vague reflection of what you can see others want. It’s a hollow victory.

Those around you don’t benefit from this situation either. They’re investing in someone who, while agreeable, is insincere about their thoughts and feelings.

Your need to be liked might be holding you back.

From what, you ask? From your true potential, your own happiness, and the positive impact you can have on the world.

How many of us have declined joining an extracurricular activity or club we were interested in because we were too concerned with how we’d be seen? How many of us have cut school or acted out to fit in with the “cool,” rebellious kids? How many young women, in particular, have felt compelled to avoid correcting a guy because they were told how boys don’t like girls who are “too smart?”

(Side note: Any man who claims he doesn’t like to be corrected by a woman is weak and doesn’t deserve your time.)

When we rob the world of who we truly are, we take away from our impact on the world.

Every difficult conversation you avoid because you don’t want to be seen as the “controversial friend” is another channel of communication that’s never opened about important ideas. Every person who decides not to pursue their dream in school because they were told it was a “big risk” is another artist or philosopher or scientist whose work the world never gets to benefit from.

One of the benefits of your weird little quirks is that they help define you. There will always be people who simply don’t like you, and that’s perfectly fine — you are not going to mesh with everyone, and that doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or that you aren’t worth loving.

There are over seven billion individuals living on this Earth, and you aren’t going to be chill with every single one of them.

Being yourself shows confidence and pride. It can be a bit of a bumpy road at first — those around you may incorrectly accuse you of arrogance — but there is nothing but strength and love in embracing who you are. When you embrace your own kind of weird, those who you’ll want in your life will gravitate toward you naturally.

Those who love you for you and admire your self-assurance are the sort of people who will be in your life forever.

Rejection is painful, but a life well lived is not one where you feel forced to dim your own light, just because you’re worried about blinding those around you.

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