At first this can sound like a primary school yard question. If we’re honest though, elements of that school yard carries forward with us into adulthood, and we still ask some of those seemingly childish questions. Point of discussion today – Why doesn’t everyone like me?
If we are honest, and stop for a minute to feel deeply, I’m pretty sure most of us will find this question lurking just below the surface. So what is going on? As adults why does it bother us so much?
I understand it for myself to be a cry for help. A plea for understanding the inner hurts that we feel in relationships. An opportunity to understand myself better – even if I don’t like some of the things I see in myself. It’s yet another opportunity to be courageous in life. Another chance to receive a gift.
We all know the ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’ verse. That seems pretty easy when others are being nice to us and treating us with respect and kindness. That’s easy to give back – right? Or is it that it is easy to receive - and that is pretty much what we think about first. Receiving.
I know there are people in my life who just don’t like me. That hurts because I consider myself to be a fairly kind person, with consideration for others, I try to be understanding – thinking what it might be like to be in their shoes. I’m talented, I cook Ok, I am a reasonably good listener, I’m successful in my chosen career. I’m bright and bubbly most of the time, I love animals and nature, I have good opinions about stuff, I live in a nice house… So why, why, why doesn’t everyone like me?
Ok… I think I’m onto something!
Firstly, I know that I am a challenge to some people. I’m perky, I’m positive, I am always looking for the silver lining. Frankly I can annoy myself sometimes. Why do I always have to be leaning towards the positive, why can’t I just allow myself to be miserable?
I am a good listener, but I am also a good talker and I know sometimes I talk first – there is a place and time of course, and my job is about talking, but…
I consider myself successful in life – that’s my attitude, my perspective, but sometimes others find that annoying as it can challenge their perceived lack of success, or excess of failures and mistakes. Do they realise that we all have suffering, failures, mistakes - including me?
If others want to not like me, I should let it go and just get on with it.
But that all seems a bit too hard – why can’t everyone just like me just the way I am? It would be so much easier that way.
Epiphany moment - Am I always bringing it back to the need to receive? I need to feel liked, loved, appreciated, respected – that is not a bad thing, in fact we should expect these things from life, but when we don’t get it, it hurts. I actually think it’s meant to.
What if the path to experiencing love, appreciation, respect, is not through being liked by others?
What if the bigger question is – do I like me?
Let’s see if we can work towards an answer.
David and I were recently working with a young person who was negotiating through the tangled web of teenage-hood and finding relationships difficult. He very boldly asked the question ‘why do I annoy people so much, why don’t they like me?’ Such honesty in a young man is very refreshing. Not only was he asking the question, which is of course the second step (the first being to identify that there is a problem and that we can do something about it), but he was open to hearing and acting on the answers he discovered by himself with a bit of guidance from us and others.
We can learn a lot from him.
He discovered that he often opened conversations with ‘I’. He realised that he didn’t always read the context of the situation well – and part of that was that he was intent on others liking him so he wanted to show them how good he was. He realised his outgoing personality could be confronting as not everyone is ready to be bright and bubbly at every moment, sometimes we have to stop, look and listen to what is going on with others first. He identified that he wanted to share his story before he heard others’ stories.
He realised that he was about receiving.
Often we don’t want to change our ways because we are scared that our needs won’t be met. If I listen to them all the time, maybe no one will listen to me. If I make myself vulnerable to loving others, will I be ridiculed? What if I never get to tell my story?
Undoubtedly, it is hard to let go of these fears, but in order to receive fully I think we must. We must learn to give first.
Our young friend faced his fears and changed his intent, his perspective and his actions. He practiced listening first, he practiced being a friend first, he stood back to stop, look and listen. He bravely learnt that giving first can open the doorway to receiving – often in greater meaning and measure than he ever expected. It’s an ongoing journey and not always easy, but change rarely is.
Do to others as you would have them do to you… It’s very good advice.
Understanding why it hurts when someone doesn’t like us can be very revealing. And if we are wise it will call us to action. Here are some changes I can make and some more questions to ponder.
I acknowledge that sometimes I am miserable. Life hurts. I know pain – physical, emotional, spiritual. Maybe others don’t always see that in me – maybe I need to allow them to.
Listening first is something I know I can learn to do better. That for me is about respect for the other person, but it is also about trust. It’s about trusting that I will get a chance to share my story too - that there will be times when others will put me first and allow me to tell my story. In the meantime can I be gracious?
When people are challenged by my perspectives on life, do I realise that they might be suffering right now and that is why they act towards me the way they do? Can I find the courage to love them, even if they don’t like me? Can I walk in their shoes and put them first?
When others don’t like me, can I accept the gift of the opportunity to change myself?
Can I like myself better?
Can I live in the peace of knowing I am loved?
After all this, I know that still not everyone is going to like me - I expect to keep being reminded of these truths and revelations – and I hope that I have to grace to keep accepting the gift.
Merelyn’s writing is supported in part by the sale of her books. Autobiography - ‘The Deepest Part of Me’. ‘Inspire’ – inspirational reflections for your life’s journey. ‘Stories behind the Songs’ and her first children’s picture book ‘To The Moon and Back - Grandma’s Rocket Ship Adventure’. To find out more about her work and to support her through the purchase of her writings and music, please go to www.carterandcarter.com.au