How to Unlearn Your Constant Need to Be Liked and Chosen
Take your life back from everyone else.
“When we are not chosen, we feel bad. When we are chosen — even by idiots — we feel good. We need to unlearn this imprisonment. Not dissect and analyze it. Just completely unlearn it.” -James Altucher
Most people live their daily lives trying to please others.
It’s how I used to live. In high school, I remember being constantly disgusted with myself for being such a doormat. I was a total pushover, because I was afraid if I said no, or stood up for myself, people would reject me.
I needed to be chosen — by cute girls, by the basketball coach, by my teacher, by the guys in drum line. So I did things for people even when I knew I wasn’t being myself at all.
I didn’t realize I should’ve rejected all of them instead. Maybe then, I wouldn’t have been so miserable.
This is not how you’re supposed to live. Soon, this superficial behavior will make you rot from the inside out. It’s toxic. As Tim Denning once wrote, “not being you will destroy you.”
It took me years to stop pining to be liked and chosen. I mean, I still do it — I still struggle with laughing at jokes I don’t find funny or agreeing with opinions I actually disagree with.
But now, every day I move closer to being fully, unapologetically me. And that version doesn’t care at all about trying to make people like me — as long as I can be myself.
Here’s how to totally unlearn this toxic mindset and start living the free life.
Not Being You Will Destroy You
“Many people think in terms of ‘I have to do what my colleague/neighbor/family member is doing’ instead of ‘I have to do what’s best for me.’” -Grant Cardone
What most people don’t realize is that they can’t sustain a life driven by chasing the approval of others.
I mean, they can try, sure. In fact, most people do. But the price of living this way is heavy and dreadful — it costs you your life.
Not being you will make you sick. In the words of David Kadavy:
“When our true self doesn’t get a chance to follow its desires — when it doesn’t get the creative exercise necessary to arm it with a vocabulary in which to express itself — it acts out in strange ways.”
The more you act like someone else, the worse your real self feels.
This should scare you. It scares me.
Growing up, I constantly looked at porn. It became an addiction, to numb me from any pain and discomfort I felt.
I distinctly remember an image that popped in my head right before a porn-binge (it could last up to 8–10 hours). I saw two versions of me in a room — the real me, and the addict.
The real me was soft, and warm, and friendly. But he was scared. The “addict” me was terrifying and callous, a bulldozing bully. The addict grabbed the real me, and began shoving things down his throat. The real me couldn’t breathe. The addict laughed and kept forcing things down.
You cannot continue acting like someone else. It will drive you mad.
So how do you change this?
“We can never flee the misery that is within us.” -Arthur Golden
Design an Environment That Nourishes Self-Focus
“If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.” -Marshall Goldsmith
The foundation for unlearning your constant need to be liked and chosen is an environment that nourishes the real you.
Many people have settled into environments that are focused entirely on their “false” versions of themselves. Excessive social media, toxic friend groups, and addictive behaviors all bring out the worst parts.
Instead, you need to design an environment that removes all this toxic crap, and allows you to be you.
For me, this meant cutting ties with a lot of negative people, or even just those who didn’t bring out the real me. I’m a people-pleaser; certain people just bring out a compulsive need to be liked. So I left these people entirely.
In his recent book, David Kadavy wrote:
“Most people don’t even notice the chatter going on in their heads.”
It’s difficult to take a big step back and see your life for what it truly is. Most people would be surprised to see their environments rarely nourish their real self.
If you want to unlearn your constant need to be liked and chosen, start with the foundation itself — your environment.
- Cut ties with negative people
- Stop going to life-draining places
- Start going to events that make you happy
- Hang out with friends and family you love, who love you
- Stop doing things that make you sad
It’s a good place to start.
“Your soul knows you’re on the wrong path even if you yourself cannot find the words to express the root of your meh.” -Neil Patel
Cultivate a Daily Renewal Practice
“What you need to do is build the house you will live in. You build that house by laying a solid foundation: by building physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.” -James Altucher
In counseling and 12-step meetings, I learned about the process of a “Daily Spiritual Renewal.” That might sound hokey and “religious” to you. But it’s not.
All a Daily Renewal means is a practice where you take account of how you’re doing in the four main areas of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Anyone can do it.
I like to do mine in the mornings, before anyone is awake. I journal about how I’m feeling. I take stock of my prayer life — is it active? Am I praying enough? Should I spend some more time with God today?
I fill myself up with positive, uplifting content (like the news! kidding) like Medium and personal development books. I write, putting what I learn and process out into articles.
This has been an enormous reason why I’ve been successfully moving away from needing people to like me. If my mind is healthy, I’m not hungry for the approval of others.
“When a man makes his thoughts pure, he no longer desires impure food.” -James Allen
Don’t make this harder than it is. Start small. Do a little journal entry, pray a little prayer, read a short article about something positive.
The healthier you make your mind, the less powerful your need for approval will become.
“To get different results, you’re going to have to do things differently.” -Darren Hardy
Your Mind Believes What You Tell It
“Your subconscious mind takes the orders you give it based upon what your conscious mind believes and accepts to be true.” -Joseph Murphy
Most people don’t even notice the constant stream of chatter going on in their heads.
Much of this chatter is negative. We may think it’s just white noise, but our mind believes whatever we tell it. In his book The Power of the Subconscious Mind, Joseph Murphy points out “our subconscious can’t take a joke.” It believes whatever we say.
What do you tell your mind every day?
Do you tell it you’re not good enough? Do you remind it how anxious, stressed, and tense you are? Do you declare that other people can save you — with their approval?
Your mind believes whatever you tell it.
Recently, I’ve started “telling” my mind things. These are all closely aligned with important goals I’ve set.
I declare I’m one of the best writers on the Internet. I tell my mind how healthy, fit, joyous, and generous I am. I remind it how thankful I am, and what amazing opportunities lie in the future.
And my mind starts to believe it.
“You can remake yourself by giving a new blueprint to your subconscious mind.” -Joseph Murphy
Most people feed their mind a constant stream of negative, unfocused, toxic orders.
But they can change the entire blueprint, if they wish.
Stop telling your mind lies. Stop focusing on others and focus on yourself.
Make a new conversation in your head; one that focuses on positive and uplifting thoughts. This is how to achieve extreme mental clarity, sublime peace, and healthy self-confidence.
“If your lifestyle does not add to your healing, it will subtract from it.” -Benjamin Foley
Ignoring Everyone Else Isn’t Easy — But It’s Simple
“Ignore what other people are doing. Ignore what’s going on around you. There is no competition. There is no objective benchmark to hit. There is simply the best you can do — that’s all that matters.” -Ryan Holiday
Of course, you want to ignore everyone else’s approval. Obviously. The problem is actually doing it.
Beginning to ignore others and focus entirely on your own progress isn’t easy. But it’s simple.
Back when I first started going to 12-step meetings, I couldn’t stay sober. I hated going into another meeting and restarting my sobriety date.
I resented everyone around me who was progressing. I focused on them — I even memorized their sobriety dates, so I would know just far ahead they were.
But then my counselor told me something in one session; four little words that changed everything.
Stay in your lane.
It doesn’t matter how much faster they’re going. It doesn’t matter how much faster you’re going. If you keep looking at other lanes, you’re going to crash.
Focus on you. Learn all you can. Experiment, fail, discover what works.
Soon, you’ll build momentum. And one day, you’ll look around you, and marvel at just how damn fast you’re going.
This isn’t easy, but it’s simple. Whenever you’re tempted to look at others, and hang your self-worth on a totally unfair comparison…
Stay in your lane.
Just focus on you. Don’t worry about them, their numbers, their followers, their pictures, their progress, anything. Just focus on your own progress.
This is the difficult, simple practice for ignoring everyone else.
It’s not easy. But if you want to unlearn your toxic desires to gain the approval of others, it’s the path you need to take.
Forget about titles and impressing others. Focus on becoming a person you are incredibly proud to be.
You don’t need anyone else to feel “complete” or whole.
You don’t need their approval.
You don’t need them to like you.
You’ll be OK if people don’t like you.
Your real self is more precious than any approval your false self gains.
Today, choose your real self. Not being you will cause tremendous pain. Tell your mind many positive things, and design environments where your real self can breathe deeply.
Ignore everyone else, and focus on you.
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