Maybe it’s ok to need to be liked
Searching for strength in my weaknesses
I’m a privileged person. Beyond (or perhaps due to) the like white, middle class-ness of me, I seem to be a person people are afraid to hurt.
People are nice to me. Careful with me. The last time a friend hurt me, I was in 8th grade. I couldn’t tell you the last time I was in a fight. There’s the occasional Twitter troll or angry email, but otherwise I kind of get to coast through life without a lot of interpersonal pain.
This makes the world quite manageable, I’ll admit. When things beyond my control get overwhelming, I always have a soft place to land in my relationships with other people.
But lately I’ve been wondering about what this means about who I am. Have I cultivated this likability to protect myself? Am I actually just a person people like? Does no one like me and they’re just afraid I can’t handle the truth? Are all of these things true?
And look, it’s not like I’m going around despondent and angry when someone doesn’t like me. I can deal when I have to. I just don’t like to, and that does color the way I interact with the world. I don’t take a lot of risks. Don’t put myself in many positions to be rejected.
I recently met someone who wasn’t afraid to hurt me. Which means I recently got hurt. Which means I’m trying to build up scar tissue. But I’m so drawn to being liked that I keep picking at the scabs. Obsessively trying to figure out how my behavior is affecting another person. Taking all of the anger and sadness and “I deserved better than thats” out on myself. Mad because I let myself get in this situation. Sad because I wanted something too big. Undeserving because I should have just tried harder.
And everyone is telling me to not be so hard on myself. But the alternative is being hard on someone else. Which gives me no power, no solace, no control.
I know I need to learn how to not care if people like me. Learn how to let it roll off my back and downstream. To stand in the current and let the sun thaw my insecurities. But who am I if not this?
How do I root myself in a love for others that is humble and giving and grateful? What do I owe to fellow beings if not to give everything I can to make their lives better? How do I take care of myself when the only thing that’s ever made me feel better is other people?
When I get overwhelmed, I usually like to feel small, insignificant. The feeling of having the power to make big changes is too scary. I don’t want it. But maybe I do, a little, right now. I want the power to not feel this way. To be able to walk around with my head held high and empty of the names of the people who don’t like me.
I know these are terrible complaints. I know that to sit with them is to take up space to complain about something mostly good in a world that doesn’t give most people room to breathe. I know that complaining about being liked isn’t particularly likable. But I guess I’m doing it anyway. You can’t know yourself out of feeling something, I keep reminding myself.
There’s a part of me that wants to toughen up (and I really am working on that scar tissue in this particular instance), but I think maybe that would also be wrong. I think that getting harder and more guarded would make me more unhappy.
And the point of all this is not to wallow in my flaws. The point is to say, I’m trying to figure out how to not be embarrassed that I want to be loved. I’m trying to figure out how to take all of this capacity for feeling SO MUCH ALL THE TIME and use it to give warmth and comfort to other people, and to not feel guilty when that, in turn, makes me feel warm and comfortable. I’m trying to figure out how to be ok with being soft and wanting. I’m trying to figure out how to be softer with myself.
I’m trying to figure out if I’m doing any of this right.