I hate to admit it, but I really want people to like me. In fact some part of me believes that I need to be liked and approved of in order to breathe deeply and freely, unclench my fists and relax into my life and be happy. The truth of the matter is that there are people out there that don't like me, and chances are there will always be people that don't like me. It's a rather precarious existence when a person's happiness depends on external sources of approval. Whether that approval comes in the form of an A on a paper, a thumbs up to a Facebook post, or admiration of a new haircut. The wrong kind of comment, facial expression, or lack there of can be enough to ruin a day for those of us that are addicted to approval. One of the main problems with living this way is that my need for you to like me robs me of having a genuine and loving relationship with myself.
There have been countless times when I have sold myself out, going against my gut instinct of what I know to be right for me, and instead following what I think someone else wants me to do, or what society dictates. I don't want to seem unconventional or to stick out from the crowd, and deep down I believe that if I were authentically myself people might think I was a little to "out there", and then I would run the risk of not being liked. The truth is, whenever I have followed the crowd and gone against what I know to be right and true for me, I have ultimately suffered.
When I was in my early twenties, I had a job as an insurance adjustor. Those of you that really know me might find it comical to think of me doing a job that concrete and practical, I know I do. Anyway, one of my co-workers didn't like me very much and did everything in her power to get me fired; in the end she succeeded. It was a very small office without a lot of options for friendships. It became a daily routine for a small group of my co-workers to huddle together in the cubicle across from mine and bond with each other by spreading gossip about me. The co-worker that eventually got me fired, went so far as to write notes on her desk calendar tracking my every move and conversation at work. As painful as this experience was, my memories of this time in my life aren't entirely bad. I remember one day at work, friendless and ostracized, sitting at my typewriter and experiencing a wave of contentment and joy spread through me. People at work really didn't like me, and I wasn't just being paranoid, and yet I still had myself. It was a powerful feeling to know that the "world" could be against me and I could still be happy.
I have the good fortune to spend my life with someone that models integrity. My husband doesn't feel the need to behave or speak in a manner that will win approval from the outside world. I aspire to one day live with that kind of lofty and yet utterly human state of awareness.