Who doesn’t want to be liked? It’s what makes us human, it’s part of our survival instinct. If no one would like us, we would be assured of a cold and lonely death. This urge is so deeply ingrained, most don’t even notice to what extent it takes over our lives. It’s such a natural part of our being, few people doubt the effect of this instinct.
But does our urge to be liked actually serve us? Obviously, it is said to enhance our chances of survival, but does it serve any other purpose? Probably not. But it does have a couple of disadvantages you might consider before you continue living your life for the sake of others. The worst disadvantage is that it keeps us from enjoying our freedom. By constantly wanting to make sure we leave a good impression on people, we oftentimes restrict ourselves from doing what we really want. We squeeze ourselves into a social corset, leaving ourselves with little air to breathe.
All of this happens on a rather subconscious level which is why few people would identify their need for social inclusion as a barrier in their life. To the contrary, most people probably praise this innate urge as it helps them to not derail their lives. If we didn’t have this urge, wouldn’t we be making enemies on a daily basis? How could be get a job? Social protection? What about reproduction? Nobody would want a child with an outcast…
These scenarios indeed aren’t very appealing, but is the other extreme any more attractive? Wanting to be liked can actually bring us in equally miserable situations, not because society rejects us, but because we reject ourselves. We reject who we really are and trust that other people’s wishes are more valuable than ours. This self neglect keeps us from being truly free and happy, leaving us to be nothing more than an empty marionette to society.
Putting these extremes next to each other, it looks like we’re having a dilemma, right? But there’s no need to worry. We can dare to be disliked and be free at the same time, without having to fear social rejection and death. The two extremes I portrayed seem to make sense on a superficial level, but we forget two important aspects:
Wanting to be liked does not necessarily have anything to do with respect and love for others, but is driven by fear. It’s essentially an egocentric act as it mainly serves our survival. This means that our socially desirable behaviour is not necessarily the best behaviour for the whole group and does not guarantee we’re doing what’s best for all.
Inherently, we don’t only want to survive, we are also essentially good people. Just like all of us want to survive, we all also want to be good. And we all are good. We don’t need to fear the release of our inner devil by allowing ourselves to be disliked.
Taking these two aspects in consideration, we have to admit that wanting to be liked can’t guarantee our survival, as in it’s essence it doesn’t come forth from true love for others. To act calculatingly doesn’t ensure the best solutions, to the contrary. We also don’t need to fear we’d do other people harm if we don’t try to leave a good impression on them. Our innate goodness will protect us from doing so.
So, why is it so hard for some us to free ourselves from the desire to be liked by others? Because we don’t really like ourselves. I wrote a post about self love previous month, because I really think it’s an extremely pressing issue which affects our lives in so many ways. We don’t love and trust ourselves enough which is why we find it difficult to see our innate goodness. It feels safer to highlight our bad behaviour. This is part of the survival mechanism. Once we feel other people dislike us, our alarm bells ring off. We either judge the other for his own behaviour in order to make ourselves not look that bad (and enhance our chances of survival) or we harshly judge ourselves, hoping to never repeat the same behaviour again. Either way, it’s hard to start loving and trusting ourselves as both judgment of others and judgement of ourselves feels wrong and inherently makes us feel bad.
If only we could see that our urge to be liked by others can actually be a trigger for our misbehaviour. Interestingly, our very urge to be liked, our fear of not surviving, is what oftentimes leads us to misbehave. If we could let go of this fear and accept life and ourselves as it is, we would automatically be a lot more relaxed. We wouldn’t have a need to defend ourselves and would naturally be kinder. We would start to act kind because we want to, as it’s part of our nature and not because we fear the consequences if we wouldn’t. Let me exemplify my statement with some situations in which our desire to be liked can make us treat others and ourselves wrong:
- We reject people that make us feel rejected. Instead of accepting that someone doesn’t like a certain aspect of our being, we attack the other and try to harm him as well.
- We don’t dare to tell other people the truth, even if this would be more loving towards them and towards ourselves. We essentially fear to live our truth - and rather live a lie for the “sake” of others.
- Out of fear of rejection, we don’t dare to do what we really want and therefore don’t really unfold our full potential. Not only do we keep the very best of us hidden from the world, we also resent the world for not being able to show our true face.
- We buy phones, clothes and houses we don’t really want or really need, just to impress others. Instead we could spend the time and money on things we really want and need.
I could go on and on with this list, but I guess you got the point. You might be convinced by now that wanting to be liked is indeed not the best strategy for survival, but how are you going to give up on this ingrained survival instinct?
In my opinion all we need to do is to acknowledge our innate worthiness. And therefore, you’ll need a good portion of self love. In my post on self love I offer a couple of ways to achieve more self love. We need our self love to get the recognition from ourselves and to not be dependent on the recognition of others. As I mentioned earlier, not relying on others approval will automatically make you more relaxed and laid-back.
Once you start living in accordance with your own true self, regardless of what others want, you’ll most likely be a lot more liked and lot more appreciate. People will sense your authenticity and calmness. They will sense that you’re being fueled by your innate goodness and not by your fear of rejection. Furthermore, they will also feel more free in your presence, as you don’t rely on them anymore to feel happy and whole. In the end, risking the chance of being disliked will not only grant you true freedom, it will paradoxically also make you a lot more liked. What’s holding you back? Dare to be disliked and start liking yourself instead!