The Gorgeous Reality of Not Being Well-Liked by Everyone

We want everyone to like us, but we shouldn’t.

As social creatures, we are concerned, often to a fault, with whether or not we are enjoyed, appreciated, and respected by those around us. We pander to the whims of others, hoping to please everyone (or at least find few enemies). We try to behave affably, make the correct remark, and laugh at the appropriate times, all for the sake of winning the fancy of our company.

The approval of others becomes a top social priority and dictates many of our actions. At some point or another, most of us succumb to this tendency to butter the rest of mankind’s bread, which is fine. It’s natural to do so. But, we must exercise caution. You see, investing ourselves too fully into how others perceive us can have terrible consequences.

Photo Credit: Francisco Osorio (Creative Commons)
Photo Credit: Francisco Osorio (Creative Commons)

When We Care Too Much About Others’ Opinions of Us

People who frequently seek the attention and praise of others are looking for an external validation of themselves. They want something outside of them to deem them worthy, able, and good. Usually, this is because, at their core, they are filled with self-doubt. So they do what they can to increase positive feedback and eliminate negative feedback.

But here’s the problem with this way of thinking: When we act in such a way that eliminates negative criticism, we also eliminate many, many possible lifestyles, actions, and directions from our realm of possibility. We become slaves to that which we believe others will approve.

This is a tragedy! Within all of us, there are numerous things we really, deeply wish we could do — travel the Earth, start a business, build an Earthship, become a stand-up comic/vagabond, etc. etc. But the vast majority of us don’t do these things because we’re worried about what others will say or think. We end up sacrificing our selves and our dreams to try to appease those around us.

Furthermore, it has been well-documented in psychological research studies (like this one or this one) that social anxiety directly correlates to an exaggerated desire to increase validation from others and decrease criticism. This means that the more you care about how others will react to what you do, the more likely you are to be socially discontented and uncomfortable. Instead of suffering these consequences, we should adopt a different attitude.

Let’s Embrace Those Who Judge, Scoff, and Speak Ill of Us

Caring too much about what others think of you stifles your ability to take risks and disrupts your social satisfaction. The funny thing is — whether we invest energy into making others like us or not, there will always be people who don’t. 

Historically, many of the most loved people were also among the most hated while they were alive. Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, and John Lennon were all assassinated for spreading messages of love and understanding. So, I’m suggesting that we’d all be much better off embracing those who will find reason to despise us.

It’s so much easier to do this than to waste our lives allowing the faultfinders to dictate our actions. Moreover, being disliked by people is actually a sign that you’re doing something worthwhile.

Being Disliked Means You Stand for Something

When you simply mimic the values of your current company, your opinion stops being yours. You become a hypocritical piece of clay, molding yourself constantly to try to fit in everywhere, and in doing so, retaining no shape to call your own.

Conversely, being courageous enough to “do your thing”, stand by your values, and live your own lifestyle (even if it isn’t popular) is empowering because you develop a strong identity. Gradually, you become satisfied and confident in your own skin.

Your Friends Will be True Friends

When your top priority is to gain the approval of everyone, you’re inviting people to befriend a sham. You’ve developed a façade disguising your complex, idiosyncratic, untidy self. Most people won’t know the you that’s buried beneath, and you may begin to forget that person too.

On the other hand, habitually presenting your genuine, vulnerable, weird self does nothing but strengthen your acceptance of who you are. The people who call you friend will actually care about and believe in you, not some charlatan.

How to Stop Caring So Much About Others’ Opinions

I may have convinced you that you shouldn’t care as much about what other people think, but perhaps you have no idea how to go about doing that. Here are a few tips.

1. Stop Playing the Critic – Before you’ll be able to care less about others criticizing you, you must do your best to stop criticizing people. Realize that the act of judging others reflects your own intolerance. By rising above the behavior yourself, you can realize how juvenile it is in the first place.

2. Take Minor Social Risks – Start doing a few things that you normally wouldn’t do because of your fear of what others would think or say. Dance wildly at a show, voluntarily speak up in class, wear something edgy. Doing little things such as these will help you to understand that disregarding your fear of judgment and rejection is liberating! Others may have given you a harsh glance or whispered haughtily to a friend, but it was okay. You’re okay, and you did it. Your fears may never entirely cease, but you will learn that acting in spite of them was more important. The more social risks you take, the less you will care. That’s the God-honest truth. (For more on this, read “The Adventuring Method and 6 Other Ways to Overcome Fear“)

3. Live by Your Deeper Values – Do you know what you stand for? If you’re still discovering the answer to this question, that’s okay. However, from a young age, we all develop some form of a conscience. We inherently sense what paths are right and wrong for us. Start saying what you really feel and doing what you sense is right for you. We can develop a deeply rooted self-esteem by diligently upholding the values that most deeply resonate with us. The more you seek to align your actions with what you feel in the heart of your being, the less you will invest in the opinions of the mud-flingers.

4. Focus on Actual Outcomes – If you’re feeling anxious or afraid of someone who may be directing condescending energy toward you, ask yourself: What is the worst thing that can come of this person’s distaste? What am I really afraid of? Usually, it’s nothing more than a bruised ego. In some cases (such as bullying, harassment, etc.), more severe damage can be inflicted, and action must be taken, but most of the time, we’re just afraid — afraid of not being the best, the smartest, the prettiest, the fastest, etc. It’s okay to not be these things.

5. Love Your Good and Bad – Give yourself permission to not be the things you wish you could be. Embrace the fact that all of your qualities — both your boons and shortcomings — are essential to the equation that is you. As Kanye West once sang, “Everything I’m not made me everything I am.” Insults damage us most when we define ourselves based upon our perceived flaws. Take time now and then to number the ways in which you’re halfway swell, and embrace the not-so-swell too. Or, perhaps look into the idea that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are cultural or psychological constructions. They may not exist; we frame the world within the good-and-bad dichotomy because our minds naturally process things in terms of what they are not.

One Word of Caution

Sometimes, people who dislike you have legitimate reason to do so. Being genuinely yourself doesn’t do much good if you are genuinely an ignorant prick who refuses to change anything. Don’t forget to keep an open mind to constructive criticism and realize you still have plenty of shit to learn.

What Will This Mean for You?

This can mean about as much or as little for your life as you like. The message boils down to this: Your top priorities should be saying what you feel, and doing what flows organically from you (and c’mon, hopefully helping others here and there).

If you do this, more people may end up disliking you, but you will likely be more content, stand for something (not Fascism, please), and derive a sense of meaning from your identity that is arguably hella valuable.

“Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” ― Andy Warhol “I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.” ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

P.S. Follow me on Twitter here. I tweet each weekly post, thought-provoking quotes, and more.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Bates

In the Internet multiverse, Refine The Mind is a planet for freethinkers and daydreamers. Jordan Bates is the creator, a journalist at Beacon, and the alter ego of Lostboyevsky. He savors time in the woods, dangerous ideas, and all things artistic. Read the mission and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


  • Nzancy

    This is a great post. Thanks for sharing :)

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      You’re very welcome! Glad you found it valuable. Hope you’ll stop back again sometime. :)

  • Dan Bates

    Great post Jordan! Good points for almost everyone! To thine ownself be true!

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Definitely, Dad. Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed this one.

  • http://www.discoveringrebel.com/ Ryan Trimble

    Great post. After my own heart, for sure. And a good reminder about reigning it in: Being true to oneself does not mean being inconsiderate to others. Great writing, man.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Sounds like we’re flying on the same wavelength, Ryan. Thanks much for appreciating the message and the writing.

  • Haley O.

    Hi Jordan! I actually just discovered your blog and I am an enormous fan already. I must say that this is by far one of the most meaningful and resonant articles I’ve ever read on self development. As someone who’s struggled to make everyone happy and be well-liked, I truly feel that what you’ve written here is something that everyone with my same “problem” must read. It is exhausting trying to be liked by everybody, and in the end I am only causing myself anxiety and losing sight of my own needs and values. I think I’m going to print this article out and start making changes from here on out. Thanks again!

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Wow, Haley, thank you for the generous praise. I’m so glad to hear that the writing was meaningful for you. I can really relate to what you said, too. It’s so darn difficult to not be sucked into the game of living our lives to gain the favor or approval of others. It feels gratifying, at least at first, to do what will make other people happy. But it’s a slippery slope, and pretty soon, like you said, you wind up with self-conscious anxieties and no life to call your own. It’s so liberating to claim your life as your own, to determine to forge your own identity and path. Wishing you all the best, and let me know if there’s anything I can help you with. Hope to see you in the comments again, too. Don’t be a stranger. Take care. :)

  • KB

    I’m a pretty reserved person, and don’t have friends. I constantly think people are judging me negatively, and I tend to take everything very personally. I really need to work on changing this mindset. Thanks.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      KB,

      That sounds totally frustrating and exhausting. I’m really sorry to hear it. People judge people — this is a fact of life. It might be unreasonable to try to not let it bother you at all, but it’s definitely feasible to at least stop caring as much. If you can do that, you’ll feel more comfortable with yourself, and if you put yourself out there a bit, friendships will come. Positive, hopeful thoughts from me for brighter days. Keep going.

  • Aishwarya

    great post! totally relate to it..

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Aishwarya,

      Thank you kindly! Awesome to hear that it resonated. Don’t be a stranger!

  • Anca

    Jordan, I have been reading your posts all day today. I find them wonderful, witty, compelling and thought-provoking. You definitely have a knack for this, and I, I am thankful I stumbled upon someone’s work that speaks to me. You are bettering this world, one by one, and I am one today. Thanks to you, I am on my way to that better self. You’re an inspiration! Thank you and keep pouring yourself into this.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Anca,

      Thank you so much! Really humbled to hear that. Makes me smile. :) I will keep on going with it!

      Say, since you’ve read a bunch of the site, maybe you’d like to give me a bit of feedback on something. Perhaps you noticed that as the articles get closer to the present, more and more of them include content from other authors/thinkers/sources. I still dispense my perspective, but I’m sort of moving in a direction of including content from other thinkers in most every post. I’m interested to hear how this sounds to people who read my site. I personally think the site’s value and credibility is increased by the incorporation of other thinkers, and I don’t want it to be all about me anymore. But yeah, just curious how that sounds to you. If you see this, I’d love to hear what you think about that.

      Thanks again for the beautiful comment. Warm regards to you.

      Best,
      Jordan

      • Anca

        Jordan, I think you do a beautiful job of blending other resources and your own perspective. It is important to include research that goes beyond the subjective, as that expands on ‘reality,’ and it does increase credibility. Reality is so vast, and the more thinkers, the more ground is covered.

        Also, some of the content you are referencing, is translated by you into something that is easily digestible. Personally, I will always look forward to hearing your opinion, as it speaks to me. Continue to enlighten us with both!

        • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

          Anca, brilliant feedback. Thanks so much for it. I love trying to find a balance between other thinkers and my own interpretations/ideas, so it sounds like we’re on the same page. Cheers. :)

  • Niranjan

    Thank you for the wonderful article Jordan!

    Loved the way how the article is written. While I was reading, I was thinking that you were not mentioning about the credibility of others’ criticism and voila! It was mentioned in ‘One word of Caution.’

    Personally, I tend to act based on how my life should be viewed by others. But that causes dissatisfaction and stress often.I realize that I wish to act unique but have a tremendous amount of self-doubt in my actions because it raises doubt whether I am just trying to be different from others or it is my own identity.
    As you said, my life is a ‘work in progress’ and I’m endeavoring to find out the Real Me!

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Niranjan,

      Ah, interesting point. It can be difficult sometimes to know if what we’re doing is because it’s really our identity or just a kind of shallow attempt to appear original or unique to others. I think the way to find out what you truly enjoy doing is to just try a lot of things. Try them on your own terms, and see what things you tend to lose yourself in.

      Self-doubt and fear of others’ opinions can certainly be crippling. I think we all have it to an extent, but I find that the more I do what I really want to do, the less it bothers me what others think. It’s definitely something you develop over time. Thanks for commenting, and I hope you’ll stick around. I’d love to continue to hear from you! Regards.

  • erin

    Thank you. Good timing.

    That is all.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      You’re welcome! :)

  • Nikeororo

    Jordan :)

    This must be the best article I have read on this issue of trying too hard to be liked, and being ok with not being liked.

    I just went through a life changing week where I stood up to the people who were bullying me for a long time. These bullies (one a close family member and the other a colleague at university) have been giving me sleepless nights for months because of their actions and words towards me. Other people never saw them doing this to me (they were wonderful to everyone else), and it was killing me slowly inside trying to figure out what it is that I had done to them and why they disliked me so much to treat me so terribly; especially since I had been as kind to them as I am to everyone else (I would buy them gifts on their birthdays and always speak warmly to them).

    I decided that enough was enough and I confronted them both this week. I had been afraid to do this before (there were times when I had tried, only to have them invalidate my feelings by walking away or ignoring me) but I stood my ground and told them that their actions were immature, childish and (in the case of the colleague) unprofessional. The colleague said that she doesn’t have a particular reason as to why she dislikes me, she just does. This was the pivotal moment for me: It was the moment I realised that I owed her nothing and I should stop trying so hard to be nice to her. She just doesn’t deserve my kindness, and I just don’t care to give it to her any longer. I had felt the need to at least try to be nice because of the fact that we worked together (in the past we had to travel to other countries together) and we have mutual friends, but now that pressure is lifted because I just don’t care…and I feel so free.
    I have come to accept that not everyone will like me, and haters will always hate. I cannot stop myself from being me because of another’s insecurities, and I will never stoop down to the level of disliking or hating anyone else (mainly because I don’t have time for such silly emotions in my life: If someone decides they’ll dislike or hate me, I become indifferent to their existence, as if I had never met them; and also because trying to think of how I dislike another causes me to frown, and frown lines are so unbecoming on my face, I prefer the smile lines much more).
    Reading this post (the first I read on your blog) makes me feel happy, because I feel the freedom to smile more easily being me now, instead of being bogged down with the frustration of figuring out how to write an apology letter to someone to whom I did nothing to and who deserves nothing from me (not even the slightest bit of acknowledgement).
    Thanks so much, I’ll be reading more of your blog (the reviews are so positive :) ) and sorry for the long post…
    xo, Nikeororo

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Nikeororo,

      Thank you much for the generous praise on my article. I’m really sorry to hear about the struggles you’ve been having with your family member and colleague. They sound like very inconsiderate people, and I’m glad you stood up to them. Sounds like you had an important realization: that some people simply won’t like you.

      This can for sure be difficult to accept, but in a world of 7 billion people, it’s simply inevitable. If I know someone doesn’t really like me, I’ll still be cordial to them, but I’m with you: I mostly just forget that they exist. I try to dwell on it for as short of time as possible. Good for you for reaching this understanding and smiling a bit easier. I hope things continue to be better.

      Thank you for reading the blog and for being a fan of my stuff! Hope to hear from you again in the future. All the best.

      Yours,
      Jordan

    • devo13

      I am glad you found some inner peace. No one has time to waste convincing people to like them. Some people, like the one you mentioned, don’t even have a valid reason, so no need to stress about them. I try to keep this in mind at work where I am generally liked but don’t get along with some people. I guess I am less concerned with being BFFs with everyone and having lunch with a certain clique in the lunchroom and content with doing my own thing. I am an outgoing person in general but some people and I just don’t click. Such is life. I just try to accept this and keep it moving because no one really has time for people who don’t matter.

  • http://www.spectrumofminds.blogspot.com/ Beth Johnson

    You took the thoughts right out of my head. I wish you could implant them in my teenager’s minds, however. I hope they will come to this realization eventually and accept themselves. it is not easy, as you have stated, but completely necessary. Thank you for your words! Love your blog!!!

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Many thanks, Beth! I think it’s particularly difficult to feel this way as a teenager when most of your peers are so caught up in what is “popular”. I certainly didn’t. Give them time. All the best!

  • Lee

    Amazing article, direct and to the point

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Thank you.

  • Tanvika Singh

    well whatever u have written is pretty much true….life long we kill ourselves to confirm and we end up being in a habitual, meaningless life…….

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Glad you found something that rang true, Tanvika. Cheers.

  • jj

    I’d rather be labeled a ‘hater’ than a ‘sheep’.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      I’d rather not be labeled anything, personally.

      • jj

        Well that’s not really an option.

        • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

          I’ve been in social contexts that seem to have transcended labeling, but on the whole, you’re right—labels are very much built into the way we communicate with one another.

  • devo13

    Thanks Jordan. I enjoyed your article. I feel like it is nice to be well-liked but not to the degree where I am going to worry and be stressed out wondering why someone doesn’t like me. Some people click and some don’t. Some people are jealous. Some people have so much going on in their lives. Who knows what their deal is. Perhaps my lack of sugarcoating stuff rubs people the wrong way as well, or my no-nonsense personality. At work, for instance, there are some people who I don’t like (and who don’t seem to like me), so I’ve learned to just focus on my job and not take things too personally (I’ve always been kind of sensitive). I just try to remain cordial and professional and reserve my energy for those who matter. This is only an issue with some people because I have plenty of friends who i get along with. Go figure. Anyway, looking forward to reading some more of your stuff.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Thanks, devo13. Keep doing your thing.

  • Notselrach

    If there’s any positive side to aging it’s precisely what you mention in your article. Over time, what people think really matters less and less as long the the path I take is an honest one. That there’s not as much energy as we age, and the time is running out (so to speak) so I find that I choose my “battles” more carefully. Do I care what people in general think of me – Hell no! Do I care about what I think of me – Hell yes! For me getting honest is the best skill I have still slowly been developing. I have peeled off many layers over the years (that means getting rid of the myths about who I thought I was supposed to be and losing the comparisons of myself with others) Getting honest has forced me to look at my natural abilities as well the defects I possess. With a sense of positive caring I have developed I work to improve them.
    I live with a different paradigm than I used to and as a result my life style has changed dramatically because honesty forces one to make anxiety producing changes; of course in hindsight they make pretty good sense and the most wondrous thing is I am happier than I ever was in my younger years. Oh, as a postscript change does become easier and sometimes downright exciting.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Thanks for the encouraging and insightful comment, Notselrach.

  • Deanne

    This is a great post. I do wish, however that the goal wasn’t always so high. What about just being normal but different? “Within all of us, there are numerous things we really, deeply wish we could do — travel the Earth, start a business, build an Earthship, become a stand-up comic/vagabond, etc. etc. ” these are all really high achievements. What about the regular everyday achievements? Or what about just being different? As a woman who really enjoys sex, I have many sexual partners. But I feel I need to keep this a secret from most people in my life to be socially accepted. I wish there was more encouragement to be yourself as you truly are, and not be morally judged for your choices.

    • http://www.refinethemind.com/ Jordan Bates

      Yeah, Deanne, I’m with you—think I got a bit lofty and misty-eyed with that particular line. I also wrote this a long time ago. I think that I picked some extreme examples but was mostly just suggesting that people should “do their thing”, whatever that may be. Maybe “just being different” is a “really high achievement”. Who’s to say? It is certainly a damn shame that our culture shames people for freely expressing their sexuality and fulfilling their natural physical urges. I hope you at least have some people whom you feel you can be totally open with about sex. If not, the community on http://www.reddit.com/r/sex is a pretty awesome place.