August 28, 2013

The Upside of Being Unlikeable.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I don’t like you, and I don’t want to be friends with you anymore!

I was 5 years old the first time I heard those words. I don’t remember the words as much as I do the feeling that they inflicted: they stung like a bee sting.

I rushed home to my grandmother and she shared with me one of those tough but true life lessons.

Fact: No matter how great you think you are, there are always going to be people out there who don’t like you.

As it turns out, she was right.  That may have been my first example, but it certainly wasn’t my last.

In the past year, I learned that two people whom I considered friends really and truly do not like me. Well, maybe “friends” is not the right word. If anything, the more correct term for them would be acquaintances. I knew them because of my association in the mind/body community. They wouldn’t be the first people I would turn to if in a crisis, but I thought we had some semblance of friendship.

The “break-ups” occurred the way most do nowadays. They de-friended me on Facebook and when I happened to run into them a few times at separate social gatherings, they treated me very coldly.

For a long time, I was mystified as to what I had done to provoke this.

I can be mean when I want to be, but that didn’t apply to either of these situations. I truly could not think of anything I had done to either to these people that could have been misunderstood. Lastly, dammit, I am a nice person! Well, I am most of the time.

I’ve taught free yoga classes to inner city kids, and I recycle. Doesn’t this prove I am good?!

After a brief period of sadness followed by anger, my grandmother’s words came back to me.

“Sometimes, you are going to encounter people who dislike you.”

Granted, if you find you are alienating everyone you encounter and are constantly bitter, angry and picking fights, then this might mean you have personality disorder or some other problem that requires professional help. However, many people are going to dislike you for the sole reason that they can.

Rather than dwell on it, take it as learning experience.

If anything, there are even a few upsides to being disliked which I share below:

1. You learn who your real friends are.

Like many people in this modern age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I have a lot of acquaintances, but only a few friends. When I think of my real friends, I think of the people who have seen both the good, the bad and the ugly side of me.

When most people see me in the street or at a social event, most of the time they see my persona and not the real me.

When we encounter someone in one of the above situations and ask how they are, we don’t really want or expect to know how they really are. Instead, we expect to hear the standard, “I’m fine!” or “Things are going well!”

As a member of the mind/body community, I find that some of them go out of their way to cultivate this image that they are serene, Zen-like people when the truth is, no one is like that all of the time.

Likewise, I am wary of anyone who claims to have a “perfect” relationship whether it is with a spouse, a parent, or especially with a friend because the truth is, anyone who truly knows you the way a real friend does sees past the superficial you.

My closest friends and I have disagreed. We have had passionate arguments and have even gone without speaking to each other for periods of time. They have seen me at my saddest, when I’m petty, at my nicest, and my most vulnerable. And they still love me and continue to be friends.

2. You learn not to take it personally.

It’s been said many times, but it’s true: in many cases, if someone takes a disliking to you without any valid reason, it really isn’t about you but them.

In the two cases, I mentioned, neither of these people were part of my inner circle. Each assumed things about me that weren’t true and ironically, had they come out and asked me, I would have been more than happy to tell them the truth.

When I first became aware that these two disliked we, my initial reaction was to wonder what I had done to cause this. However, when I came to the conclusion that I had not done anything, I also realized I had better things to do with my time than wonder.

I don’t mean this in a cold or dismissive way.

Rather, I think of some of those souls we have all encountered at least once in our lives who can pick a fight or claim that someone is out to get them when in fact no one is.

Also, think about what it must be like to be a public figure and have total strangers dislike you often for no reason at all. In fact, in order to survive in the public eye, these people must have a tough skin.

I remember an interview once with Hillary Clinton when she was still First Lady. When asked how she took the criticism, she replied that she couldn’t worry about all the people who disliked her or else she would spend all her time doing nothing else. She was right.

As a blogger, I know some people dislike me solely because of my opinions and/or even my writing style.

It does happen, and I am not even in the same sphere that a public figure is. There is another thing one can learn from public figures and how they handle negativity which leads me to number three.

3. It can help you develop a sense of humor about yourself.

Like many people, I take myself far too seriously sometimes. Whenever I feel bummed out and think that the whole world hates me, I pause to think about my reality of the situation: I am a 30-something mother-of-one, who lives in a small town and teaches knitting. I’m hardly an important or well-known figure. Indeed, at 5’2″ and 110 lbs I am not even scary or intimidating.

It is kind of fun when someone has heard the worst about you, and you end up genuinely surprising them by turning out not to be Dracula’s mother. I actually did have someone tell me I wasn’t nearly as “hideous” as they had been led to believe. I took it as a compliment: after all, you can only go up from there.

In closing, the words of my late grandmother ring true:

No matter how great you think you are, there are always going to be people out there who don’t like you.

Sometimes, we—especially if we are women—go out of our ways to please everyone or repress our true feelings in the hopes that certain people will like us, only to discover the hard way that it’s not going to work.

By accepting that you will never be liked by everyone, one can move on and focus on the more important things in life such as building and caring for real friendships that do matter and can last a lifetime.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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