Sunday, February 08, 2009

It Doesn't Matter if People Like Me. But You Like Me, Right?

One thing my therapist and I talk about on a frequent basis is my need for people to like me. Also my control issues. And my unrealistic expectations. Oh, and my comparison problem. But, I'm digressing here. What I want to talk about is that first one. That need for people to like me.

I'm sure most of you will agree that the need for love and acceptance is innate. Every infant born needs love and care just as desperately as they need food and air (you're welcome for the rhyme). Even as an adult, the need for love is just a part of who I am --wouldn't you agree? Don't you desire love? Kindness? Acceptance? Understanding? Yes! This is because we need each other. I could get religious here and explain why, but I know that those without religious beliefs will probably agree with me --we all need love. At least at some level. We do.
Now, the problem isn't needing each other. It's when we turn that need into something unrealistic or demanding. Let's say...for instance...that there's this woman. She's smart, she's pretty, she's married, she has kids, she has friends. Let's say she loves to write and blog and happens to...teach piano lessons. Let's also say that one of her gifts has been to maintain friendships that have lasted for more than 20 years. Let's also say that this random woman counts friendships as some of the greatest assets in her life.

That's not so bad, is it?

And see, it's not --at least from the outside. I don't see myself as being foolish for having friends (or trying to keep friends). But the problem lies in that I don't want them or anyone I've ever had any kind of an association with to ever think badly of me. Ever.
No, seriously. Never, ever.
Remember Elizabeth Bennett from the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice? Here's a scene between her and Jane:
Lizzy: How he must despise me now.
Jane: But Lizzy you've never sought his love, nor welcomed it when he offered it! If he has withdrawn his high opinion of you now, why should you care?
Lizzy: I don't know! I can't explain it! I know I shall probably never see him again...I cannot bear to think that he is alive in the world and thinking ill of me.

Now, we all know that Lizzy actually loves Darcy and they get together in the end (and if you didn't know this, then we can never be friends. Look! I'm cured! Ha! Okay, just kidding. We can still be friends. Maybe.), but this scene means a lot to me because the last line is how I feel about everybody.
Every. Body.
I can't stand to think that someone won't like me. Why won't they like me? How could they not like me? What did I do? Say? Didn't they get my sarcasm? Didn't they understand my pain at the time? Please, random stranger, just like me!!
It reminds me of that one episode of Seinfeld, when Jerry's parents are completely mystified that somebody wouldn't like Jerry. Except I'm Jerry's parents. Trapped in Jerry's body.
Weird visual.

See, here's the thing. I know I'm abrasive and rude sometimes. I know I'm opinionated and tactless. I'm honest almost to a fault, but I tend to believe I have redeeming qualities, especially when it comes to social interaction. But I have learned some hard lessons over the past decade or so, and I am beginning to realize that not everyone is going to like me. Nor --nor! --does it matter.
It doesn't matter!
Now, if I'm being uncharitable and punching random people in the face, or insulting my friends because they make different decisions than I do, then yeah --I deserve to be friendless. But I usually don't do this. I'm usually very nice. Service-oriented. Charitable. I'm even fun to be with, gosh darn it! (Well, maybe not during my depression days, but you know what I mean.) And so this is why I wonder why people don't like me, or --even worse --care way too much what random people think of me. I'm always afraid of insulting someone or hurting their feelings.
Makes no sense, I know! Me, the abrasive, tactless, opinionated person is always afraid of hurting someone's feelings. Even in my intense honesty, I still cringe because I hope people understand that I really don't mean to come off as rude. And that I hope they know I like them, and hope they like me.
Ooh! But it gets worse! Here are some things I've avoided doing because I was afraid of hurting someone's feelings:
*Changing midwives
*Cancelling the lawn service
*Confronting a piano student's parents
*Emailing a friend
*Not ignoring friends on Facebook I didn't remember (but knew I must have known because we had 40 friends in common) and accepted them instead
*Doing last minute favors for ward members when I didn't have the time

The midwife thing has me tripping out right now. I've decided I have to go somewhere else because I don't want pitocin for anything --I'm still angry over #4's birth where my midwife gave me too much. You know, the midwife I'm going to. Right now. The one I can't go to anymore --and yet I'm afraid to hurt her feelings.
See what I mean?

So, I'm working on it. In fact, today, I happened to go over to a blog of an old high school friend. I've tried, in the last year, to reconnect with this friend, with absolutely no response whatsoever. I know she got my messages --I also know she's connecting with many of our mutual friends. For a while I was really annoyed, bugged, hurt that she would ignore me so blatantly, and I still don't know why --nor do I understand. I've tried to figure out what I did or said over the last decade to make her refuse contact with me, but I'm stumped. Completely stumped.
[Oh, and here's the other thing: If somebody doesn't respond in kind, I usually try and give it another attempt a while later (weeks? months?) and then I'm done. I won't be the person who pushes and pushes and prods and begs and annoys people to death. This is why I rarely email someone until I've received an email from them. Nor will I cold-call people without a reason. Nor will I bug friends (or family, or acquaintances, or random strangers) with incessant clingy-needy-communication. I refuse to be that person --but that usually means friendships end, eh? But hey, what kind of crap friendship would that be if it was all one-sided like that?!]

So...ummm...where was I? Oh, yes. The point. The point is that I'm getting better. This random high school friend may never know she hurt my feelings, and she may live a perfectly wonderful life always thinking ill of me, or she just may never think of me at all.

And I'm okay with it.

Progress, people. Progress.

Do you care way to much how people perceive you? Do you worry too much if people like you or not? Do you avoid doing things that may hurt random stranger's feelings? If so, tell me about it...


Amanda D said...

Hooray for progress! You're awesome, Cheryl.

blogging and bliss~ said...

Well I can see we are somewhat alike. I am so glad for your progress. I like your quote at the top. I hope to be more like that. Especially so no one will talk bad of me!

FluffyChicky said...

I am always paranoid that I have offended people in some way...people I know, people I don't know...I just HATE having people mad at me. Odd, I can be mad at someone to the point that I can't stand to look at them, but the instant they are mad at ME, I bend over backwards to try and make them like me again. I can't explain it.

But I am glad that YOU are getting better. Once you get it all figured out, maybe you can clue me in...assuming that you still like ME enough to share that sort of thing... :)

Michelle said...

I have an obsession with people liking me too. But I know that I also inadvertently hurt people's feelings because I'm spread so thin.

m_and_m said...

Yup. I share the same obsession.

And I would like to think that I'm making progress, but I am not sure I am.


Working on it.

Progress is great. yay for you.

And I DO like you.

So there.

Summer said...

I most definitely relate to this. I want people to like me for sure, but I have realized sometimes it's just not gonna happen and I'm ok with it.

Oh and if you are not comfortable with your midwife/medical provider, DON'T HESITATE to switch. Your instincts could keep you out of a world of pain (speaking from experience here) :).

Annette Lyon said...

This could have been written by me: "I know I'm abrasive and rude sometimes. I know I'm opinionated and tactless. I'm honest almost to a fault, but I tend to believe I have redeeming qualities."

I constnatly end up intimidating and/or offending people when all I'm trying to do is express an opinion or share something. It's bunches of fun. In the sense that it totally sucks.

Anonymous said...

The older I get, the less I care. I still kind of care, but give me a few more years.

Rachel and Nathan Fisher said...

Cheryl I am totally the same way. I struggle with it, but for now I just try to keep my focus positive. However, I also know that I often avoid putting myself or my thoughts "out there" because I am so worried about what someone might think.

I am not looking forward to the day when I have to add my children to the list of people I have to please - right now they still think that I am awesome and know everything!

Becky, I have a cat said...

Let me share with you my opinionated, tactless, rude thoughts on this. But it is how I honestly feel.

I have people I simply don't like. Just do not get along with, don't see eye to eye, would never want to spend time with them unless forced to. I have to accept the fact that for every person I feel that way about, there is at least 1 person that feels that way about me. It doesn't mean I'm not civil with them or pick fights. I can get along and be around them if necessary. I just don't call and invite them over for coffee.

I live by something akin to the golden rule. I try not to gossip and speak ill of them behind their back (or to their face). I'm optimistic that they return the favor. I figure that if I don't make waves for them that they have bigger things to worry about than little ole me.

So there's my two cents. Don't spend it all in one place. :)

Julie said...

First of all, an answer: Yes. I do care what people think of me. BUT, I am learning to care less. I still choose to be kind and welcoming, etc., but I am trying to choose NOT to be obsessive, worried, losing sleep over whatever they might think of me.
Speaking from experience (and TaLaisa can back this up...just ask her because she knows...), I sometimes don't respond to emails for months on end...not because I don't like the person, but because I just forget to. I always keep them in my inbox until I do, though. So, maybe this friend is just busy? I know he/she has gotten in touch with others, but sometimes it just slips peoples' minds, ya know? One of the things I've had to come to grips with is the fact that yeah, it's nice to know someone from high school (or random stranger or whatever) likes me and it's nice to show them that I like them, too, but WAY more important than that is to show my family - the ones in my immediate presence every single day - that I like them more than anybody else.

There have been actual circumstances where those two have been in conflict with one another and I have lost a friend over it, but I have had to choose to be okay with that because my family is more important than they are. (You know, in my own sphere of responsibility...). And actually, on two of those occasions, when I calmly and without emotion wrote a letter to that friend explaining my thoughts and reasons for my actions, things turned out okay and our relationship is much healthier and much less demanding.

I'll stop now.

flip flop mama said...

I really liked what Becky, I have a cat said. There are some some people out there that rub me the wrong way. I do what I can be to kind to others, but that doesn't mean that everyone is going to be my friend. It's hard to make and keep friends. I also care much less the older I get too. I feel secure in who I am and like myself so I'm good. :)

Cheryl said...

Awesome comments people --and great advice.
Thank you!

Alison Wonderland said...

I think you're funny (and awesome). And I know you're not the only one who can't stand people notliking them. My sisters are all that way. (Me? It doesn't really bother me to know someone doesn't like me. But them I'm cold and heartless, so what're you gonna do?)
Anyway, I just thought I'd tell you that I like you, I really really like you.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

Sometimes...Definitely...Not always...

Jean said...

I was happy to discover this blog entry today--it was just what I needed to read. Thank you!