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 If he has withdrawn his high opinion of you now, why should you care?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.
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.
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:
*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...