Likability gets in the way

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Everyone wants to be liked.

Now, of course, being liked is something some people worry about more than others. And, our reasons for wanting to be liked will vary greatly across the board.

Some people want to be liked so they feel like they fit in to a desirable crowd. Others want to be liked for the popularity factor, or to increase their own social/ professional gain.

Then there are some people who want to be liked, because they fear being disliked more than anything else. Acceptance is something they yearn so greatly for that it becomes the only target in their scope. But, we all possess a little bit of this quality, and can all relate to the pains that come with likability.

For example, when our idols or parents don’t seem to accept us as we are, that hurts. When our coaches and leaders don’t seem to like us as much as other people on the team, that hurts. When we are excluded from groups of people that matter to us, that hurts. Everyone can relate to feeling this pain of rejection at some point in our lives. Yet, some people will keep trying to be liked by those that have neglected a relationship with them in the past. Some people are so persistent in their fight for acceptance and friendship that they are willing to face continual rejection, hoping that those rejections will one day become mutually enjoyable relationships.

Continual rejection and exclusion from a desired group can seriously affect your self-esteem and personal perceptions of ourselves. Not being liked by the people we want to like us most can make us feel unworthy, unwanted, and small. And, we will do anything we can to avoid feeling those things — even if it means becoming a doormat.

Unfortunately, rejection is not the worst side effect of an unsuccessful campaign to be liked. Rather, the worst thing someone can do to gain another person’s acceptance is to forfeit their own needs, values, and individuality in favor of the wants of another.

For instance, let’s say you don’t have the best relationship with your new boss. You can see that other people in the office seem to have a steady rapport with them, and that back-and-forth leads them to closer, more accepting and respectful relationships with their superior. But, you also notice that these outgoing, friendly, likable people are getting more opportunities in the workplace. While those that don’t actively attempt to build and maintain this kind of relationship with the boss, don’t get as many opportunities for advancement and prestige. Naturally, you decide the best way to advance in your organization is to get friendly with the boss in order to get those fresh opportunities. So, you begin a professional courtship of sorts. You sprint to the breakroom every time you notice them get up for a cup of coffee. You take your lunch break when they take theirs so you won’t miss out on potential opportunities for discussion. You take every opportunity you can to talk with them, shmooze them, and build a relationship.

But, the boss just doesn’t seem to like you, and you don’t really like them. You don’t see eye-to-eye on most workplace issues. You disagree with the campaigns they’ve set in motion and the environment they’ve fostered at work. But, you still want them to like you so that you’ll have access to the same opportunities as your coworkers.

So, you forfeit your voice. You put aside your opinions. You hold your tongue, even when it’s begging for a good lashing. You avoid competition with your peers like the plague, knowing that stepping up can mean stepping on the toes of the wrong powerful people. And, therein, you become a different version of yourself, one in which your boss will like all for the sake of likability. But, you don’t like this version of yourself, because it’s not really you.

We want so badly to be accepted into the “in” crowd that we are willing to suppress our true selves in order to avoid rejection by those it hurts to be rejected by the most.

And, it doesn’t just hurt our sense of selves, it hurts every and all aspects of our social and work lives. The constant fear of rejection or exclusion makes us fickle in the face of adversity. Rather than stand up for what we believe in or speak out in times when a strong voice is necessary, we cower. We hide, we run, or worst of all, we fake it. We fake support, fake understanding, fake a whole new version of ourselves that only exists to appease others. We fear not being accepted so badly, we fear stepping on toes of important people. We fear that staying true to ourselves will mean never being liked. We fear that we are not likable as we are, and that we must change ourselves to be someone that people will like.

These are fears that we all face at some point in our lives. And, these are fears that stem from insecurity, a lack of confidence in ourselves, and not knowing who would really like us if we were ourselves all the time.

Being yourself is scary. You never know if your true self will rub people the wrong way, cause you to lose valuable relationships, or end up leaving you to face the world alone.

But, in reality, there is nothing more important than being true to yourself. You are the only you in the world, and you deserve to be that person. Of course, be respectful, but speak up when things need to be said. Be kind, but harsh when someone needs to hear it. Don’t pick fights for the sake of fighting, but rather to argue a point that you really believe in. And, step on toes when someone’s phalanges need a good stepping.

Just because your opinions or beliefs don’t align with another does not mean that you’re wrong, but simply that you are two different people that are equally valid in wanting to be your true selves. There is quite a difference between being difficult, and being yourself.

So, remember, everyone wants to be liked to an extent. And, if you’re pretending to be someone else just so people will like you, it may work. But, they will not end up liking you. They will like the version of yourself you have conceptualized, crafted, and created specifically for their acceptance. And, that’s just another definition of rejection.

Chad Q. Brown’s Profile is a retained consulting firm incorporating distinct team building and talent strategies utilizing proprietary technology and behavioral assessment infrastructure. Our mission — help people get better at people.


Chad Q. Brown

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