I thought that if I could get everyone to like me, it would mean that I was the kindest, most well-behaved person I could be.
I thought never doing anything wrong meant that I was always doing the right thing.
But that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Now that I’m older and scarred and jaded and wiser, I know that trying to get everyone to like me is feeding the anxiety, because that’s precisely what it is — my anxiety.
Trying to please everyone is a losing battle.
I tried to always suck up to the teacher, and I annoyed my friends. I always tried to be nice to my friends, and I became the pushover. I apologized over and over for things that weren’t my fault, and I was seen as annoying and too soft.
In relationships, I realized that trying to be the nice guy all the time didn’t make sense.
Not all situations require niceness. Sometimes what I needed to do was provide a friend or an acquaintance with a proverbial kick in the pants.
If someone wrongs me, I don’t immediately ignore it and hope for better luck next time.
If someone lies about me, I don’t pretend to believe that they had my best interests in mind.
Living a thoughtful life means responding in a way that is appropriate for the situation. Context matters.
Would I tickle someone who just punched me in the face?
No, I’d take a directive approach. I’d take action.
Now that doesn’t mean I would retaliate with a punch of my own (I’m a lover, not a fighter after all). But it does mean that I would make sure my next move is strong.
After all, strength is in the response.
I’m a big fan of Stoic philosophy. I’m a big believer that, at the end of the day, the only thing I can control is myself and how I respond to what happens to me.
Leaders don’t apologize or waffle or sheepishly grin or dance around difficult topics because they don’t want to stir the pot.
Leaders stick their hand in the fiery cauldron to show others that they mean business.
As much as it hurts, I know that taking the action that is right for me stings a little because it’s an important reminder that I’m alive — that my life is up to me.
Taking bold action, backed by principles, is not for the weak of heart.
When I take a strong stance, I know now that not everyone will like. I realize that there will always be those who talk behind my back — people who point fingers rather than point the way forward.
And I aim to move forward.
I may escape and isolate myself in my neuroticism from time to time — but when I emerge, I know where I’m coming from. Because I’ve done the deep work to figure out who I am.
Whether it’s speaking in public, writing online, or defending a stranger who has been wronged by another, I know that there is typically only a handful of right ways to act in any given situation.
The electrifying insight is that If I wanted to be liked all the time, I would end up avoiding most of my life.
I would evade conflict to save myself from attack.
But in the process, I’d also prevent myself from living — from being “the man in the arena,” as was famously stated by President Teddy Roosevelt.
I want to know myself as well as possible. I read voraciously and reflect incessantly so that I can.
When people tell me that I’m weird to spend so much time on “strange” things, I smile.
They don’t have to like what I’m doing, and the fact that some people don’t must mean that I’m on the right track.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
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