Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Tip: Forget About Being Likable

Believe it or not, I used to care what people think. Yes, it's true. There was a time when I placed great stock in the opinion of others and what people said. Maybe it was because I wanted to fit in and feared being that lone 'ugly duckling,' or maybe I subconsciously worried about my disability getting in the way of things. Whatever the reason, I just knew that I really, really, really wanted people to like me.

The questions roamed around endlessly in my head...

--Did I just say the right thing?
--Did I do that wrong?
--Am I wearing the right shirt?
--Do they think I'm stupid?
--Will they remember my mistake forever?

It all can become quite overwhelming rather quickly. And it did. Obviously, trying to be everything to everyone leaves little room for you to be yourself. But then I read Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's wise words on the trappings of likability, and her advice was like a shot of truth to my heart...

I think that what our society teaches young girls, and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women and self-professed feminists to shrug off, is that idea that likability is an essential part of you, of the space you occupy in the world, that you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes to make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy, because you have to be likable. 

So what I want to say to young girls is forget about likability. If you start thinking about being likable you are not going to tell your story honestly, because you are going to be so concerned with not offending, and that’s going to ruin your story, so forget about likability. And also the world is such a wonderful, diverse, and multifaceted place that there’s somebody who’s going to like you; you don’t need to twist yourself into shapes.

That's the key, I think. If life is about telling your story and telling it honestly, there's no time for worrying about what people think. The minute you start taking time to consider how people are going to perceive you? Well, it's almost as if you're censoring yourself; that's not fair to you or anyone else. Ever.

And, really, think about it: People already have so much going on in their lives, and like my sister always says, "Do you think they're actually going to remember this in the grand scheme of things?" Now, that's not to say that they don't care about you. It just means that people probably aren't nearly as attuned to your life and behavior as you think they are. Do you remember what your co-worker said in that meeting yesterday? What was your sister wearing last weekend? What was the punchline of that corny joke your doctor told you during your last visit?

Translation: Everyone's got their own stuff that they're dealing with.
And here's another thing about getting people to like you -- "getting" is the keyword. If you have to get someone to like you, if it takes some sort of extraordinary measure, doesn't the whole thing just reek of fakeness? It's like that old adage we learned as children: If you have to bribe someone to be your friend, then maybe they're not worth having as a friend. Because, really, when it comes down to it, that's not what true friendship is all about. It's about those gives and takes that truly define a friendship. In the end, that's what makes you likable, and, really, the only think that matters.

Do you put a high price on what people think of you, friends? Has it changed over the years? How have you balanced your desire to be likable with your need to just be yourself? What advice do you have for those struggling with the issue these days? Let's chat, shall we? xoxo

[Photos via We Heart It]


  1. Its been days since I've been feeling so down and stressed out mostly because of the issue of being likable. And I've been trying my best to be okay with myself you know. Anyhoo, thank you for this beautiful reminder mel. It means alot to girls like me. ^_^ <3

  2. There have been a number of things that have happened in my life. I used to be one that wanted to be liked by every one. That is not going to happen. I think as I have aged it has not mattered as much as I like who I am and am comfortable with myself and my family.

  3. Great post, thank you for posting this.

  4. I used to care about what people thought about me. But, when I turned 30 other people's opinion of me stopped being so important. It was a very freeing experience.

  5. Ica, always know how awesome you are!! Sending big hugs through the Internet!

  6. suburban pop, me too -- i think age has a lot to do with it. As I've gotten older, I've grown into my own skin more... :)


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