How do you feel about being disliked?
If you answered, ‘I couldn’t give a stuff!’ it’s likely you’re being defensive. Let’s be truthful; we’re social animals and we’d all rather be liked.
But there are benefits to not minding, and maybe you’ve worked that out already.
When we’re children and we want to please our parents. As school kids, we want to please other kids: the cool kids, the smart kids or the sporty kids. We want to fit in.
Many adults still strive to please; the daughter who studies accounting instead of art, the husband who chooses the secure job instead of the one that excites him, the friend who keeps quiet instead of declaring a different opinion, do so in order to please others.
They fear causing an argument. They fear rejection. They fear being disliked.
They strive for acceptance and recognition and end up living a life according to someone else’s idea of how they should live.
We have no control over what someone else thinks of us. Others don’t have control over what we think of them.
We can’t make people appreciate us or agree with us. So, isn’t it better to be honest? Isn’t it better to choose the life that we believe will make us most happy? And, isn’t being honest a better way to form true, solid relationships with people who like us for who we truly are?
If we can accept ourselves as we are and recognise our own ability and limitations, if we’re not always seeking recognition and praise, we will be able to live life in accordance with our own values.
I’m one of those people who likes to please. It disturbs me if someone is upset with me or dislikes me. I suffer if I feel misunderstood and I will keep quiet rather than argue. I like to be praised and recognized for my achievements and will adjust my behaviour in order to get it.
But lately I’ve been wondering if it’s worth it. I’ve even been wondering if my trying to please indirectly contributed to the breakdown of my marriage. If I’d had more confidence in myself, would that have made a difference to my relationship?
Trying to please is hard work. A desire to please comes from a place of uncertainty. Am I worth it? Am I good enough? Will he still like me? Are we even sure what someone else wants?
If we’re trying to please, we’re trying to obtain praise, recognition, acknowledgement. The very desire to receive praise comes from a place of need, to have our self-worth reinforced.
It betrays that we’re not doing something purely because we want to. And it’s requiring someone else to behave a certain way. Expecting reward makes us even more vulnerable, and invites conflict.
Trying to please is not living the way we honestly want.
Are we being true to our values and beliefs if we’re worrying about what others think of us?
Living life trying to please others, or even one other, is not a rewarding or free way to live.
Accepting ourselves as we are, fulfilling our tasks to the best of our ability without needing someone else to tell us we’re worthy, and following our own path, are surely better ways to find happiness.
With these thoughts in mind, I’ve been endeavoring to achieve self-acceptance.
I was advised to read a book called ‘The Courage to be Disliked’, by the Japanese philosopher, Ichiro Kishimi and the writer, Fumitake Koga. The book portrays the philosophy of Adler, one of the three giants of 19th century psychology, alongside Freud and Jung.
Adler states that all our problems are interpersonal relationship problems. That means, how we live our lives in relation to other people.
One of the first principles is the separation of tasks, that is, knowing what is our own task and recognising the boundary of someone else’s task.
My behavior is my task. How someone responds to that behaviour is their task.
Adler says that knowing and not crossing these task boundaries is the gateway to harmony in our lives. Crossing the boundaries causes conflict.
Imagine that your mother-in-law has ‘tidied’ your linen cupboard while you were out. Or your friend suggests it’s time you repainted the house, disciplined your child or lost weight. Do you think you’d be delighted with their recommendation? I think not!
The reason there is conflict when someone encroaches on another’s task is because there is the implication that they know best: they’re superior, you’re inferior. A feeling of inferiority or superiority comes from a vertical vision of relationships.
A fundamental principle of Adler’s philosophy is that all interpersonal relationships be horizontal, that is equal. The housewife and the company executive are equal, just not the same. Economic superiority has no connection to human worth. If people are equal, there is no need to compete with others. It is not about being better than the next person.
It is about being self-reliant and the best person you can be.
Without a feeling of superiority or inferiority, it is easier to live your own life and not encroach on others. When you recognise your own ability and limitations, you can find the courage to change what you can change and improve yourself. You can move forward without worrying about what the other person is doing or what they think of you. It allows you to contribute to society while at the same time being yourself.
When you contribute to the lives of others, committing to your own community, you come to accept your existential worth. To have self-worth you need to feel that you are of use to someone.
If you feel that you have purpose you will feel that you are contributing.
Happiness is the feeling of contribution.
It will result in seeing others as comrades and knowing that you have worth equal to others. People wish to belong and have a feeling of ‘it’s okay to be here.’
Being disliked by someone is proof that you are exercising your freedom and living in freedom.
It is a sign that you are living in accordance with your own principles.
Being disliked by people is inevitable, just as it is inevitable that we dislike some others.
Living your own life the best you can, choosing the best path that you believe in and your own lifestyle without blaming others or trying to please others, is all you can do.
What another person thinks of you, if they like you or dislike you, is that person’s task, not yours.
In conclusion and in the words of the author,
“Learn to delineate your own task and what is another’s. Contribute, knowing your own worth, not for praise or recognition, but for having a sense that you are beneficial to the community. An awareness that ‘I am of use to someone,’ gives us the courage to live. Accept ‘this is me.’ Having the courage to be disliked is having the courage to be happy.”