5 Ways to Overcome the Need to be Liked

In many ways, likability is a very elaborate lie, a performance, a code of conduct dictating the proper way to be. Characters who don’t follow this code become unlikable. Critics who criticize a character’s unlikability cannot necessarily be faulted. They are merely expressing a wider cultural malaise with all things unpleasant, all things that dare to breach the norm of social acceptability.
— Roxane Gay

Likability is performance art. This performance isn’t a genuine experience because we’re so concerned about pleasing everyone, protecting our reputation and not offending that we never fully find our people. Who is meant to be in our life will come naturally without bending over backward to put on a facade. It’s exhausting trying to be seen as likable by men, women, coworkers, family, friends, acquaintances, etc. I’m constantly shrinking myself for the comfort of others despite my better judgment.

A practice I’ve been working on in therapy is radical self-acceptance. At times, I go above and beyond to be seen as a kind, caring, lovable person, which I am, but I learned the hard way not everyone deserves my heart. As women, we are taught by society and media to shrink ourselves for the comfort of men in an effort to make them feel like the protector, the provider, and the leader. As Black people, we are taught to fall into place in society and be grateful for all the opportunities afforded to us because we don’t inherently “deserve” it in relation to our white counterparts. Combining these two identities together creates a formula for a life filled with compromises. How do I get the guy if I don’t make him feel “big”? How do I get the job if I don’t code switch or stand up for what I believe I deserve in the workplace? That’s the detriment of likability.

I understand that a part of the relentless need for being liked is perfectionism. No matter how much you do, you can’t be everything to everyone. I recently had an experience wherein one week, everyone seemed to want a piece of me, but due to wanting to be liked by any means necessary I allowed myself to further spread myself too thin.

Friends have seen me at my lowest, highest, and moodiest days, but they ultimately learned ME. Yes, there are times when needing to be likable is favorable, such as, during the job interview or networking, but other times it’s not necessary. Throughout my twenties, when it came to dating, I often allowed too much leeway. For example, I gave too much of my time to a man that didn’t value my time, but with each apology, I went back. I kept going back beside my better judgment. The last straw was when he repeated the same egregious action I forgave a year earlier. To salvage my own dignity, I refused to engage in his apology, I blocked his number and deleted his texts.

This proves you can bend over backward for someone to be “liked” or viewed as “forgiving” and “understanding”, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. You have to protect yourself and your peace.

Here are 5 ways I became more secure in my identity:

  1. Therapy, therapy, therapy

    I constantly talked to my therapist about ways I learn to be more secure in myself. If you’re not secure, it’s easy to fall into the trap of people pleasing and needing validation.

  2. Journaling

    This is a great way to process your thoughts. You can look back a year later and see how far you have come.

  3. Communication is key

    You teach people how to treat you. I’m learning every day that if I don’t enforce and communicate my boundaries, this makes for a difficult and draining existence.

  4. Learning my cognitive distortions

    It’s helpful to learn about all or nothing thinking, overgeneralization, filtering, and other kinds of cognitive distortions to have clear understanding and perspective.

  5. Affirmations

    I love listening to Affirmations for the Grown Ass Woman by Toni Jones. I also put affirmations and quotes all over my cork board in my room to remind myself who I am and that I am a force to be reckoned with.

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I’m not going anywhere, anytime soon. It doesn’t matter if I’m liked by the world because I have a purpose to fulfill. Like my grandmother says, “It doesn’t matter what others think about you. It’s what you think about yourself.” I’m here to impact the lives of other women, especially mothers and to tell the story of my journey from hurt to healing and self-acceptance.