Who among us doesn’t want to be liked? It’s affirming to be liked. So it’s natural that it’s something we desire. But is it in our best interests?
This question was triggered by a friend whose 16-year-old daughter has a compelling need to be liked. Even though that was over 50 years ago for me, I can vividly recall the desire to be liked during my teen years. Yet, as with everything in life, there must be limits to what we’re willing to do to achieve that goal.
The desire to be liked is universal. Rarely do individuals prefer to live alone and unfettered by human entanglements. For the vast majority of us being liked is equated with feeling affirmed, valued and appreciated. But is that always the case?
I would imagine that you, like me, have had someone appear to like you only to discover later that they merely pretended to like you so that they could get something they wanted from you. It’s painful to discover that we’re being used. We feel betrayed and angry both at the individual and ourselves for having fallen for their ruse.
Often we missed the warning signs in these encounters. In these instances we were typically asked to do something that didn’t quite align with our values. We knew better than to cave to the request, but our desire to help someone who “liked” us, overrode our good judgment.
The key to avoiding similar experiences in the future is to use your values to set limits on what you will and won’t do to be liked.
I’m not here to suggest, much less dictate, what your values are or should be. You’ll only find joy and happiness when you live according to what you believe is right. But in order to do that effectively, you have to respect others’ rights to their values…to their beliefs. If you’re unwilling to do that, then you have no right to expect them to respect your values and beliefs. For when you assert your right to dictate values to others, you also open the door for them to dictate values to you. I’m certain none of us wants to relinquish that right.
You know when you’re living according to your values because you feel good about yourself. You respect yourself which is the foundational element in respecting others. Now we’re getting to what we should really be seeking from others…respect.
One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that when I gain people’s respect, I often find that they like me as well. In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said to me “Dale, i don’t always agree with you, but I always know where I stand with you.” They appreciate my transparency which often results in them liking me as well. One of the reasons is that I respect their right to their values, their beliefs and, consequently, I don’t judge them.
The inverse isn’t true. The people who pretended to like me, but didn’t respect me, regularly denigrate me in their thoughts if not in their conversations with others. They also ask me to act contrary to my values which places a burden on me psychologically and physically. Their requests create a conflict between my values and my desire to help someone who “likes” me. The stress associated with this dilemma has an adverse effect on my physical well-being.
Someone who respects and likes me would never intentionally put me into a situation like that.
So what’s the takeaway? Seek to be respected and you’ll generally be like as well. Allow the desire to be liked to be your primary focus and you’ll:
- Regularly attract people who want to take advantage of you.
- Lose the respect of those who might be friends because your lack of self-respect makes you appear needy.
- Become more needy as your attempts to be liked don’t produce the desired result.
- Increase the likelihood of doing things that you’ll later regret.
People who are confident earn the respect of others precisely because they don’t:
- Allow others to put them into uncomfortable situations.
- Allow others to take advantage of them.
- Sacrifice their values to be liked.
For our kids
As the kids in your life experience the desire to be liked, remind them that if they truly want to be liked, they must first be respected. Help them understand that straying from their values invites problems. That these problems are often created by people who only pretend to like them while they’re asking your child to violate his/her values.
Ask them questions that allow them to recall their experiences with people who feigned liking and those who respected and liked them. As they recall their own experiences they’ll validate your messages with their own experiences. In doing so, they’ll be able to overcome the emotional attachment to being liked and make a more conscious decision to be respected.