Do you remember when your mother, or some other important adult in your life, would give you a “look” that might make your heart sink to the floor?
She doesn’t like me! I did something wrong! I’m cast out of favor!
In my adult life, one interesting place I’ve noticed stressful beliefs multiplying and producing conflict is when someone close to me thinks that I am the one with the “look”, and then they react or look worried, and then I think THEY have a “look”, and then I have a “look” that says “I Didn’t Have A Look–What’s Wrong With You!”
Did you follow that?
It all happens in the split second of an eye blinking.
My daughter who is 15 cares very much what I think, hears what I say, and takes in a great deal of what I do, even when I think she doesn’t notice (and maybe she doesn’t).
This morning I exclaimed “Oh look at the time! You might be late!” and it appears she thought I was critical of her. Then I WAS critical of her because she “over-reacted”. Hilarious! Fortunately we were laughing about it later.
It’s amazing how often we assume, based on small conversation, or a look, or a gesture, or the absence of conversation, or silence, what is going on with someone….and that it’s BAD.
If we don’t like it when other people object to something we’re doing…we have to be very careful NOT to do anything that might cause objection.
I used to walk around with a lot of fear about other peoples’ criticism. It still is something that enters my psyche. Especially with people I admire.
Those people who are “famous” in my mind I might feel shy around. I might be watching, hold back, have an attitude of wanting to take in all they are saying and doing, and not fully engage.
Then, on top of wanting them to approve of me, I also think I shouldn’t be caring about that, so there’s a voice that is instantly criticizing the one who wants approval.
GAWD, stop being so sensitive! Stop caring what others think of you!
“I want them to like me, but I really shouldn’t want that.”
And of course, I sometimes assume that other people want ME to like THEM (and want to hide the fact that they want me to). So I might make sure I’m nice, or draw them out, so theyknow I like them, if I do.
It’s a lot of work and gets very complicated.
But let’s get to the core underlying belief…no matter how much I’ve told myself I shouldn’t care, sometimes I do. So let’s take a look.
Do I really want people to like me? That seems like such an old story, an ancient assumption.
Of course I want that! It would be terrible to be disliked, ignored, shunned, or kicked out! I love having a special, loving, fun, easy connection with someone! I love joking around! I can’t do that unless they like me! Why would I give that up, are you nuts?!
When I have questioned my thinking and done The Work, I realize that I want people to like what they like, and NOT like what they don’t like.
That’s what I want for myself. It’s total freedom. At this moment I like, then the next moment I don’t like. No “have-to” about liking anything.
I notice that “likes” come and go. They change quickly. Preferences shift. Today I like salami, another day it grosses me out.
This person I joke around with, that other person we have serious conversations.
When I relax completely and allow the world to be what it is, with all the personalities within it, life is very easy.
Without the thought that I want anyone to like me, I do not have to be afraid that I’ll be unpleasant, brusk, unlikable and rejected.
In fact, I’m very authentic. I’m deeply happy. I’m like a truly free person, coming and going as I please and allowing other people to come and go as they please.
Someone thinks I don’t like them, and it’s not a big deal. No need to rush in and “fix” or “correct” their perception, unless that’s the kind thing to do and the way it goes.
“How do you react when you think you need people’s love? Do you become a slave for their approval? Do you live an inauthentic life because you can’t bear the thought that they might disapprove of you? Do you try to figure out how they would like you to be, and then try to become that, like a chameleon? In fact, you never really get their love. You turn into someone you aren’t, and then when they say “I love you,” you can’t believe it, because they’re loving a facade. They’re loving someone who doesn’t even exist, the person you’re pretending to be. It’s difficult to seek other people’s love. It’s deadly. In seeking it, you lose what is genuine. This is the prison we create for ourselves as we seek what we already have.” ~ Byron Katie
Even if you do the opposite and instead of being a chameleon, you act defiant all the time, making sure you DON’T CARE if people like you (ha)…you still can’t believe people like the real, honest you, since you haven’t shown them.
My favorite way of breaking down this ancient story of caring what other people think is to find genuine examples of what the advantages are when people haven’t liked me.
- I don’t have to talk with them, I have more free time
- I get more alone time to talk with myself (my favorite)!
- They get what they need or want from someone else
- I don’t have to “work” at changing their impression of me
- They show me where I still care or feel “hurt” and I can question my thinking
- I get to live in a world where not everyone likes, needs, or wants me…phew
“It’s not your job to like me, it’s mine.”~Byron Katie
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