News flash: some people like you, and some don’t.
Consider this theory:
- 25% of people will like you, no matter what
- 25% of people will like you, but may be persuaded not to
- 25% of people will not like you, but may be persuaded to
- 25% of people will not like you, no matter what you do
Whew – takes the edge off having to get everyone on your side, doesn’t it?
While these are numerical metaphors making the rounds on talk shows – and not based on any scientific research I could find – they serve to make a point.
For some of you, it’s very important to be liked, while it doesn’t matter as much to others. Of course, we’re social beings. And most of us want others to like us. It’s just when this compulsion catapults into the realm of obsessiveness that it becomes unhealthy.
Giving Up Yourself
When you have to give up being YOU in order to morph into who someone else wants you to be is when you cross into unhealthy territory. That’s the ironic thing, though. Sometimes it’s just your projection of what you think they want you to be. And you allow that to run your life.
What a vicious cycle! And a path that’s taken by many – at least at times. We can’t control others, anyway, hard as we may try.
A major takeaway is to spend your time and energy with those who respect and appreciate you, and don’t waste your time repeatedly trying to win over those who don’t.
Putting Others Down
In fact, some folks have a need to put others down in order to make themselves feel better. Here’s an example that was seared in my brain early on in my career.
I was working late – researching and writing a speech – and was preparing to interview a source for background information. He had taken a dinner break, and we agreed on a time frame for him to get back with me after dinner.
When my boss asked about the speech, I explained the situation and assured him it was under control as I had already arranged to have the information in hand after the source’s dinner break — way before deadline. Rather than wait for our source to get back from dinner, as he knew had been arranged, my boss called the source’s assistant and jumped all over him.
“He didn’t have anything to do with it,” I reminded my boss, after cringing at the ream out session I overheard. “I know,” said my boss. “But he’s over there shaking in his boots.”
I remember pondering at the time, “So, what good did that do?” It only served to upset someone unnecessarily. In some twisted way, it must have given my boss some satisfaction. I’ll never forget that incident.
Trauma and Drama
It’s a shame a lot of time and energy is wasted trying so hard to win over those “25 Percenters,” rather than focusing on those who support you all the time. In fact, you may even take those folks for granted.
We can’t always know what someone else is going through, either. You may take an expression or a comment as a slight against you when, in fact, the other person is dealing with a personal crisis — and their actions have nothing to do with you.
Two Simple Touchstones
In his book, The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz goes as far as to say, “Nothing anyone else does is because of you. They’re living their own drama.” Two of the four agreements in the book serve as ongoing touchstones for me:
- Don’t make assumptions
- Don’t take things personally
Just including these two principles in your day-to-day life could save you a lot of trauma – and drama!
We actually have a psychological condition today called Approval Addiction. If you’ve ever found yourself sacrificing your own principles to please someone else, you may want to drill down a bit.
Of course, we all compromise to some extent in our lives. I’m talking about an ongoing pattern, though, in which you live your life on autopilot. If you do this for too long, you’ll lose sight of who you are – and what you think – without having it filtered through someone else.
The approval demon often sneaks up. Before you know it, you’ve rolled over to the whims of another. So, if you see yourself – or someone you care about – falling into this trap, what can you do about it?
- When you have a decision to make, you ruminate endlessly about what others will think
- You go through various scenarios, imagining how any action you take will be perceived
- You come up with different potential outcomes and spend a lot of energy considering each one
- You find yourself saying, “He (or she) makes me feel happy, sad, angry, frustrated or depressed.”
“When we base our self worth on how people treat us, or on what we believe they think about us,” says author Joyce Meyer in Approval Addiction, “it causes us to become addicted to their approval.
“We don’t have to be approved of by other people in order to feel good about ourselves,” Meyer says. “We may spend a lot of time trying to please people and gain their approval. But then, if it only takes one glance of disapproval or one unappreciative word to ruin our sense of self worth, we’re in bondage.”
Those who are addicted to approval can often get burned out. Instead of learning to take responsibility for your own happiness by approving of yourself, you’ve handed yourself over, making you dependent on others to validate your self worth.
If you want to explore this further, a valuable resource is Dr. Margaret Paul. Dr. Paul has done some cutting edge work in this arena, including her online course, “Inner Bonding.” I’m personally acquainted with Dr. Paul and invite you to check out her website at www.margaretpaul.com
The 25 Percenters
No matter how hard you may work to gain acceptance from others, there will always be someone who disapproves of you. Think back to that 25 percent theory. It’s actually freeing to frame things in this way.
Someone’s disapproval could stem from jealousy of your accomplishments, for example, or because they’re overcompensating for their own insecurities. We’re all “wired” differently.
Starving the Addiction
Because an addiction is something that controls behaviors, it’s no wonder you act in certain ways. Until you accept and approve of yourself, no amount of approval from others will keep you permanently secure. Approval addicts tend to avoid or remove the pain of disapproval by doing whatever people want them to do.
Rather than fighting an addiction, though, you can starve it to death by simply not feeding it. It’s not an easy road. Every time you break the pattern, though, the pain will lessen.
An Inside Job
It takes lots of repetition to form a new habit. It’s definitely an “inside job,” and you can start to take the first step next time you’re confronted with some of that autopilot behavior.
You really do teach other people how to treat you. And you also teach yourself!