You want so badly to be liked, accepted and loved… you become what others want to see not understanding that you have such a special light.

Your heart wants to do what is right and beautiful…there will always be people who want you to be someone else…. those are not your people….

— Diary Entry

“But what if they don’t like me?”

Though typically a saying attributed to kids on their first day of a new school, wanting to be liked is a very real issue for adults as well.

An anxiety producing and sometimes subconscious fear of not being accepted or, more truthfully, acceptable can cause people to favor fitting in to their surroundings — losing themselves in the process.

The real question isn’t how much they will like us — it’s how much do we truly appreciate who we are as unique individuals?

#SorryNotSorry

Somewhere along the way, I picked up on the message that I didn’t matter as much as those around me. My opinions just didn’t seem to carry as much weight. In time, I learned to silence my voice — and question its importance.

On the rare occasions that I felt emboldened to speak, my words seemed to be disregarded. Oh, how I craved the invisibility that seemed to cloak me.

Speaking in apologies and subconsciously begging for acceptance never resulted in self-respect nor the respect and love that I so desperately sought.

When I interacted with people, I didn’t understand that I was viewing them through a lens of their acceptance or rejection of me. My need for approval totally skewed my communication process with myself and others.

When we need external validation, we find ourselves in positions that cause us to relinquish our power and develop unhealthy ways of relating to the world around us; yet still never filling the void.

This apology mindset almost seems to say that we are sorry for being ourselves.

We have to learn that where we are and who we are, in this moment, is part of a bigger plan and a steppingstone forward on our path to growth.

It is important to remember that people tend to judge, criticize and praise based on their own hurts, personal filters, experiences and interpretations — rarely is it about us.

With the sheer amount of people that we will come in contact with, it is imperative to develop a strong sense of self and methods of internal validation.

Our Body’s Sign Language

One lesson that I am constantly attempting to communicate to my 12-year-old is to be mindful of the way she carries herself. Body language speaks volumes.

Most of us have come across someone who projects a certain sadness or lack of confidence in the way they slump their shoulders, avoid eye contact, and seem to almost exude victimhood.

Our voices, energy, and our (body) language all communicate a message to the myriad observers in the world around us.

Unknowingly, my very own sign language said that I felt unworthy. It screamed that I felt unacceptable. It shouted that I was willing to be what people wanted me to be.

Smiling, nodding, saying yes, and being in complete agreement were my only means of communication.

It’s as if I had no voice, no thoughts, no presence. My only aim was to please.

Communicating Worth

When we get the idea that our needs don’t matter. It can lead to us not valuing ourselves and fostering relationships with people that are incapable of valuing us. It prevents us from being able to communicate our worth.

Not everyone will like us — that’s OK.

Not everyone that likes us will agree with everything we say or do; and, that’s OK as well. Not everyone will see or acknowledge our worth. Again, that’s OK.

The disconnect and dissonance come when we expect people to like us (across-the-board) and agree with our every thought and behavior.

This was one of the traps and I fell into and struggled to free myself from — the need to be liked and the need to be accepted for everything I said and did.

These needs were fueled by a lack of a sense of self and a fear of being rejected. Fear caused me to choose friends that did not have my best interest in mind. It caused me to stay in situations, relationships and friendships longer than I should have.

I always felt that if I could just get it right, whatever IT was, the person would never be upset with me and always love me. That’s magical thinking — a limiting belief conversation for another day.

Paradoxically, I wanted to be accepted for who I was, but that person didn’t exist. What people saw was a puzzle-like amalgamation of the expectations and desires of those around me.

Imagine a cross between a chameleon, able to change with my surroundings, combined with Pinocchio, animated and voiced but not quite real.

The Choice Is Yours

I can’t be that person anymore.

I can’t keep living in wounds. I can’t keep being who I am not, just to help other people be comfortable with me. I can’t keep up the façade.

This diary entry marked my turning point. Always wanting to be acceptable to those that I love led to a lifetime of me altering and disregarding my own needs.

Learning the art of letting go and self-acceptance were my saving graces.

Letting go of those fears and needs was painful — but freeing. Painful because there were going to be people that I had to let go of; freeing because I was letting them go.

At some point, we must make the choice to stop trying to please others and look for ways in which we can show ourselves the love, compassion and empathy that we are seeking from external sources.

Char Aukland is a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Health Coach, Certified Nutrition Coach and former Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

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