We all want to be accepted and loved by others. It is a nearly universal human desire. After all, we evolved to survive better in groups, where fitting in and having the trust and respect of our peers are the measures of success. The need to belong is in our DNA.
But sometimes that need takes center stage, and what others think about us takes on more importance than what we think about ourselves. We may analyze each look and word that comes our way for clues that we’ve been judged and found acceptable or lacking. Someone passing in the hall without a hello may leave us red-faced and convinced we don’t deserve notice. We may people-please, always putting others first, which leaves us open to being taken advantage of while we chase praise. We may exhaust ourselves trying to be cool enough, hard-working enough, attractive enough, or successful enough to feel valued.
What’s behind this anxiety about being liked, and why are some of us so much more vulnerable to it than others?
Healthy striving is self-focused: ‘How can I improve?’ Perfectionism is other-focused: ‘What will they think?’Brené Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection”
If you recognize that you are someone who’s anxious about being liked, there are steps you can take to get back to a healthier relationship with others and with yourself.
1. Keep things in perspective.
It’s said that people would care a lot less about what others think about them if they knew how little others think about them. And it’s true: Everyone has enough to occupy their mind. They also have their own insecurities. If you’re worried about how you come across to someone you’ve just met, keep in mind that they’re probably doing the same.
2. Question your thinking.
We tend toward patterns of negative thinking that can hurt our mood or behavior. For example, we may assume the worst, or filter out the good in a situation and pay attention only to the bad. Or we may overgeneralize or jump to conclusions. Pay attention to your thoughts, and question them rather than allowing impressions to run away with you. You may discover that what you’re fretting over exists only in your mind.
3. Let go of perfection.
It can be hard to shake the feeling that if you just get things right, you will be loved and admired. But this is a fruitless pursuit, not only because perfection is an illusion, but because what people think about you has more to do with them than with you.
4. Get to know yourself.
What do you really like? What do you really want? Are you making choices about your career, relationships, and pastimes because you want them or because they’ll please or impress someone else? Allow yourself to try new things and wonder, “What would I pursue or enjoy if I wasn’t so worried about being judged?”
5. Find your tribe.
Somewhere out there are people who can identify with you and appreciate you for who you are. Don’t waste time trying to hang on to those who expect you to conform to their wishes and wants. Cultivate authenticity, and you’ll find those you are meant to be with.
Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.Brené Brown, “Daring Greatly“
6. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
It can be terrifying to go against the grain, speak out, take a risk, or face disapproval. But decide what matters to you, trust yourself, and go for it. We don’t grow by always playing it safe; we grow by allowing ourselves a chance to fail.
7. Accept a helping hand.
The anxiety you feel about what others think can sometimes be overcome with a little self-awareness. But in some cases, especially for those with underlying trauma or mental health issues, professional help can help you get to the root of your feelings. Allow yourself to reach out for the care you need rather than prolonging your suffering.
8. Be your own friend.
It’s a tough reality, but you will never be able to make everyone like you, no matter what you do. But look on the bright side: No one else can do it, either. So accept the twinges that will inevitably come when you realize you haven’t made a connection with someone, and focus instead on a goal that will take you further toward being the kind of person you want to be—learning to like yourself, flaws and all.
In conclusion, this quote sums things up perfectly
What other people think of me is none of my business.Wayne Dyer