I guess you could say I’m a people pleaser. I don’t like confrontation. I’ll take the easy road. It’s always been important to me to feel liked. Should it be?
In her book Bossypants Tina Fey tells a story about Amy Poehler that I think about at least twice a week. Here it is:
“Amy Poehler was new to SNL …she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike”, Jimmy Fallon turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.”
I don’t fucking care if you like it. I repeat it to myself like a mantra.
Please like me
I guess you could say I’m a people pleaser. I don’t like confrontation. I’ll take the easy road.
How has that worked out for me? OK, I guess. Except for the simmering resentment, perpetually bubbling away, eventually released as crippling self-doubt and anxiety. Swell!
The work environment is where it most obviously manifests itself for me. I’d often say yes to being allocated extra work, then rage internally whilst other colleagues were never approached because they always kicked up a fuss. And, yes, I think my line managers appreciated me and were thankful of my efforts, but at the end of the day, it hasn’t really got me anywhere.
I’m also trying to coach myself out of a terrible email habit of signing off ‘many thanks’ when I hadn’t even asked anyone to do something. Or ‘apologising for the inconvenience’ for a situation not of my making. Basically falling over myself to ensure that my emails come across as polite and ‘nice’. I may as well have been signing off ‘I’m a nice person, please like me.’ It’s a slow process, but now I don’t always use ‘Dear’ before someone’s name, and I might send Regards instead of ‘Kind Regards.’ I know right, devil may care or what.
Ask for it
I’d also find myself fuming at the injustice of colleagues who had negotiated time off, or payment for courses. I felt it wasn’t fair. Here was I doing everything that was asked of me and people still weren’t coming up to with me unsolicited offers of excellent career development opportunities and flexible working options. The difference between me and my colleagues was , of course, that they had ASKED FOR IT.
Nobody is thinking about you
In all of these examples, the lesson is basically that nobody is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you. This seems an injustice I know, when you are so likeable and accommodating, but there it is. Despite my agonising over the tone of an email that would be read in seconds and forgotten about instantly:The recipient was almost certainly not thinking, ‘Well, Beth, sure is a nice person, I’m glad she took the time to be so polite in that brief and inconsequential email.’
In work, as in life, if you want something you really do need to ask for it. People, generally, won’t approach you with ideas for your development. If you want something , it has to come for you. (As it happens, of course I think good employers should approach you with ideas, but alas we live not in an ideal world.)
In a work situation, it’s not important that I’m liked, it’s important that I do my job to the best of my ability. I think I do this. Most of the time.
Of course, it’s more difficult on a more personal level, because then if someone doesn’t like you then it’s, well, personal.
How to accept that it’s OK if not everyone you meet likes you?
- Do you like everyone you meet? No, of course not. Do you spend a great deal of time and energy thinking about those people ? Probably not.
2. It’s out of your control. Maybe you have the same name as the girl they went to school with who bullied them relentlessly. What are you gonna do?
3. What is better for your happiness and self respect? Being liked, or being you? There’s no point being likeable, if it leads to resentment eating you from the inside out.
You are responsible for your own happiness. You can twist yourself into all kind of shapes trying to keep other people happy but ultimately you need to answer yourself.
So I ‘m trying really hard not to care so much about other people, and being liked, and being nice. I’m trying to listen to myself more and put myself first.
I don’t fucking care if you like it.
(Sorry for all the swearing.)