In high school everyone wants to be liked – even if they claim they don’t care what people think of them (and those people really seem to care that we know they don’t care what others think). How many times have we seen movies about the lonely student who just wants to be liked by the popular person? The movie usually ends with the message that you just need to be yourself and not worry if the entire school likes you.
It should go a step further. If everyone likes you then you’re probably doing something wrong. Either you’re a blank slate or you’re changing your entire personality depending on who you’re with. Neither is a good option. People are different in a myriad of ways: religion, social beliefs, personality quirks, eating habits, dress style etc. Some people are simply not going to work well together. For example, I know that if I met someone who believed in traditional values, gender roles, hated to read, and loved bad comedies I would not get along with that person and that person would not get along with me. Odds are they might actively dislike me. Should I change who I am just so that this one person likes me? Should the person change who he or she is just to get me to like them? Of course not. Although they’ll have to put up with the fact that I won’t like them.
Some people might say that being liked by as many people as possible is an important part of life. I don’t buy that for one second. If you are secure in who you are then you simply don’t need everyone else in the world to like you. And why would you want them to? You’d always be stopped in the street because someone wants to have a conversation. Nothing would ever get done.
“Ah,” I can hear some of you saying, “but it sounds to me like you’re endorsing rudeness.”
Not so. Nothing is going to be accomplished if you throw yourself in people’s faces saying, “Here I am! Take it or leave it!” What am I saying is that there’s nothing wrong with being at odds with someone else. It happens. I’ve talked to a lot of people who shudder at the idea of a disagreement. “Oh, you can’t talk politics with her!” Why not? Because you might disagree? Oh, the horror! And what if this person you’re debating with ends up not liking you? There are only 7 billion other people who might be your friend.
Of course, it can be taken too far. If no one at all likes you then you might be a little too stand-offish or cruel in the way you speak. Or you might smell. But, a couple of people not liking you is not the end of the world. If I learned that everyone liked me I’d wonder who put drugs in their morning cereal. I have some really strange opinions from movies to politics to baseball and no doubt there are people who are completely opposed to them. That’s okay. And these people might not be all that fond of me because of this. Well, that’s okay, too. You may not want to hear it but odds are there’s someone out there who isn’t too crazy about you. Not only is there nothing wrong with that but it’s a good thing. Just like books, movies, and music not every person is for everyone else.
Donald McCarthy is a teacher and writer. His fiction has appeared with KZine, Cover of Darkness, and The Washington Pastime. His non-fiction has been featured in The Progressive Populist, Screen Spy, and AOL Patch News. And here, too, but that was probably obvious. His twitter is @donaldtmccarthy and his website is donaldmccarthy.com.