Not Everyone Is Going To Like You

Are you a people pleaser?

I was one, for many years. I felt like I had to live up to other people’s expectations of me. Until one day I realized, “Not everyone is going to like you.”

When that realization sank in, I was finally free to live my life as I saw fit. All kinds of interesting things came from it, like me going off to travel the world.

You can have that too.

Learn about the role of value differences, why it’s impossible to please everybody, and how you can find “your” people.

4 Reasons Why It Can’t Work

There are four major reasons why not everyone is going to like you.

1. Value Differences

We all value different things in life.

For example, if you grew up overly protected, you might crave nothing more than adventure. But if your childhood was highly unstable, you might value security above all.

Now, a few people will have had somewhat similar life experiences to yours and therefore their values will somewhat resemble yours. You will get along fine with them.

But many people will have had completely different paths. Their values will contradict yours. The chances of you getting along are slim.

That is nothing to moan about. It is simply how life works.

Be tolerant of people with different values, but don’t waste time converting them to your values. Instead, focus on those select few that you click with.

2. Critic’s Bias

Another reason why not everyone is going to like you is what I call “critic’s bias.” Basically, it’s much easier for an outsider to recognize your faults than it is for yourself.

For example, someone could be a complete blowhard but not realize it, while it is painfully obvious to everybody around them.

In terms of difficulty, recognizing an annoying behavior in another person is a 3. But recognizing it in yourself? An 8.

That means the odds are stacked against us. We are antagonizing other people without even intending to.

3. An Inclination for Anger

Some people are never going to like you because their default is being angry.

Maybe they had a bad childhood. Maybe they suffer from bad health. Or maybe they get a kick from upsetting others.

In any case, there is nothing you can do about it. You are not the cause of their resentment, just a random target. Keep moving.

Nothing anyone else does is because of you. They’re living their own drama.

Don Miguel Ruiz

4. Limited Resources

Even if you are dead set on everyone liking you, it can never work out. That’s because we live in a world of limited resources.

We all want something (money, status, sexual opportunities, emotional security, etc.). But there is not enough of “something” to go around.

That means if you give person A what they want, you will take something away from person B.

A few examples:

  • If you help someone out at work and stay longer, your spouse will be upset at you for missing date night.
  • If you give your employees the day off, your customers will be mad at you for not getting their product in time.
  • If you frolic with your kids in the backyard, the neighbors will get angry at you for causing a ruckus.
  • If you go on a date with Christopher, Martin will feel rejected. If you date Martin, Christopher will get in a huff.

No matter what you do, someone is always going to feel shortchanged.

There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.

Elbert Hubbard

The Reason We Crave Approval

Why do we get so hung up on trying to please everybody?

The root cause is biological.

Back in our hunter-gatherer days, it was highly advantageous to get along with everyone in your tribe. If you collaborated well bringing down a mammoth, everybody got to eat. If not, people died.

Also, being on good terms with everybody increased your chances for reproduction. This was especially important as the pool of potential mates was tiny. Of the 100–200 people in your group, only a small number would be of the opposite gender and in the right age bracket.

So, if people didn’t like you, you might die, or not pass on your genes. These were disastrous consequences.

We might live in a modern world, but genetically, we are still wired for a hunter-gatherer life. That’s why we crave approval so much.

How To Get Over It

Here is how can you overcome your people-pleasing tendencies.

1. Be True to Yourself

At some point in life, we all feel the urge to conform.

Relationships are a classic example. You fall in love with a bad boy or a bad girl, and before you know it, you are snorting cocaine and getting tattoos.

Living up to your parents’ expectations is another example. I have friends who have gotten PhDs just to finally hear their dad say, “Now I am proud of you.”

But when we want to conform so badly, we end up doing violence to ourselves. We force ourselves to subscribe to values that are not our own. The result is self-loathing.

Acknowledge who you are. If that means losing a particular person — even a lover or a parent — so be it.

2. Don’t Try To Impress

Trying to be liked actually works against you.

We all know that person. They laugh at your every joke. They validate whatever you say. They go on errands for you.

But nobody respects a groveling dog.

The harder you try to impress people, the less interested they will be in you. On the other hand, if you act a bit aloof, suddenly people will flock to you.

3. Rebel Against Nature

Despite our biological inclination to be people pleasers, we can still choose to be different. We can rebel against nature.

Such a rebellion has its own advantages.

For once, it leads to adventure.

All the “crazy” things I have done in my life — starting an MMA team, rejecting monogamy, becoming a digital nomad — only happened once I stopped caring about what others thought of me. My life is much more interesting for it.

Also, people will no longer be able to upset you. Gone will be the days when one small comment or one disapproving look by a stranger could ruin your day.

Finally, even if you do get banished from your “tribe” — so what? In modern mass societies, there is always another tribe that you can join. It is not a death sentence anymore.

4. Address Your Trauma

Many people pleasers suffer from what psychoanalyst Alice Miller described as “The drama of the gifted child.”

These people were often raised by a seemingly tough, but deeply insecure mother. This mother would require the child to act in a certain way, e.g. as a caregiver, so the mother would feel better about herself.

If the child dared to behave differently, the reply would be harsh. The mother would withdraw affection — until the child showed the desired behavior again.

As a result, these children would develop an uncanny ability to anticipate the emotional needs of their mothers. By fulfilling their mother’s every wish, the child would secure “love” for themselves.

People who went through this don’t reach individuation. There is no “I.” There is only a social chameleon, forever eager to be of service to their friends, spouses, bosses, etc.

If that is you, get the help of a therapist or an experienced coach. You must revisit these early childhood traumas, as painful as they might be.

But if you do, you will overcome your defencelessness. You will no longer be at the mercy of other people’s wishes.

You will finally become an “I”.

5. Put Things Into Perspective

Consider this. In a few short decades from now, you will be old and feeble. Do you think it will still matter then if Susie from accounting didn’t say “Hi” to you that day or if Dave didn’t call back?

We get so hung up on these little slights that we never stop to think about what would make us happy in the grand scheme of things.

Quitting our 9 to 5. Doing work that we are passionate about. Traveling the world. Having adventures.

Those are the things that the dying regret.

Forget about everyone liking you. Learn to disappoint people, so, at the end of your life, you won’t be disappointed by yourself.

6. Deal With the Oscillation

Getting over your people-pleaser tendencies is not a one-time thing. It is a battle that must be fought again and again.

I was a complete people-pleaser growing up. To keep my mum and my teachers happy, I would study hard, keep my room tidy, always be quiet around the house, etc. It was ridiculous.

Eventually, I started to rebel. I went goth, painted my fingernails black, start playing in a band, and got hammered on school nights.

That phase lasted until I started university. Here I met a professor that I admired, and suddenly, I wanted to be a good boy again. I studied nonstop, hardly did anything for fun, and, of course, decided I wanted to become a professor myself.

I’ll spare you more iterations of my people-pleaser-vs.-rebel cycle, but they happened (and they keep happening).

All of this is to say — it’s work in progress. Once you overcome one approval-seeking stage, you graduate to the next. During each iteration, you learn something new about yourself.

7. Learn How To Meet People

To become less emotionally dependent on other people, ironically, you must become better at meeting people.

Think about it. If you suddenly stop playing nice and become more direct, you are more likely to rub people the wrong way.

To make up for that, you must cast a wider net. The more new people you meet, the more likely you are to find a few you genuinely click with.

Turn this into a habit. Every time you leave the house, initiate a conversation with a stranger — at the supermarket, at the restaurant, in the subway, etc.

Simply ask them how they are doing or pay them a compliment. Then make at least one follow-up statement. For example, if you are in NYC, remark, “Are you from NYC? You sound like you are from somewhere else.”

As awkward as this will feel at first, it will revolutionize your life. It revolutionized mine. You will meet more interesting, more inspiring people than ever before in your life.

8. Take Advantage of Social Media

I am not a fan of social media. It’s a massive time sink.

It depends on how you use it, though. If you don’t use it as a consumer, but as a creator, it can be a powerful tool.

Specifically, it can act as an amplifier. Showcase yourself to the world via your Instagram or your Twitter, and you become discoverable at a grand scale.

That drastically increases your chances of finding like-minded individuals.

For this to work, you must refrain from creating the perfect online persona. Don’t try to make yourself look cooler than you are.

Instead, give a true account of who you are and what you stand for — the good and the bad, the likable and the controversial.

Only then will you get rewarded — you will be found by those few who share your view of the world.

9. Don’t Kid Yourself

“Not everyone is going to like you” should not become an excuse.

Not caring too much about what other people think of you is a good thing. Becoming a prick is not.

For example, when different people at various points in your life remark on how you never shut up, you shoulder consider their feedback. Sometimes it really is you.

Leave a Comment