Some People Just Won't Like You
I dropped my bags beside the door and breathed heavily; shaking and holding back tears. I was entrenched in seething sadness—the latter of which has become an oft-trodden sentiment—a familiar space for me—and the former is somewhat new. (I’d never truly allowed myself to experience anger until recently.) I’d found out something dismaying, about a former friend who dared disparage my ethic and accomplishments, and was spreading falsehoods and slanders like a social media-savvy charlatan.
I paused to think about a mid-series remark by Pam on The Office: “I hate the idea that someone out there hates me. I hate even thinking that al-Qaeda hates me. I think if they got to know me, they wouldn't hate me.” I felt it so deeply in my heart and in my soul. In my bones, in my muscles; which tensed at the very thought that someone would dare dislike me for their own arbitrary reasons. If it wasn’t for my HBO subscription and Sex And The City at the ready, my night would have been ruined. As I sat and watched four women navigate their 20’s (30’s?) in the 90’s, I realized something: I’m not without my quirks.
Hi, my name is E.M. Ricchini, and I’m a people-pleaser.
I’ll never forget the day I stumbled upon myself on a “snark site.” People who had no idea who I am, needlessly shitting on me. Excuse me, what? I made myself an account and got a little (okay, a lot) defensive.
After that, I started checking impulsively, worried about the next mean thing and how I would defend myself. It happened, and I tried to fight for myself. The bullies got meaner and meaner, and I found myself too scared to do anything. It fed into an already difficult time in my life and contributed to a mental breakdown. I remember saying to myself, “why don’t these people like me? What did I do wrong? I wouldn’t figure out the answer until much, much later, despite it being a simple one: no reason, and, nothing.
I have this constant fear that people are blaming me for things that are out of my control, that people are always angry with me for no apparent reason, overwhelmed by the way I agree to go out when I’m not in the mood to go out, and do things that I actually don’t want to do, just so that people won’t have a reason to dislike me. It’s an addiction, truthfully. And like all addictions, the crux of it is often hidden under many, many layers, which are difficult to peel apart and place aside. Getting to the core of oneself is a terrifying ordeal, am I right?
Even worse, I found myself losing what makes me, me. I began to mirror the people I surrounded myself with: speaking like them (RIP Jersey Accent), dressing like them, drinking like them. Needless to say, it became a problem, one that seemed much, much too large to tackle in one movement.
I began Googling options for stopping my people-pleasing ways, but all of the suggestions seemed to only go after the symptom: not the cause. They offer solutions such as, “realize you have a choice,” “learn how to say no,” “don’t give excuses,” and more. It all sounded well and good, however, how was I—someone with an intense, innate fear of someone being somehow disappointed in me—supposed to just start feeling confident without the validation of others and—dare I say—begin to use the word, “no?” It doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen without some soul-searching.
I focused on the smaller steps that would need to be taken to get to the larger goal and I realized something: maybe “saying no,” doesn’t mean saying “no” to others. Maybe it means saying “yes” to myself. How can I be a good friend to others when I cannot even be civil to myself? How can I be emotionally available to others when I can’t even be open with myself? How can I be transparent or confident when my personality is built on the validation of others and their ideas of who I am? The answer is, that I cannot. I must stop living my life to please others, and begin discovering who I am.
If you were to ask me who I am, I wouldn’t be entirely sure. I know some good parts of me and some bad parts of me. I can be funny and know a lot about trains. I’m insecure and often jealous. I’m competitive, but more so with myself and my own accomplishments than with other people. Meaning, I root for others, and am WAY too hard on myself for a lot of different reasons.
All of this is to say that, like everything else, stopping my people-pleasing ways is going to be a journey. At its core though, I have to adopt this mantra: some people just won’t like you. And that’s okay.
There have undoubtedly been people I haven’t liked. Though I’ve tried to give ‘em a chance, I’ve been forcing myself to come to terms with the fact that not everyone will do the same for me. As one user on a snark site said about me, “her eyes are just kind of close together.” They’re definitely more on the far-apart side, but okay. Sounds like a reason George or Elaine would find for not liking someone but everyone has their “thing.”
Now that I’ve come to terms with that, I’m halfway there. Okay, maybe not halfway. But getting there.