People Won’t Always Like You, And That’s Okay

People Won’t Always Like You, And That’s Okay
Contributor: Melissa Mason

A few years ago, I lost a friend. We had been close-ish for a couple of years before I noticed a shift in our relationship. Suddenly, she was busy all the time. She would make excuses to leave conversations with me at parties. I ended up calling her on the behaviour, sending a “is something wrong?” text. Her response? “Sometimes people just drift apart.”

There was no way I was accepting this. We were friends! What did she mean “drift apart”!? Something had to have happened. I went straight to blaming myself – what had I done? It must have been something accidental but unforgivable. Had I bitched about her to another friend and she’d found out? Offended her unintentionally? No and no – as much as I wracked my brain trying to work out what I’d done to push this friend away, I couldn’t come up with anything solid. I texted and texted, hoping for a better excuse besides this drifting-apart business. The result? Radio silence (understandably, because how annoying).

I didn’t want an excuse – I needed one. I needed a reason for this fade-out because without one, I had to face the fact that this person just didn’t like me. That was too heavy a revelation to bear. Everyone likes me! I need everyone to like me! YOU MUST LIKE ME OR I’LL CRY.

Why do we care when someone doesn’t like us?

friend don't like me
The pain of an unanswered text is real. Getty

This is, I’m sure you know, very common. In fact, you might feel this way too. Most of us freak out when confronted with the idea that someone might not like us for literally no other reason than our personality. “From an evolutionary perspective, humans need to be in close proximity to others in order to survive,” explained psychotherapist Kayla Steele.

“When we feel like others don’t like us or reject us, this can trigger our autonomic nervous system, making us feel a sense of threat to our safety.”

So it’s biological, which means it’s highly likely our knee-jerk reaction to someone indicating they don’t like us will always be one of hurt and confusion. But it’s also about insecurity. According to Steele, ‘To not be liked by others can trigger us to a sense of shame.” This makes complete sense if you’ve ever been in this situation. Unless you’re hyper-secure, it’s likely you immediately turn to blaming yourself for someone else not liking you – it’s the way you talk over people sometimes, the way you don’t talk enough, your political or social views. Whatever part of you makes you a little insecure sometimes, you’ll focus on that.

A little perspective on friendships can help

Now for the tough love bit. Usually, when people don’t like us, everyone else in our lives tells us that it can’t possibly be for the myriad of reasons we’ve come up with. Noooo, it’s not because you’re [insert insecurity here]. It must be something to do with them, or we must be imagining that they don’t like us. Well, here it is – actually, it probably is that thing you’re insecure about that people don’t like.

Don’t close your browser – let me explain. All human beings are complex. That’s the beauty of humanity, right? We all come with brilliantly different personalities, and that’s naturally going to mean that some of us will be drawn to each other more than others. It’s completely normal for us to not enjoy the company of some people, simply because our personalities, views and opinions sometimes don’t gel.

What we need to do when we realise someone doesn’t like us is to check ourselves. Choose perspective – does it matter if this one person doesn’t like us, when there are dozens of others that do? Do YOU really like everyone you’ve ever met? Haven’t we all outgrown people over time? Everyone changes, whether that’s discovering new parts of ourselves, developing new interests and values or freeing elements of our personality we used to hide. If we have outgrown or immediately disliked others, why do we beat ourselves up when it happens to us?

Well, we’re people pleasers. We want people to like us because then they’re happy, and that makes us happy. “There is nothing fundamentally wrong with trying to please others,” said Steele, but the problem comes when you let that desire impact your own happiness, essentially.

“When pleasing others begins to negatively impact your relationships, your sense of self, your wellbeing or your ability to function then this can be an indicator that you need to do some more work unpacking how you relate to others,” Steele explained.

Are you fixating on this person who doesn’t like you, and then relentlessly talking about it with the people who do? That might damage your relationships, long term – not to mention your mental health.

So the way out of spiralling over the loss of a friend or some person not liking you is looking at it with perspective, yes, but also working on that people-pleasing, too. You don’t need to become an unfeeling robot – it’s understandable that you’d feel hurt by someone not liking you. It’s when you then spiral into self-hate and self-blame and become fixated on why this person doesn’t like you that it becomes a problem.

If you’re still questioning why that person doesn’t like you, stop! Stop right now, and tell yourself that really, it doesn’t matter. Who cares! Let them go, and put your energy into the friendships, relationships and people in your life that appreciate you. It’s a far better place to be.

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