6.27.2012

"Why Doesn't Anyone Like Me?"

I spent a lot of time as a kid wishing people would like me.

I did stupid things to fit in. At the time they made sense... Mowing lawns all summer to buy a name brand shirt and shoes, listening to the same music and watching the same shows everyone else liked.

A lot of that aggravation manifested itself as aggression later in high school. Once I found a few guys like me who simply didn't fit into any kind of category, who liked me for me, I felt better. I found a family. But things still weren't okay. The days where we didn't have classes together and the nights spent alone at home; those hours were filled with backchannel thoughts of why I didn't fit in. "Why don't people like me? Why can't I just be normal?"

There were a lot of lonely nights. I didn't go to parties. I didn't do the prom thing. I drew a lot and wrote and played video games. I built models and listened to the same albums over and over again. I called what few friends I had on the phone now and again and we daydreamed about what we'd do if we could just get out of town.

And then, there's this invisible line we all like to pretend exists called "graduation." There's an illusion that the day we graduated high school, the heavens opened and a divine ray of light shone on us, filling us with everything we never knew about ourselves which made us powerful and independent. And of course, that's complete bullshit. Most of us carried every insecurity and neurosis we'd spent 18 years cultivating with us into college or the workplace. I know I did.

I was the youngest kid working at every company I worked at throughout the late 90s.  There was a minimum of a 10 year age difference between me and the next youngest person everywhere I worked for years. I'd love to tell you that I had all this amazing confidence and that all my efforts and talent and whatever you want to call being on the rise of a trend made me awesome, but it's just not true.

It was like someone hit the reset button. I wasn't old enough to go to bars with my coworkers... Like I was even asked. The friends I did have were more of convenience than of camaraderie. And I'd love to lie to you and tell you I didn't spend a lot of time saying and doing things in an effort to get people to like me. So I won't lie to you.

And then, one day, something dawned on me: I'm me. I'm me at work. I'm me at home. I'm not changing... Not really, anyway. Why am I spending so much time on worrying about people liking me? What about me liking them?

It didn't change everything right away, but it was a huge step toward learning how to like myself (and it is a process -- if you don't already like yourself, you have to dedicate a lot of time and effort learning how to...  But it's worth it. My God, is it worth it).

And that's the thing I want to share with you -- quit making all the concessions and the effort. Put it on them. Not that you should force people to audition for your friendship, that's pretty much bullshit. But you absolutely get to be half of the equation of the friendships you're a part of.

You are worthy of being someone's friend. And you are worthy of deciding if you want to be friends with them. If they like you, let it be YOU they like, not something you do or say or wear or are just to have a friend. And remember... You have to like them, too.