I Want People to Like Me
I can’t shake the feeling that no one really cares for me. I worry that everyone I know is just tolerating me until I go away or eventually die. This may or may not be true, but wherever I go, I can’t escape the feeling.
It’s possible that what I’m feeling isn’t completely personal to me. It may just be run-of-the-mill, normalized indifference in a world that has grown increasingly distant and isolated. I can’t really tell.
Still, some people are so amiable and effervescent that they manage to attract affection, warmth, and adoring admiration, even in this solitary world. That’s the kind of people I want to be.
I realize that this concern with “being liked” can seem silly this long after middle school. And high school. And decades of continuing ed. But, apparently, I’m silly.
The truth is, I’d like the people I know to experience a little surge of delight when I show up. And if they don’t, I’d like them to keep looking over at the door for me. Maybe they could even send a text to make sure I’m okay and to see if I need them to drop off some chicken noodle soup, preferably with a couple of matzo balls.
I need consistent and clear signs of affection. Some words of specific praise. People reaching out to me. Invites. Evites. Some follow-up questions about interesting things I said weeks ago. You know, this kind of thing.
I’m not looking to be adored and revered—though I’m not necessarily against it either. I simply want to feel held and supported in the world. I want gatherings that are fun and full of laughter, depth, and trusting honesty. I want social events that leave me feeling warm and fuzzy and filled up afterward, not anxious and second-guessing everything I said at 4 a.m.
At the very least, I’d like to shake the feeling that no one likes me.
So, how do I make all this happen? I don’t really know. But connection is a two-way street, and the only influence I have is over my own side. Since I don’t have the power to magically compel others to like me, the best option seems to be to make myself more likable. To that end, I am going full-Gandhi with this effort and trying to be the friend I want to have.
Here are some things I’m trying to do, hoping that what goes around will come around:
Admire and appreciate others
When I can relax and listen closely, I am seriously astonished by the competence, courage, and creativity I see in other people. It’s inspiring and heartening. Plus, it gives me something to do when they are droning on and on.
Don’t judge and dismiss
My reflex to minimize others is about my own defenses. What I need to know about life can come from anyone at any time—even from those who seem to have completely lost their grip on reality.
Share the air
This is a biggie: I am happiest with shared conversations. I like to hear from everyone, and I appreciate people who know how to jump in and talk and how to ease off and listen. I’ve got the jump-in-and-talk part down quite well. I’m working on the other.
Listen and remember
I used to be awful with names, but I’ve gotten better. I review them now like there’s going to be a test. I also suck at remembering what people say. Like, if their parent died or their kid’s sick. Sadly, not a lot of details stick for me—even when I try. But I’m working on it.
I try to be sure to extend invitations, approach others, and ask to join in. And to keep getting out there socially, which is the biggest risk of all.
I’d say more but I’m afraid of embarrassment.
Tell others what I specifically admire about them
This can easily get weird since not everyone is comfortable with praise. But I expect that even those who run away screaming probably enjoy it later.
If I want others’ attention, apparently, I’ve got to give it.
Don’t waste time squeezing water from rocks
I have an impulse to try to win over the people I admire, whether or not they admire me, or anyone other than themselves. I’ve gotten much better at quickly moving on. I don’t want to judge and dismiss, but I also don’t want to spend my time trying to fill my bottle at a dry lake.
Talk to everyone with the same interest and respect
There was a guy named Paul at the Wakefield Post Office who used to blow me away with this skill. He sparked up a real conversation with everyone, including angry, homicidal misanthropes, in the short time it took to post what I can only imagine were their mail bombs and anthrax-ladened parcels.
Do things for other people
I don’t want to be a dupe trying to “buy” friends with my “generous spirit.” I want people to like me for me. But, one of the things I’d like me to be is generous. Plus, I can’t help but notice that friends do things for friends. Evidently, connection isn’t about convenience.
I realize that this is a lot for me to employ. And I don’t know if I can pull it off. But, it’s still my best shot. I’m not one of the graced and lucky folks who everyone loves. I’m not someone who somehow, inexplicably, knows how to do all these things naturally. I’ve got to break them down, parse them out, and practice, practice, practice. It’s not easy, but I suppose it does make me a good candidate to write about these kinds of struggles.
All comics ©2021 by David Milgrim