There was a time in my life where hearing that someone didn't like me was the most devastating news I could possible receive.
What? But Why? What did I do? How can I fix this?? They will like me again, I'll make sure of it!
Thinking that there was someone out there in this world who didn't approve of who I was, or didn't want to hang out with me, resulted in a complete mental meltdown. I just could not understand the logic in it. I would lay awake at night devising plan after plan of how I could get this person to change their mind.
I would spend HOURS of my precious thinking time on someone who was not thinking of me at all.
I had made it my personal mission to prove to every single person I encountered in life, that I was truly likable.
In order to attain my goal of being the most likable girl around, I had a lot of requirements to uphold. I needed to keep my friends (of course they were first), strangers (they could be potential friends), friends of my friends (more potential friends), my parents, the parents of my friends, the rest of my family and lots of boys convinced that I had it all together and, because of that, EVERYONE liked me so they should too.
Let me tell you, that is one exhausting job.
The biggest issue with that list of 'People to Keep Happy' is that I wasn't on it. What's worse, I knew I wasn't on it and didn't care! That's how people pleasing obsessed I was. I was WILLINGLY leaving myself out of personal joy. I would have literally rather made someone "like me" than risk doing something that was important to my own contentment.
I would do what others wanted to do, wear what they wanted to wear, liked who they liked and so on and so on. I was the epitome of a 'YES' person. I would say yes to questions that weren't even finished!
Do you wanna go... YES. This weekend could you... YES. Can you do me a fa... YES. YES. YES! If it is going to somehow improve your life or make you happy with me, then the answer was always going to be YES.
Good Lord. I need to take a nap just from writing this. What in the Hell was I thinking?
To say the least, that girl was spread as thin as Nana's homemade tortillas. I agreed to be everywhere and do everything anyone needed me to do. I was coordinating birthday parties, baby showers, prom parties, graduation parties, no reason parties--You name it, I planned it. I told this person I would hang out in the morning and that person in the afternoon and the next person at night and the other person really late that night. I wanted to be everywhere and do everything everyone wanted me to do.
And guess what happened? There were people who still didn't like me!
You can imagine how this sent my world crashing down. I was in a pretty severe state of depression during the time it took me to decipher what my life meant now that I had discovered that my mission was truly impossible. A large amount of booze and other recreational activities helped to numb the pain but when morning came, it was still there. It was always there.
It seemed that nothing and no one could convince me that life continued on just fine even when cruel words were spoken about you and you lose a friend or two on the way.
How could spending so much time reassuring other's satisfaction leave me with so little of my own?
Then the words from my mother saved the day as many words from mothers usually do. My mom never had much of a tolerance for self-pity which, now that I'm no longer a sulky teenager, is one of the qualities I admire most about her. She simply opened my bedroom door to my gloom-filled world and said:
"The sooner you realize that you will never be able to make everyone happy, the better off your life will be."
SMACK. That's all she said. A fantastic dose of reality delivered straight from my mama and right into my pillow pressed face. So it was 'OK' if someone didn't like me? Groundbreaking.
Once I let this Earth-shattering advice sink in, I decided to give it a shot. And by taking the first steps in the direction my mom had pointed me, I discovered something. I learned that while I was walking around trying to prove to anyone that would listen that I was likable, I was surrounded by people who already knew I was lovable. And I had been putting these people on the back burner!
I was so busy wasting my time on people who couldn't care less about my happiness that I had no time for those who thought I deserved more! It was their birthday dinners I was leaving early, it was their anniversary parties I missed, it was their dance recitals I forgot about. What had I done?
What I didn't realize then that I can see so clearly now, is just how self-centered my mission to be liked was. I thought that by leaving my name off the list of people that I needed to make sure were happy, would certainly validate that I was a "selfless" person who only cared about others. But I was wrong.
I was wrong because I only cared about what they though of me. I wanted them to want to hangout with me. I wanted everyone to invite me out or want my help or my opinion. Me, myself and I.
Wow. How could I have been so blind to how selfish I really was? It's so obvious now.
I wish I could kick that girl's ass.
The good news is that I finally recognized it. The even better news is that I had plenty of time to change it. Although, changing my way of thinking wasn't going to happen overnight. It was going to take some work and needed to take the time I was using for others and put it towards helping myself.
Working the words 'No' and 'I can't' or 'I'm busy' into my vocabulary was incredibly hard. But, like with most things, it just took some effort and a few baby steps before the words could finally feel comfortable leaving my tongue.
Slowly but surely, I started living more for myself and those who loved me unconditionally, and less for those whose affection was solely based on the conditions.
What my mom's words gave me that day was the permission to not only love myself, but to be myself. And not to apologize to anyone for it! As long as I felt that my heart was in the right place then I didn't owe anyone an explanation for deciding to live my life the way I wanted to. Because it was just that: My life.
Some days it's still difficult. But those are just some days. They are not the focus of my life anymore. I still continue to battle that inner voice that whispers Don't go out there and dance, you'll be the only one! Don't go talk to that person, people will think you're with them! Don't chase that writing dream, it's too big, you'll never get there!
There is only one way that I now know will quiet these voices. They only get a little less clear every time I step onto that dance floor, each time I take a seat next to that person and on every single day that makes writing seem like less like a dream and closer to a reality.
Frankly, that voice can kiss my unlikable, but completely lovable, ass.