A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with my sister about meeting new people (something I tend to struggle with) and she mentioned something that got me thinking for a long time: “Sometimes you try too hard to be liked and you come off as fake.” As I heard that, after a moment of shock and staring like a telenovela stare-off before a commercial break, I pretty much went through the five stages of grief…
I was in total denial, trying to come up with excuses that prove that I don’t do that, such as “I was just trying to be a better version of myself.”, “I am not fake!”, or “Maybe I just had a bad day.” Then it was anger… I was mad at the fact that my sister thought of me that way, but then I started to get mad at myself because a part of me knew that it was true. Going through the third stage, bargaining, I tried speaking about it with my sister again, trying to give her different explanations and trying to change her mind about me. Eventually that spiraled into the depression-like fourth stage, and I found myself in a dark hole of self-depreciation, past memories, and insecurities. I thought of all the struggles I’ve been through trying to make new friends, all the years it took for me to finally deal with my insecurities, and constantly remembering events from when I was excluded, when I was awfully shy, and when I received a lot of criticism from family members. It felt as if I was watching the 15 year-old me going to speech therapy to get over my stutter, and staring a group of people, pale-faced, while building up the courage to go up to them (cue the dramatic background music). You could say that I was taking part of the cliché train of thoughts that you go through when you take a shower. These thoughts turned into a small obsession of self-inspection, overthinking, and retrospect. This may sound very exaggerated and blown out of proportion for a small problem, but I have to clarify that I also tend to be a little overly-dramatic… just a little bit. Okay, I can’t help myself; I get it from my mom. Anyway, I finally arrived at the fifth stage of grief: acceptance. I recognized that sometimes I do try really hard to be liked; I live with a subconscious fear of being lonely, rejected, and excluded from the people I love. What I didn’t realize was that by trying too hard, I was being less genuine, even when it wasn’t my intention. I recognized that my sister was trying to help me when she said that, I understood that “coming off as fake” doesn’t necessarily mean that I am fake. After analyzing the situation with a more rational mindset, I figured out that trying too hard doesn’t always have positive effect. So, the purpose of this article is to offer a simple guide to help people realize if they are trying too hard to be liked, or trying too hard to fit in, and how to deal with it.
*We should clarify that is guide is purely built from personal opinion and based on my own experience. It might not apply to everyone, but hopefully it helps.
1. You worry about what people think of you
It’s known that worrying about what others think of you can be normal when you’re around people. For example, if you’re in a job interview or in a date, it’s understandable to feel that way because you’re trying to make a good first impression. But it becomes unhealthy when it’s a constant worry that goes way past a mere first impression. If you feel like changing the way you speak, changing the vocabulary you use, or changing the way you look, you’re most likely not being yourself, and that’s the biggest fault that you can commit in this situation. It also happens when you’re repeatedly planning what to do or say and how to do it or say it to seam pleasing to others. The way you can deal with this is by recognizing that everyone is different; there are some people you can connect with, and others that have absolutely no chemistry with you, and that’s perfectly fine. People are not obligated to like others, possibly due to ideological differences, opposing energies, or because it’s not meant to be. As long as you respect others (even if there’s no mutual acceptance) and stay true to yourself, you don’t have to obsess about how others think of you because they’re not the ones responsible for your life, you are. Focus on how you think about yourself.
2. You’re constantly replaying scenarios in your head
Within the context of a social situation, this usually happens when you did or said something a long time ago that you regret. It’s like that awkward memory that haunts you at night. You replay it in your head many times, you analyze every element about it, you think about all the things you could have said or done instead, and you wish you could go back in time and change it. This action is normal as long as it doesn’t become constant. As you will notice going through this list, every action is considered understandable and normal under a certain limit, but once the limit is passed and becomes a compulsion or a barrier, it needs to be confronted and solved. For example, back in high school, I used to get really irrational breakdowns during class where I would cry intensely over small problems. Now that many years have passed, I look back at these moments and reprimand myself for not being strong enough and for embarrassing myself in front of everyone. Whenever I would see myself in a similar situation, instead of confronting it, I would back away and flee, with the intention of preventing that memory. After thinking about what my sister had said, I realized that I dwelled on changing the past so much (because I seemed unlikable at that moment) that I forgot that I can create a different past with the future that is ahead of me. So my advice to you is to take those traumatic scenarios as lessons, and use your future as an opportunity to do things the way you want to. Remember that you can’t erase the past, even if it made people not like you back then, but it doesn’t mean that you should starve for them to like you now.
3. You depend on others’ good words
There’s a big difference between accepting a compliment and depending on them. When you depend on a compliment, it means that you need other people to tell you good things about you so you can feel good about yourself, like a form of validation. Just like we mentioned earlier, there’s a limit. If others’ good words are your main source of happiness and self-confidence, it’s important to recognize what you feel is stopping you from being happy with yourself without other people’s opinions. This step might be hard to deal with, because sometimes our insecurities can feel like they’re consuming us and we find it hard to think for ourselves, but with time and different techniques in finding different sources of happiness, it can be done. As long as the main source of happiness is you. It’s important to recognize that insecurities can’t be completely eliminated, there are always remnants of them in us, and they can change over time, but we can learn to live with them. We are not perfect.
4. You try to please others too much
Good actions and random acts of kindness have the ability to make the world a better place… sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Having empathy and the ability to put others before yourself is a good trait in a person, but as mentioned, there’s a limit. There’s a difference between doing an act of kindness and doing something to please someone else. The first one is meant to be a selfless act, while the latter expects to be liked in return. Like the first step, it’s understandable to do so if you’re trying to make a good first impression, but when one’s health, self-esteem, reputation, and will are being affected negatively by it, a step back needs to be taken. As important as it is for other people’s needs to be met, your needs are just as important. Another way to please others is to always agree with what others say or do, even if they are different from your opinions. This will eventually become a habit to silence your voice. Everyone is different, so are their opinions, so don’t feel like you have to quiet yours for the sake of being liked by others. Great conversations are built on different opinions; it also makes them more authentic, so don’t be afraid to speak with your own voice.
We hope that you can relate to this personal story in finding, knowing, and loving yourself. Feeling like you’re trying too hard to be liked by others, or trying to fit in, can be a lengthy, and frustrating sensation. It takes time to recognize that you don’t need to worry about what people say or feel about you, because at the end of the day, everyone is different. There are exceptions though, like advice from a friend, aid from a family member, or encouragement from someone you know, because they usually have good intentions since they care about you. But at the end of the day, it’s still your life. For me, I still have a lot to learn about accepting who I am, but I am proud of the fact that I have reached the point where I accept myself, insecurities and all. From now on, it’s all about detaching from the worries, the fears, and the “what-ifs”.
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