You don’t have to eat your lunch on the toilet, like Lindsay Lohan in “Mean Girls”.
I have a confession: I often feel like no-one likes me. It doesn’t matter if I’m with old friends or at a party with strangers; I just can’t shake the feeling that people dislike me. Believe it or not, I often ask my husband of seven years, “Do you like me?”.
The thing is, I know that people do like me. Some friends have even literally said to me, “I like you, and I want to spend time with you.” So why do I find it so hard to believe that I am a likeable person?
In thinking that I’m unlikeable, I’ve actually sabotaged myself. I won’t make the time to see my friends and it’s also affected my work life. Throughout my career I’ve often lost confidence because I’m convinced that my managers don’t like me.
Is this feeling normal?
Maria Faustino, a psychologist from Marquee Health Clinic, assured me that it’s “quite common” to feel worried and anxious about what other people think of us, especially in social situations. Many also experience the physical reactions like blushing, sweating, tensing muscles, a raised heart rate and “butterflies” in the stomach.
Situations when we feel “evaluated, such as when you’re on a first date or meeting new people,” can also bring on those thoughts and feelings.
Why do we want to be liked?
Well, it’s this simple: “We feel good about ourselves after a positive interaction with our loved ones,” explains Maria.
There may also be an evolutionary reason behind our desire to be liked. “Being part of a ‘group’ may be associated with survival back in the days when humans did not have modern technology and civilisations to feel safe.”
What should I do?
First of all, don’t stop socialising with people as it won’t help in the long term.
“There are some people who find these emotions so distressing that they try to avoid these types of situations at all costs,” warns Maria.
“Avoidance may help reduce anxiety in the short-term, however in the long-term it might actually stop us from being happy and achieving the social relationships that we desire.”
And also, don’t forget this golden rule:
“Being yourself is really important,” emphasises Maria.
I often try to put on an “act” of being more friendly and happy than I actually am but now I'm going to put a stop to it.
“If we put on a ‘show’, we may end up feeling unsatisfied and leaving the situation thinking, ‘They might only like me because I pretended to be someone else’."
Good advice, indeed.
Tips to help you shake the feeling.
If, like me, you struggle with believing that you’re likeable there are some strategies that will have you relaxing and enjoying social situations.
1. Focus on positive reactions, rather than negative ones.
“People who feel anxious about being liked usually pay attention to cues that are associated with negative things,” suggests Maria. Example of this are focusing on other people’s reactions, and over-analysing what others may be thinking.
Instead focus on those positive cues, like a smile, or a compliment, that make you feel good.
2. Remember, you’re not a mind-reader.
Your worst enemy? Thinking you're a mind reader. You're not.
“A big part of the negative thinking that ‘no-one likes us’ is related to assuming what others think about us. In reality, we will never know what’s on a person’s mind, and assuming the worst won’t help us,” explains Maria.
3. Take a deep breath.
“Calming techniques and relaxation strategies such as deep breathing may reduce shortness of breath and increased heart rate when experienced in these situations,” Maria advises.
4. It’s what inside that counts.
Guess what? The most important person to like you should be YOU.
“In general, people who rely on internal sources of happiness and acceptance are more likely to feel positive, as opposed to people who rely on external sources of validation that they have no control over, such as what people think or how people react," Maria explains.
5. Write it all down.
You might be a "no one likes me" person without even realising it. Writing down your feelings will help you to acknowledge them so that you can, in turn, change them.
Try Maria’s technique of writing down thoughts that occur in difficult social situations.
The next step, according to Maria, is to “objectively write down the evidence for and against those thoughts, and try to balance your thinking".
Often you will find that there's no real concrete evidence for feeling as you people don't like you. (Post continues after gallery.)
5. Just say thank you.
If someone tells you that they like you, just say thanks!
“Remember that these people chose to be in your life and it is highly likely that they did so because of your amazing qualities and the value that you bring into their lives,” encourages Maria.
“Whenever your spouse or friend gives you a compliment, instead of disputing it, graciously accept it because if these are coming from people who love and trust you, and vice versa, it is genuine.”
What’s your best tip for feeling confident and liked?