"I want to do it but I'm afraid."
"What are you afraid of?"
"I'm afraid that people won't like me."
"And, that's it. I don't want people not to like me."
"Let me let you in on a little secret: If everybody likes you, you are doing it wrong."
I cannot even begin to tell you how many times this exchange, or something very close to it has occurred in my office.
I am a clinical psychologist. I am in the business of helping people, but I don't believe that just talking is the answer. If you are not out there in the world, trying things, failing at things and learning from your mistakes, then talking is probably just wasting your time -- and I hate wasting people's time.
One of the greatest barriers to action is the fear that doing something different, trying to better yourself in some way, experimenting with new ways of acting or being in the world, or just mixing it up will cause people not to like you.
"So," you might be thinking, "What's so bad about having everyone like me? Is it better to have no one like me?"
No. I think we can agree that having no one like you is pretty bad. Either extreme is problematic.
"So," you might be thinking, "If the answer is not to have everyone like me and not to have everyone not like me, what is the answer?"
That's a great question, and I'm glad you asked it.
The 85 percent Rule
The answer is approximately 85 percent. If about 85 percent of the people you meet like you, you are probably doing something right. If it's much less than that, you probably not doing enough to get along with others (a topic for another time and article). In contrast, if much more than 85 percent of the people you meet like you, you are probably doing too much to get along.
"How can I be doing too much to get along with others?"
Getting along is great as long as it doesn't come at the expense of yourself.
There are nearly seven billion people out there, all with different wants, needs, histories, agendas and fears. If practically everybody you meet likes you, it means that you are probably tying yourself up in knots trying to offer up an inauthentic picture of yourself in order to get along with others. In all likelihood this means that at least one (or both) of these two things is true of you:
1. You ignore your own needs in favor of others.
2. You are too afraid of what other people think of you.
If these sound familiar, try these on for size:
1. If you always put others' needs first, you will, sooner or later not have anything left to give. Learn to be a "Giving Tree" not a Giving Cave.
A Giving Tree loves to give, but it needs water and sun of its own in order to be replenished, so that may can stand on its own roots. In contrast, once a Giving Cave has been mined, there is nothing left inside of it and it is of no use to anyone.
2. If you don't try new things because you are afraid of what other people might think of you, remember this: Those who truly love you will support you no matter what. Those who don't, are not worth changing for anyway. It's what we do that defines what we are.
I hope this was of help to you whoever, and wherever you are, and that when, and if, our paths cross, I am fortunate enough to know the authentic you. Odds are pretty good that if you do present the real you, we will be in each other's 85 percent.
For more by Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.