You’re alone. Cold. Hungry. Abandoned. You said or did something to offend a high-ranking member of your tribe. Your life has been nothing more than a pure fight for survival. And now, because you made the slightest of gaffes, you just cost yourself your life.
It takes a group to hunt and protect itself from wild animals and warring tribes. It takes group protection to allow you to do the thing your brain was literally built for — to pass your genes onto the next generation.
Think about that for a second. Think about all the things a social slip-up would cost you — your family, the entire group of people you’ve ever known, and your life.
Take someone with that same brain, a brain not yet fit for this modern world, and give them a smartphone with social media. Put them in an environment where they’re bombarded with ads that tell them what to do and what not to do to stay a part of the group. Instead of a small tribe, give them a never-ending stream of people who can potentially love them or hate them.
No wonder we have so much anxiety.
This is the fight we fight as modern humans. Our need to be liked, plus an environment that exacerbates that need, causes us to do things that go against our own benefit.
Social rejection is no longer life-threatening, but it feels like it is sometimes, doesn’t it? I have no magic recipe to solve this dilemma other than to remind you that certain behaviors, actions, and attitudes aren’t worth it to try and get people to like you.
Let’s talk about them. Here’s to the good fight.
“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.” – Nassim Taleb
We live in a world where it’s becoming increasingly dangerous to speak your mind. There’s even a name for people who have strong opinions but won’t share them – “the silent majority.”
With the rise of tribalism, political correctness, and cancel culture, not only do you risk people disliking you for your opinions, you can risk your livelihood. Who knows where this speeding train ends, but you can decide to be one of the people who kowtow to this type of thinking or choose to live by your real beliefs.
For one, saying opinions you don’t actually believe, just to get along with others, means that you care more about the opinions of other people more than you care about the beliefs that make you who you are. Not a great spiritual equation. Second, having the courage to speak your mind can inspire others to do the same.
Honestly, if everyone who was opposed to this nonsensical cancel culture would just speak up all at once, this whole charade would be over. But, at best, it’ll happen over time, person by person, trickling out until, hopefully, a tsunami of realness prevails. Who knows.
When I write, I share the truth as I see it at the moment. If that means negative comments on a piece where I tell people that the news is garbage, so be it. If it means I ruffle some feathers by saying people suffer from learned helplessness rather than real oppression, so be it.
Those who promote “the narrative” hate my sort of philosophy. I don’t care. I’m right, the narrative is wrong. If you don’t stand on your principles, then you are a coward. Don’t be one. Say what you mean.
“Give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
It’s important to study human nature. Humans have both good and bad qualities. Instead of focusing on the way you think people should behave, you’re better off focusing on the way people actually behave. Human nature has taught me the importance of boundaries.
The word “no” is one of the most important words in your vocabulary. The more you learn to use it, tactfully, the better off your life will be. People have a hard time setting boundaries because they want people to like them. They let others cross their boundaries to win their favor. But, underneath the surface, it does the opposite.
On the surface, people might seem to appreciate it when you lower your boundaries for them, but underneath, they lose respect for you. And, often, it’s inevitable they’ll take advantage of you. Not because they’re evil, but because they’re wired to do so. I have a five-year-old child and her whole mission in life is to test my boundaries, see what she can get away with, prod at the cage like the raptors in Jurrasic Park. This instinct never leaves us. Ignore it to your own detriment.
Some things you can do to set better boundaries with people:
Setting boundaries doesn’t mean your rude, mean, crass, none of that. It means you have enough respect for yourself to not compromise yourself for the sake of others.
This has a counterintuitive effect. People tend to respect and like you more when you set boundaries. It has the reverse effect. On the surface, they might seem unappreciative, but underneath, they’ll appreciate your strength.
“You cannot convince people to love you. … No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.” – Cheryl Strayed
Sometimes, for whatever reason, you just don’t click with certain people. It has nothing to with the quality of your character, or theirs, you just don’t do it for them.
Take dating, where you think you’re a good fit with someone on paper but they’re just not feeling it. Many people get upset because they appear to be what someone says they want, only to find out that person doesn’t want them. It happens.
Or business, where you think you have a great product idea, but the market doesn’t respond. There are tons of other applications like this where you might feel like a person, or a group of people, should want what you have to offer, but they just don’t.
The minute you feel you have to convince someone to like you, you’re on the wrong track. Yes, persuasion helps. But you can only persuade people who were somewhat into what you have to offer in the first place. Persuasion helps when people are on the fence. If they’re not on the fence, move on.
There are 7 billion people on planet earth. There is an abundance of people who’d make a perfect significant other, business partner, customer, or member of your tribe. So many people waste too much time focusing on the people who don’t want what they have to offer, instead of just realizing life is a game of numbers.
I heard a saying once: if you want to win someone’s favor — sales, dating, friendship, whatever — for every 20 people, three people will just hate you for no reason, 14 will be lukewarm about you, 3 will really like you, one will be a perfect fit. Engage with the world with this attitude and you’ll have more than enough people in your corner.
“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” – Steven Pressfield
I wrote an article about becoming who you really are. The thesis: instead of trying to build on this caricature of yourself, let the layers of the caricature you’ve built go.
Especially in the age of social media, people play roles and pretend to be someone they’re not to get people to like them. The addictive part about this process? You can get people to like the caricature of you. But, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
I used to play a character when I was in my early 20’s. I had to make myself the center of every party, for better or worse. To do this, I’d get blackout drunk and use provocative behaviors to get attention whether it was hitting on every girl at the party or trying to get into a fight with every guy. I sold drugs, mostly because I thought it would get me more women. To a degree, all of this worked. But it wasn’t me.
Deep down I was a lover, not a fighter. My need to be loved manifested itself in lustful but deeply toxic relationships with women. The minute I dropped that caricature and focused on the things I really cared about like self-improvement, writing, learning, etc, that facade of a network I built disappeared. Looking back, I could’ve had amazing relationships just by doing the things I enjoyed in the first place.
These days, I work on being the best, but also the most real, version of myself. Take my writing. I could pretend to be super cheery and vibrant like a Tony Robbins, but that wouldn’t be me. I do have a bit of a dark side and an edge. But now I hone it instead of letting it dominate my personality. To the point earlier, I don’t pick fights about politics or anything like that, but I don’t virtue signal either.
Where are the areas in your life you’re playing a role? Where can you be more of yourself, your real self? What are the implications of getting people to like the caricature of you instead of the real you? Think about it.
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” Marriane Williamson
One semester in college, I stopped drinking for an entire semester. I worked on a side project to make some extra cash. I started reading a bunch of books. That semester, I had my highest GPA of all time. I even wore a shirt and tie to class every day. I always had glimpses of that desire from time to time — the need to get better, improve, learn.
One night I decided to visit some friends for a night out. I told them I’d hang out with them, but that I wouldn’t drink. Maybe you’ve been in a conversation like this.
“Come on, just take one.”
“Nah, I’m good.”
“Seriously, just one. No big deal.”
“I said I’m good.”
I ended up getting into a verbal altercation with my friend. He told me I thought I was better than the group. He said I changed. I did change, but it wasn’t a bad thing. My vision for my life no longer aligned with some of the people I hung out around. Didn’t make them bad people. I just had another lane to follow.
I look back at some of my friends who I used to hang around with. Friends who I lost, who no longer “like” me, because I shifted in a different direction. I simply look at their outcomes and I look at mine. No judgment, but, I like mine better. Interestingly, many of them now look up to and respect me. Funny how that works.
You don’t have to be ruthless and just cut people out of your life because they’re not on the exact same path as you. But never ever compromise your future for the sake of others. If you do, you’ll kick yourself for letting a promising future go down the drain and you’ll feel resentful of those you compromised that future for. But it won’t have been their fault. It’ll have been yours.
It’s your life after all. Amidst all of these things we do to make others like us — people please, pretend, and dim our own light, we forget that our opinion of ourselves matters above all else. You build self-esteem and confidence by learning to separate your opinion of yourself from the opinions of others. The more you do this, the more people like you in the long run.
Who are the people we really admire in society? Not the people-pleasers, the irreverent. In a world filled with people who are just too afraid to live life on their terms because of other people, we’re deeply drawn to those who have the courage to simply not give a fuck what other people think about them.
Switch the attitude. Instead of doing everything you can to see if other people will like you. Focus on yourself first and decide who you want to let into your life in the first place. This reversal of attitude is the recipe for everything you thought you wanted in the first place.