Sometimes I’m like an overly eager dog, albeit an old one because I don’t have the energy of a puppy. Much like a dog wants everybody to instantly be its new friend, I’ve always been an acceptance junkie.
As I’ve worked on trying to get better and had some painful losses of people who exited my life, I’ve come to realize there’s a big problem with being an acceptance junkie. When you’re so concerned that everybody loves you, you rarely take the time to ask yourself if you actually like them in the first place.
I’ve realized that in the cases of the people who are no longer in my life, in many cases I didn’t actually even like them either. A good example of this is that I recently noticed how many people I went to high school with aren’t my friends on Facebook. Now, I know Facebook is not real life and it plays a very small role in my life compared to what it used to. But at first, it stung a little to see how many people from that time of my life had no interest in being my friend now.
But then I realized that I didn’t actually like most of them even when I was in school. They didn’t like me and I didn’t like them. High school was definitely not the best time of my life. I didn’t go to my prom and I haven’t gone to any of my high school reunions. The people I did like then are still my friends, on FB and otherwise.
I think I’m discovering that this is part of developing self-esteem and more of a sense of who I am. When I was so obsessed with the idea that everyone must like me, I had a tendency to downplay certain opinions or aspects of myself, in the hopes of being more accepted. It’s hard to unlearn this tendency, but as with the FB example, I can now see the other side of it. Seeing the other side defuses that initial pained reaction.
In some cases, I have a history with people that was once good and I miss the better times fondly. But they knew when to move on. It was me who did not. Very rarely can you have the same friendships through all stages of your life.
Sometimes people change and you just really don’t like what they’ve turned into. That means that other people can also have that same reaction to me and the way I’ve changed. And all of that is okay.
None of this changes the fact that I think most people have something innately good about them. I once contributed baked goods to a cancer fundraiser one of my high school tormentors was hosting. I still didn’t want to be her friend, but I could see her humanity and have empathy for her situation. That wasn’t trying to be a people pleaser, but rather doing something kind because it was the right thing to do.
There are very few people I would say I actively hate. I’ve always been that way and I still am. I don’t think that’s a lack of self-esteem on my part; it’s just not who I am to wish ill on anyone.
But coming to accept myself and have a clearer idea of who I am does mean I’ve also realized not everyone is going to be my friend. It’s not a loss to me when I give myself permission to not like them, either. Everyone doesn’t need to love me and I don’t need to love everyone.
I will show them kindness and basic humanity, regardless of whether or not I like them. But it’s quite freeing to realize I’m allowed to dislike people.