“Would you ever get a tattoo, Mel?” Rachel looked at me. I thought of her tattoo—broad wings etched smack-bang in the middle of her back. I hated tattoos. And piercings.
“Uh, I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it. It’d be something small, I suppose. Maybe when I’m older.”
It’s easy to be a diplomat, but it’s hard to keep it up.
That incident, and several others like it, happened a few years ago. Imagine if I had said what I really thought:
“Look Rachel, I bloody hate tattoos. They’re not for me.”
Would she really have stopped being friends with me just because of that? Probably not. And if she did, then it would have probably been for the best.
The problem with wanting to be liked
As someone who was a social floater and never really knew how to ‘be yourself’, the constant pursuit to withhold my thoughts for the sake of friendship held me down like the Lilliputians held down Gulliver.
There was a pattern, as there always seems to be with the perpetually anxious. Follow these five simple steps, religiously, should you wish to regress in life:
- Worry that you won’t be liked.
- Be passive. Do and say what you think others will like.
- Comfort eat and don’t exercise.
- Become a hermit.
- Be sad, overweight and unhappy.
A simple formula, with life-changing consequences
Once you realise ‘life-changing’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’, (who knew), where do you find your very own Fairy Godmother?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s you!
Now, there’s a reason this piece is dripping with sarcasm and blindingly obvious advice.
The can’t-handle-the-truth is that sometimes, we are too stupid to realise the truth! I certainly was.
Imagine if I had stopped myself before step one:“Worry that you won’t be liked.”
Wait. How can you go through life with no one disliking you?
There will always be someone to dislike you, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Until you realise that, you will be caught in the vicious, five step cycle.
If you want to stop worrying, reduce your anxiety, be happier, stop wars and find world peace*, you need to stop ‘being yourself.’ Rather, take a leaf out of Nike’s book and Just Do It, but do things that work for you.
While ‘being yourself’ means going out there and trying to exist as yourself, doing things that work for you overrides simply trying to exist or trying to fit in.
It means getting off your arse and exercising because it’s good for you, mentally and physically. It means not socialising with people with whom you don’t feel a genuine rapport. It means quitting a job that makes you depressed, unhappy or uncomfortable. It means writing down goals and taking steps to get better.
It’s about setting precedents.
As long as we’re not shoving our likes and dislikes down other people’s throats, we’re good.
*Won’t actually stop wars and find world peace, sorry.
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About the Author
Melanie Basta is a writer and founder of mala maza. Find her work in Urban Walkabout, Meanjin, Farrago and Girlfriend.