Saturday, December 29, 2012

HSP Issue: NOT everyone is "Supposed To Like You!"

Rejection is difficult... for pretty much anyone. When you're a highly sensitive person, it can be even harder. Not only do many HSPs get their feelings hurt rather easily, but "after the fact," we tend to engage in endless brooding and extensive "post game analyses" of what just happened, hereunder every little nuance of what we could have said and/or done differently.

It's probably part of human nature to want to be well-liked. But sometimes we go overboard in our efforts to be "liked" end end up hurting ourselves in the process. WE do the hurting-- through how we process and treat ourselves-- not the other person.

For HSPs, this can be a particularly troubling issue. Many of us have lived lives of feeling marginalized and misunderstood, so when we do "put ourselves out there," we tend to be very deeply invested in a positive outcome; in being liked. Now, I'm not for a moment suggesting that there's a way to "not feel hurt" when someone doesn't like us (aka "rejects" us), just that we can sometimes save ourselves from a lot of pain by simply taking a step back and having a reality check.

Author Rita Mae Brown once wrote:

"I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself."

"Conformity" is actually a pretty wide concept. It doesn't just imply conforming to societal and cultural norms, it also can mean conforming to other people's impressions of what we "should" be, like, think, do and so forth. Since HSPs are very good at intuiting what others want and feel, we'll often twist ourselves into a pretzel shape in order to present the "version" of ourselves that would be most appealing to the person we're interacting with. But what happens to us, in our process? Often, we've "lost" ourselves... and what's worse, when our true self "returns" to the connection (once we get comfortable in the relationship) the person we're befriending or connecting with will no longer be dealing with the person they thought they were getting to know... and that's often how friendships (and relationships) fall apart.

As HSPs, what we sometimes lose sight of-- especially when it comes to "feeling liked"-- is the basic fact that not everyone is supposed to like us. And the fact is, not everyone is going to.

So where does the reality check come in?

We must stop and consider whether we have become deeply invested in "impressing"-- and adapting ourselves to "fit"-- people who don't even matter very much to us... in service of our inner need and desire to feel "liked." And we ultimately have to consider why we are bending over backwards to elicit a positive response from some random person who could care less whether we're alive or dead... let alone happy.

Many years ago, I had a deep conversation with an (HSP) friend of mine, about the whole "being liked" issue. She was lamenting the fact that it was so hard for her to make and keep friends... and feeling hurt because she's get talking to "someone" who might be a potential friend and after a short while-- or a couple of get-togethers-- this person's eyes would just start glazing over, and soon enough the connection would wither away.

Eventually I asked her why she was trying to make friends with people she relatively little in common with, and who didn't share her worldview, at all. She shrugged and said "but that's what most people around here are LIKE, and other people seem to have no trouble making friends like that."

Whereas I could "see her point," the bottom line is that HSPs are not "like everyone else." And because of that very fact, it's folly to think that "everyone else" is going to universally think that we're "all that, and a bag of chips." Some years back, I wrote an article about HSPs and the difficulties they face with friendships, and addressed this very point-- among many others.

Because the highly sensitive get easily overstimulated, we have only a limited amount of bandwidth to give to "other people." We owe it to ourselves to be discerning in our choices of whom we share that energy with. We also owe it to ourselves to accept (and even embrace) that NOT everyone is going to like us... and that this is OK, and not something to obsess over. It's not an easy process, and it asks us to let go of some old less-than-healthy beliefs about ourselves, and what we "should" do. But in the end... odd are your life will be less stressful and less painful... and your relationships and friendships more rewarding.

Talk Back! Do you worry about people liking you? Do you believe that everyone should like you? As an HSP, do you work hard to "make" people like you? Do you find friendships and other relationships frustrating? Have you ever considered that it may be the people you choose that are the problem, not who you are, as a friend? Share your experience-- leave a comment!

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  1. Wow. This has been one of my deeper worldviews. Up until just a few years ago it hadn't even occurred to me that it was ok if someone didn't like me. I firmly believed that everyone "should" like me. And if one person didn't, it meant I had done something wrong. It shattered me when I finally had the thought that it wasn't possible that everyone would like me. Just as I will not like every single person I ever meet.

  2. I just read your blog entry and wanted to let you know I enjoyed and appreciated it. I can't remember how I got here. It's been sitting on my monitor all day as I come back and forth to read a bit here, a bit there, between home and family pulling me away with their needs.

    Yeah, friends hurt me sometimes. I try to be careful not to hurt anyone, knowing how devastated I can feel when others hurt me.

    As a result of so much pain, I've become more selective in who I will allow to become close to me, but it's hard, as I have a lot of love and compassion flowing from me, and wish it would flow back my way a little more from a select few.

    I have a blog, too, one entry of which touches on HSP. Here is the link:

    Thank you again for your writing.

  3. I've gotten to where I actually try to keep people away from me and am terribly selective about who I will allow to get to know me. I have to really like something about them. Also, maybe like other HSP's, I don't need more than one or two friends in my life.
    Nice post.

  4. I would say that I have a lot of friends. I pick and choose what I want to say w them and I'm very good at making people think they know enough about me so they won't ask me any questions. I thought I was the only person presenting "versions" of myself to people, so I was relieved to see that described in your post. Anyway, of all these friends I have, I might only really trust 1 or 2 of them, and I just wait for the rest to discover "the truth" about me and ditch me.

  5. This is wonderful. I struggle everyday with the longing to be liked by everyone, even strangers on the internet. When I reflect on the amount of time I spend worrying whether or not someone likes me, I am amazed to see how much time and energy I have wasted. We definitely need to constantly remind ourselves of who we really are. That is where true happiness lies.

  6. Thank you very much for this post. I have always struggled with friendships as I always felt that i had so much more empathy that everyone else. As someone else mentioned above.. you fee like you have to have a different version of yourself that you portray to friends as whenever the conversation drifts to something serious, the other person just doesn't care in the same way as I would.. Its lovely to know other people feel like this:)

  7. Thanks for this. I've finally figured out what the problem is. I just have to embrace that I'm VERY different from others, and choose my targets carefully, only pursuing the ones that match my energy level. After almost 30 years, I found someone like that. Talking with this person is like being on a constant high... it's so EXCITING!!!! Just can't get enough... Sometimes we have to take a break from each other to recharge, lol.


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