For years, I hated going to parties. And when I say “hated,” I mean I would’ve rather gone dumpster diving than try to make “natural” conversation with complete strangers.
Just the idea of being trapped in a loud room full of new people made me feel suuuuper stressed and anxious. And for a long time, I just blamed all those icky feelings on being an introvert, and thought they were something I could never change.
But then one day in college, a lightbulb went off. I didn’t hate parties because I was an introvert. I hated parties because I refused to give myself permission to just be me at them.
Instead, my every single word was based on constantly observing myself and other people’s reactions to me. Take jokes, for example. When I told a funny story, I wouldn’t just be chillin’ and laughing along with everyone else. I’d be watching everyone listening and thinking shit like, “Hmm…did they like that? Was it funny? Was it funny enough? Becky laughed, but maybe she was just being nice ‘cause Jordan seemed annoyed by the joke and that other guy didn’t seem to care about what I was saying at allll and started checking his phone halfway through. Did I do something wrong? Did I do something to make people not like me? I should’ve known not to tell that story!”
This constant self-monitoring to make sure I always came across as funny (but not offensive), entertaining (but not annoying), interesting (but not controversial), intriguing (but not confusing) – the list goes on and on – made every social situation a millllion times more exhausting than it already was.
The Question I Know You’re Asking Yourself Too…
And if you can relate to my story – and this “responsibility” to make everyone else feel happy and positive and suuuuper great – I bet you’ve asked yourself the same question I used to ask myself nearly every day: “I’m nice to everyone…but I feel like everyone secretly hates me. What do I do?”
Well…ten years later, I finally know the answer to that very question, which is why I’m writing today’s post. In fact, this post dives deep into the four steps I took to stop over-analyzing and start embracing my true self ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME, from learning about what really makes people “like” someone to being OK with having haters.
And, like always, this post is full of easy, actionable steps you can take right now to find the same confidence and freedom! So enough about me. Let’s start exploring what you can do to transform your own life and confidence levels ASAP…
Step 1: Realize that you really have noooooo freakin’ clue why people are “liked” in the first place.
Why do we socialize?
…to have fun
…to connect with people
…to burn off steam
….to avoid spending Friday night alone with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a Friends marathon
You get the picture.
All of those are the “goals” of socialization.
But if you’ve grown up strugglin’ to rock some Beyonce-level confidence, your “map” of how to reach that goal is upside-down, backwards and missing a looot of important streets and turns. And that’s not your fault! Ever since childhood, most of us have been taught to be “nice” and “good” little boys or girls who never have temper tantrums and always fit in.
And as a result, you’ve grown up thinking that if you please other people and not ruffle any feathers or cause any discomfort, you will be the queeeeen of likability. That you will be LOVED just as much as your parents loved their “good” little daughter or son. So you treat your social interactions like a science experiment: if you do X, Y or Z, how is that affecting the “subjects”? Is it making them happy, like you want?
The Truth About Cultivating Real Friendships
The truth is, though, connecting with people is soooooo much more complicated and messy than just making people smile or laugh. Case in point? Just think about who you like and respect and admire and love.
Do you love people who tiptoe around others and would rather be “nice” than tell you the truth? Or do you love people like Lady Gaga who are super freakin’ real and not afraid to rock their own crazy, authentic selves? Lady Gaga knows who she is and lives from that space…and that’s why she’s innnsssaanely inspirational to tons of people (including me!).
Similarly, you don’t want a boss who is uuuuber critical just because they like cutting people down. But you DO want bosses and co-workers who will give you honest feedback and share their real opinions without worrying if they’re saying the “right” thing.
How to Take Action TODAY:
Before you do ANYTHING to change how you act to make friends, you gotta dig into the root of the problem: your mindset about relationships. Do you think that making connections is about niceness, people-pleasing and self-monitoring? Or about authenticity? And if you agree more with the first definition, get reallll with yourself. Recognize that, right now, your map to making connections with people has as many holes in it as your friend’s retelling of a Friday night out after she’s had waaaay too many drinks. And embrace the fact that you’re gonna need to draw a new map to real, deep relationships.
Here’s how you start: Take some time to reflect on who you feel happiest around. How do they act? What traits caused you to feel drawn to them in the first place? Come up with a list of at least five badasses you look up to, whether they’re people you know personally or people you just admire from afar (like my girl, Lady Gaga!). And then use those people as guides for learning how to be authentic and connect to people by showing the imperfect but 100% true you.
Step 2: Learn to like yourself just as much as you like Beyonce’s latest badass Instagram post.
A lot of the time when I ask people, “Do you like yourself? Why?”, their answer is something like, “Well, I like that I’m always nice to people, and that’s a suuuper important quality.”
And, yes. The world would be a whooooole lot better if everyone was just as nice as you are! But here’s the thang about confidence. It needs a stronger foundation than just how you relate to other people. You need to build confidence based off of who you fundamentally are. Otherwise, you’ll always feel anxious and be constantly monitoring how other people see you because you NEED their approval to feel good about yourself.
How to Take Action TODAY:
So, rockin’ some superstar confidence actually starts with asking what you like about yourself, besides how “nice” you are. And trust me. I know how freakin’ HARD answering this question can actually be. In fact, when I first asked myself this question, I realized, “Holy shit…there’s nothing I like besides my ‘niceness’.”
But then I tweaked the wording a bit. I asked myself: “Okay, Caitlin…What are some qualities of myself that I really, really like that I know are super solid and worthy and value-creating and amazing – and aren’t tied to others’ approval or feedback?”
When I started thinking about that, I realized I’m pretty intelligent. I can connect ideas in really creative ways. I’m a really magnetic and dynamic person. I can energize a room like a human disco! And I’m a fast learner…and the list kept going on and on. Until I realized, “Dammmmmn, girl. Who says you need others to think you’re amazing? ‘Cause it looks like you already have it goin’ on!”
And once you sit down and really take the time to reflect on allll the awesome things about yourself that don’t have ANYTHING to do with how people see you…I know you’ll be able to make the same discovery!
You wanna know why I’m so sure? Well, first of all, because you have waaaaay more valuable traits and abilities than you give yourself credit for. But, secondly, because you can find even MORE guidance on how to feel bold and confident in your own skin in my six-week course, Radiant Confidence. Every morning, you’ll get an email from me with a concrete step you can take that day to STOP depending on other people’s approval and start cultivating your OWN inner confidence. Plus, every two weeks, you’ll get to ask me the exact questions you want to know. To learn more about Radiant Confidence or sign up today, click here!
Step 3: Recognize that people not liking you isn’t *gasp* the end of the world!
I know. Especially if you grew up in a “nice” family like mine, we’re all programmed to want people to like us. We grow up thinking that never making people unhappy or angry or confused is what it means to be a “good person.” But rubbing people the wrong way isn’t NEARLY as “horrible” as you think it is…in fact, it’s often just a side effect of putting your voice out into the world and livin’ out your own purpose in life!
Just think again about your mentors, the people you most admire. Do those people have haters? HELL YEAH! I bet that if you go on Instagram right now and look at the latest post by some actor, movie star, politician or entrepreneur you admire like crazy, you’ll see just as many negative comments as positive ones.
Hell, even I’ve gotten tons of hate while growing my holistic coaching practice! Whenever I put an ad on Facebook, I get actual hate mail because I’m disrupting people’s way of thinking about wellness and what causes real happiness. But ya know what? Those people’s hate is NOT my problem! If I let haters control my life, I would not be able to fulfill my mission to make allll the other awesome people in the world feel super healthy and balanced. So I try to see this hate as proof that my message of authenticity, compassion and natural living IS getting out into the world…even to those who might not want to hear it.
Because the truth is, boldness and authenticity and courage WILL piss people off. But does that mean you should retreat back to that “nice” facade you’ve been giving off? That’s another HELL NO!
How to Take Action TODAY:
If you’re ready to challenge the heck out of your fear of not being unliked, here’s your homework. I want you to look out at the people you really admire and actually LOOK for evidence that they’ve pissed a lot of people off or made people uncomfortable. Think about why that was a good thing or why it was a necessary step in them making some positive impact on the world, whether it let them raise awareness about some horrible thing that was going on or created some new piece of artwork that not everyone digs (even though you think it’s ammmmazing).
And then carry that story with you. Treat it as a reminder that you are OK pissing some people off. It just means you’re making it clear who you really are and what you believe in. And dealing with haters also helps you realize who really belongs in your life and shares your values. So don’t fear people not liking you. EMBRACE it – heck, maybe even make pissing people off one of your goals. The most important thing is that you don’t let what other people think of you keep you from confidently following your TRUE path in life!
Step 4. Ask for what you really want in relationships!
Have you ever wished you could just wave a magic wand and poof! People would like you?
Well, this last step is no magic wand, but it CAN help you start to build connections with people you truly admire and would like to connect with on a deeper level.
How to Take Action TODAY:
Here’s how it works. First, I want you to think about one or two people who you don’t think like you as much as you’d like them to.
For instance, maybe you really want to be liked by your boss because she’s a kickass entrepreneur who’s achieved everrrrythang you hope to in life. But you can’t help but think, “Well, she likes me OK…but she’d fire me soooo quick if someone else came along.”
Now, before you do ANYTHING else, ask yourself: does this person deserve your respect and your time? Do they have traits that you actually value and admire? Do they give off the same vibes you try to?
If your answer is a big “hell yes!” (like it would be with that kickass boss!), then comes the scary part: having a very concrete, very real conversation with that person. What you say will obviously depend on who you’re talking to. A conversation with your boss is gonna be very different than a talk with a fellow yogi you want to be your bestie!
The One Conversation That Can Transform Your Relationships
But all of these talks usually have three main parts:
- Layin’ down the purpose of your chat with something like, “I really admire everything you’ve achieved and I want to be more like you” or “Hey, I want to develop a better friendship with you and hang out more.”
- Getting reaaaaal about what you feel they think about you! For instance: “Sometimes I feel like we disconnect” or “Sometimes I think I’m not your favorite person.” And ask them, “Is that true? Is that accurate?”
- Most importantly, finding out what THEY like. Ask “What qualities or activities could help us develop a better relationship?” or, in the case of a more casual social connection, “What kind of things do you like to do?”
This talk is AMMMMAZING for a few reasons. First, it gives you a suuuper clear idea of what your relationship to that person is already. For instance, maybe your boss actually thinks you’re an awesome worker, but she has a sick kid at home and has been too stressed out to praise your good work.
Even more importantly, though, this talk also lets you work on getting close to that person through real understanding and actual conversation. ‘Cause when you’re just guessing what someone will like or want you to do, you’ll always feel like you’re doing something wrong or that you’re not enough. You’ll always be looking for signs of discomfort in that other person, and if you do see it, you’ll blame yourself because that’s the story you’ve been telling yourself for years.
So say no to guesswork and take a more concrete, direct approach to connecting with people instead. Trust me. You (and your future friends!) will all thank you!
What I Wish I Could’ve Told My Past Self Who Thought, “I Feel Like Everyone Secretly Hates Me.”
If you’re reading through this post and nodding your head but also feeling suuuuper terrified about actually making these changes in your own life…I understand.
I know how intimidating it sounds to go to a party or a work meeting or even a holiday dinner with family and say what you think instead of what will make everyone else happy.
I know how overwhelming it is to reimagine your worth as something separate from how you make other people feel.
And I know how freakin’ terrifying it can be to say “no!” to a bunch of the things you’ve grown up hearing – about how you should be “nice” to make friends or about how you should “not make any waves” – and start living your truth.
But I want YOU to know this:
You couldn’t pay me to go back to being the girl I used to be. Sure, I may not be as universally “liked” as that bland, nice version of myself often was. Now, I have haters. I’ve gotten into arguments. But I’ve also made friends with people I can truly say get me. I’ve started a business that I believe in, no matter what Bill from Oklahoma or Kathy from Florida has to say about it on my Facebook posts. And I honestly like myself for the traits that make me, well, me – and not because of what people say or think about me.
So if you’re just starting your journey to true, inner confidence and struggling to stop caring about what other people think…know that it will get better. That it IS worth the work. And that once you hone into your own unique, vibrant inner confidence, you’ll be ready to live YOUR best life, no matter what anyone else has to say about it!
Who’s one person you really like and admire that you want to develop a closer relationship to? Tell me in the comments!