#17

If some people don't like you, that's a good thing. Stop being a social chameleon all the time.

I used to get flustered when certain people didn't like me. I'm pretty good at reading people, or so I'd like to think, and I can almost immediately sense when someone is judging me in a negative way, whether it's silent brooding, incisive sarcasm, or just a certain look. You know the one. Someone who is amused by you, and obviously doesn't take you seriously.

I consider myself a fairly nice, friendly, and approachable person (except for when I'm hangry). But now, I actually welcome it when certain people don't like me. It means that I'm becoming less of a social chameleon and more of my true self.

Take this blog, for instance. I am revealing things about myself that will certainly alienate some readers. I've become upfront about my bad habits and my shortcomings, as well as things I like about myself that don't really match societal expectations of a thirty-something. I'm enjoying being a single heathen who spends her Thursday nights eating pizza and watching Rick and Morty. I relish my time at the gym by myself, or those weekends when I can go shopping alone or spend hours cooking or cleaning to the beats of my obnoxious electronic music.

The adage is true: the older I get, the less I care what people think of me. I'd like to think that there was a single defining moment that made me this way, but it was actually this blog that helped me to come to this realization. A couple of months ago, I showed this blog to someone I had recently met. The person stopped talking to me shortly thereafter. Perhaps it was not because of the blog, but I suspect my candidness was too much for him to handle upfront. Of course, it's a good idea when meeting new people to reveal intimate parts of ourselves little by little, but there's also something to be said for just laying it all out on the table. We waste so much time trying to get to know someone before we're even on the same page about what we want. 

I'm not sure if there are any tips I can give to those still struggling to be universally likeable, except to find something that is truly yours, and to exercise that trait unapologetically no matter the situation. For me, it's my constant need to challenge myself, even if it comes at the cost of being a bit more carefree and relaxed. I suspect some people find my fierce need for introspection off-putting, or they simply don't understand that there are so many hypotheticals circling in my brain at once and that my thinking almost never slows down. Here's just a small sample of what happens in my mind during a social gathering:  Are we alone in the Universe? What would I do if I found out this person was an alien? What if I'm an alien? What if I had to marry one person in this room, how terrible would that be? Who would I pick? What if this person can tell I'm lost in my own thoughts right now? What if I did something totally crazy at this party, like scream and streak across the room? It's only the smallest neurological impulses preventing me from turning these thoughts into action, and that's pretty terrifying but also hilarious. This constant questioning and acute observation sometimes comes at the cost of being an attentive listener, or an engaged conversationalist. I used to get frustrated when people close to me clearly didn't understand what was bubbling beneath the surface. Why couldn't they see that I craved deeper discussion or less of the status quo? I blame myself for this, since I wasted time convincing the wrong people to like me, and suppressing parts of myself that would have revealed how impassioned I get about just about everything.

I'm relieved when people call me out on who I am. They recognize something about myself that I'm too afraid to point out directly. Maybe we'll like each other, maybe we won't, but it lessens the pressure on impressing someone when that person reciprocates my desire to understand and be understood. Are being understood and being liked two sides of the same coin? I doubt it. We often find people we dislike to be fascinating subjects of study--what made them into the pretentious douche nozzles that they are today? Why is this person so cripplingly shy? Being understood is more a sign of our own inquisitive nature and need to evaluate others. Sometimes, we are trying to persuade ourselves to empathize with someone in the hopes that this will turn into liking them. But liking someone shouldn't always be the end goal. Being understood, even if it comes at the cost of universal empathy or admiration from others, is perhaps the highest goal we can hope to achieve on a universal level. Are we striving to reveal the parts of ourselves that show who we are as a person? That is our only duty to the people we meet in the various corners of our lives--to stop responding to others in kind, and start being the catalyst for authentic social interaction.