Sunday, 10 April 2011

Letting go of needing to be liked

Most of us spend a lot of time censoring our behaviour because we don't want to be disapproved of by others. In fact many of us actively make decisions in order to make sure that others like, respect and approve of us.

Why do we do this? One reason is that we have learned to define ourselves by the responses we receive from others. If others are impressed by our intelligence, tell us we're beautiful or that we've done a good job then we feel validated. We feel worthy. This method works just fine as long as we can ensure that people only think and say good things about us. But as soon as the criticisms start making an appearance we fall apart. What makes it all the more ridiculous is that our self-identity is often so fragile that one little negative remark can override years of compliments and approval. Someone thinks an idea we had is impractical and suddenly we feel as though we are incapable of having a good idea ever again!

Clearly this is a very tenuous way to live. It sets us up to be constantly swinging from self-confidence to self-doubt. We will always feel needy of others' attention, always looking for the next kind word that will buoy us up. Perhaps more importantly it prevents us from living our lives freely and to our fullest potential because every time we open our mouths or consider doing something a little differently we end up thinking: 'But what will other people say?' If we cannot be completely sure that other people's responses will be positive we may avoid doing something that could help us learn, expand our horizons or express our creativity. We are trapped by this need for others' approval.

It's easy enough to see how this works in theory but how does one become free from this need to be liked? Well it all comes down to how you define your self. Underneath the part of us that is a reflection of other people's responses (sometimes called the ego) there is another self that doesn't give a damn what others think. Accessing this deeper self is the key to letting go of the need to be liked.

Connecting with our deeper self can be achieved through practicing meditation and mindfulness in everyday life. When we meditate we watch our fears and desires flit across the screen of our mind without becoming attached to them. We let them come and go without judgment; we just observe. This part of the self that observes is the deeper self. Sometimes it is called the witness because it doesn't get involved in the action, it doesn't have any needs or fears of its own. It is beyond fear and desire.

When we have accessed this deeper self, and become more and more identified with it, it becomes easy to let go of the need to be liked.

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