This is an invitation to spend the next few minutes owning the mess that you call caring for others.

I recently read a book about the importance of having the courage to be disliked. My head nearly exploded. So, I read it another five times.  I always say that if it strikes a nerve and it rattles your cage, it deserves close examination. Owning my ridiculous need to be liked was a start. However, burning it to the ground changed everything.

If you have a pulse, the people-pleasing epidemic has infected you at least once in your life.

Unless you are not a sociopath, then this article will quickly seem irrelevant.  The need to be liked is a common thread we share in this human experience. And, if we are claiming to seek a higher level of consciousness and all jumping on board the “woke” train, then we must also acknowledge the ugly side of this rite of passage.

We want to be loved and we want to feel needed. Of course, we feel validated and seen, often by showing up for others. It is a quick external fix to an internal problem. The real danger is showing up for others repeatedly when we are unhealthy, exhausted, hurting or struggling. The long-term cost is our health and wellness.  It can be deadly.

Start by getting real with why you showed up…

Enters some variation of the “The Martyr.” This archetype loves dressing up in the role. All covered in self-sacrifice and spun in a web of good intentions. She is generous and loving but her shadow self is not so pretty.  As parents, business owners, caregivers to aging parents, and leaders, we often want to feed that need for self-importance.  We want to be loved.  It is part of the reason we decided to show up to begin with. Own that truth and move on.

Showing up in the name of “love” may have been lost in translation.

“All the suffering, stress, and addiction comes from not realizing you already are what you are looking for,”

states founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Growing up the youngest of nine children, I would say his words are worth heeding. Certainly, he learned at a young age that vying for attention and external approval was a rare commodity in such a crowded household. This understanding at such a young age would explain his passion for introspection and personal accountability.

It is time to make peace with disappointing others as if your life depends on it.

I am speaking from experience. The shadow self neglects self-care and feels undeserving of joy, so she often jumps through hoops to help others. We seek outside of ourselves what is already within us. “If I continue showing up, then others will see my heart and they will love me.  If I stop showing up, they will not love me.”  It is like a drug, but it never quite gives us the satisfaction we crave. It is never enough because we do not believe that we are enough.  And, sadly it will be the death of you if you do not decide to take care of yourself first.

Now you know how you got here. Recognizing the connection between your innate thirst for approval and your fatigue and frustration is a start!  You can almost stomach the fact that your need to be liked has hijacked your life.  Maybe you are not there yet, but take this to heart…

  • Is the “yes” you give others fueled by your fears? What are your core fears?
  • Is your lack of the courage to be disliked holding you back from better health and happiness?
  • Have YOU created a needy person in your life? “What will they do without me because I am so important?”
  • Do you believe that you deserve the right to lovingly say “no” to others?
  • Do you believe that you deserve the right to say “yes” to your own basic needs first?

Practice disappointing others for your own sake.

Get comfortable with being disliked. It sounds awful, right?  Trust me, you will survive and so will everyone around you.  Now, while everyone is angry at you, go get a massage, join a yoga class, or take a fabulous hot bath that lasts so long it leaves you with prune hands.  Your family will learn to find new resources, your coworkers will start doing their fair share, and children will learn how to using the washing machine.

Be patient. Be kind. But keep it real and be honest for once.

I promise it will suck at first. Don’t give in to old habits. You deserve more! If need be, dig in your heels and flip some tables. Sometimes learning to love yourself is more complex than we give credit.  You will find that those who truly love you eventually come around. You will also find that those who don’t will simply move on.  In the long run, it serves everyone that you love and everyone that genuinely loves you to first and foremost, love yourself.