“I don’t think she likes me,” my daughter stated matter-of-factly.
It was the third time that week she’d made a similar statement, each time about someone different.
“Why would you say that?” I asked, yet again.
And before she even finished her answer I was formulating my rebuttal. Because for some reason I feel like I have to disagree with my daughter whenever she declares someone doesn’t like her. I have to try to find a reason that person may have ignored, overlooked her, been short-tempered, or left her out. Any logical reason other than that person just doesn’t like her.
Part of it is because I just can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t like my daughter. I’m her mom, after all, and I think she’s pretty fantastic—kind-hearted, funny, outgoing, easy to get along with.
But as I examined my reaction a little more closely I had to admit to myself that a bigger part of me just didn’t want her to go through life obsessively worrying over who likes her and who doesn’t.
Like I have.
I think back to all of the times I’ve said the same words to my husband or best friend, often with tears brimming in my eyes: I don’t think she (or he) likes me. I’ve said it about colleagues, people from church, neighbors, and my kids’ friend’s parents. Just yesterday I said it about a fellow writer I’ve never even met in real life.
I’ve avoided social situations because of it. And when I didn’t avoid those situations I came home and obsessed over what I could have said or done to make them feel that way. I’ve questioned my home, my wardrobe, my parenting, my breath, my laugh, my husband’s laugh, my kid’s behavior, and my inability to be punctual to most things — because surely there must be a reason they don’t like me. It must be one of these things.
Oy vey. The amount of hours wasted worrying over this, I can’t begin to tell you. And this is just in my adult years; I’ve pretty much blocked out how much I obsessed and worried over being liked as an adolescent.
I absolutely do not want my daughter to go down this same path. Because here’s the thing, the lesson it’s taken me 40 years to learn (and yet sometimes still forget): I do not need to be liked by everyone.
Is it important to be kind, and treat others as you want to be treated? Absolutely! But we do not have to make sure every other living person wants to be our friend. Especially not at the cost of changing who we are in order to be liked.
And yet. This seems to go against our grain; our innate desire as humans—as women—to be liked. To be accepted and appreciated and loved. This is the truth that haunted me earlier this week as I pondered why I struggled for so many years with the need to be liked, and why my knee-jerk reaction was to convince my daughter that others liked her when she was sure they didn’t.
It was then, in the stillness of that moment, that I heard another truth. Truth with a capital “T” whispered in my heart: “fulfillment, acceptance, and love come from Me. Others cannot meet that need—no matter how many friends you have. Only I can fill that longing you feel because I’m the one that put it there. I gave you that thirst so that you would seek me, the living water, and desire relationship with me.”
My laugh will be too loud for some people. My daughter’s opinions will be too contradictory for others. Your authentic self will be too much for someone out there. And that’s OK. They are not your people. Validation does not come from them.
We have a heavenly Father who designed us to be exactly who we are—loud laugh, strong opinions, and all. He loves us wholly, invariably, and unconditionally. He is the only one who can fill that emptiness and take away the loneliness.
Next time my daughter comes to me and says, “I don’t think she likes me,” I’m going to hug her and say, “Maybe. Maybe not. But it doesn’t really matter, because you were already chosen a long time ago, by One who knows you better than anyone else and loves you exactly as you are.”
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