Sometimes People Just Don’t Like You Because….

angry-black-woman…you’re loud or you’re tall or you’re…you. Frankly, sometimes people just don’t like you because you’re breathing. This is a lesson I have had to learn the hard way. I find myself relearning it at least once or twice a year. But, I’m glad for it. There a few really important life lessons in being disliked.

I often call myself a “recovering misanthrope.” What is a misanthrope? Well, it is basically someone who hates other people…like…permanently. I can say that I am definitely recovering from a general lack of positive relationships, some brokenness in my personal life in my teens and twenties, and repeated failed attempts at friendships over the years, but I’m not sure I ever really “hated” people. Actually, I know I never did.

Instead, I think I just learned to defend and protect myself from hostile people at a very early age. From the mean girls cliques in third grade to the bullying male athletes in junior high school, I learned very early on that my louder speaking voice, taller frame, and opinionated nature was not always going to get me a seat at the popular table.

Luckily, I had a mother who taught me that there was absolutely nothing I could possibly do to change these folks’ minds about me. If they didn’t like me being myself, they certainly weren’t going to like me being someone else. Not only that, contorting myself to get them to like me could only result in additional frustration and anxiety for me. She made it clear that changing myself to be popular was one of the biggest mistakes I could make.

She said, “If people aren’t paying your bills or sleeping with you, why do you care what they think any way?”

While I took her advice, I, like everyone else in the world, suffered through those grueling years of teen awkwardness. I obsessed over my jeans and finger nails. I lost it when I couldn’t get the newest pair of Jordan’s. I tried so very hard to “fit in.” And, though it gained me some temporary popularity and some seats on student council, there were still people who just couldn’t stand me. Random people I had never even really met where unilaterally opposed to my existence. I was befuddled.

Let me be clear here: I think there is an important difference between being disliked and being generally unlikable. I have always had friends and cousins who have held me down when the waters gets especially turbulent. I am blessed to have a life partner and host of best friends I consider my family. God always seems to place at least a few people in my life when I feel the loneliest. But, I still experience being disliked. Now, being unlikable, to me, means that one doesn’t really have the social skills, physical awareness, or emotional maturity to have any positive relationships. That is a different conversation altogether, one that I don’t plan to have here.

As a thirty-year-old woman, I still face issues with being – arbitrarily and without actual cause – disliked. People block me on social media daily before I even have a chance to introduce myself. Folks slander me and convince their friends I am no good or whatever. And, sometimes, I find myself slipping back into my fourteen-year-old self asking, “Wait, why don’t they want to talk to me? What did I do wrong?” It’s in those moments when I hear my mom asking, “why do you care what they think any way?”

Maybe that’s where I have taken on the moniker of misanthrope. I have been working feverishly on caring less about what people think of me. In fact, it is one of my goals for 2015 (see the others here and here). While I don’t hate people, I am learning to grow indifferent to harsh, sometimes scathing, criticism from people who barely know me. In part, I find their input useless because it is akin to giving a 7-day weather forecast when one has no background in meteorology. It’s like sitting at home on a couch and calling a play in a baseball game but never having actually stepped foot on a diamond to play the sport. It’s like giving recommendations on how to style a child’s hair when your’s looks a hot mess. Yes, it’s like that.

But, I also have found that many people use their own personal insecurities and idiosyncrasies to determine whether or not you are a quality individual. It can be little things like whether or not they are in an intimate relationship or if they feel your accomplishments overshadow their’s. Truthfully, it can be one or many of an infinitesimally vast number of things. Who has time to try and work through all that? Certainly not me.

What has been so great about being disliked is that I have had a lot of time for introspection and personal growth. I often step back and examine my actions when someone seems off-put by me. I am self-aware without being self-deprecating. I’d like to credit my many haters with at least some of that.

More importantly though, being disliked has helped me to cherish those whom I love and who love me in return. I know what it feels like to feel connected to people in part because so many have shunned me at first sight. I don’t waste time on fruitless relationships any more. I don’t run myself ragged trying to convince people I’m awesome. I’m just living.

So, yes, sometimes people don’t like you because you’re you. They also may not like you because you’re gorgeous or intelligent or happy or accomplished or have good skin or pretty hair. Hell, they might not like you because they’re an ass hole. But, the most important thing is focusing on loving and liking yourself past any temporal emotion anyone on this Earth can offer. That’s where you find out what it is you’re here for. And, I can pretty much guarantee that it isn’t so that you can live and die with faux popularity.

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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

1 Response

  1. I can totally relate to the benefits of being on the outside. Hard lessons to learn but very grateful to have learned them. They did cause me to look within and get to know myself better. It is wonderful that you had your mother during those times. I wrote about similar issues on my latest post, Dear Body, A Love Letter. Check it out if you get the chance.