Why Do We Need Others to Like Us?

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Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Psychology, Relationships, Thought | Posted on 07-12-2017

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

How much of our good behavior is an attempt to fit in, be liked and not call attention to ourselves?

Most humans are generally good. They want to do the right thing as much as possible. Which great, because when we’re in a sticky situation, we can almost always find someone who’s willing to help us out.

But we also have a related drive of wanting to be liked. Which has some interesting implications in our daily lives.

Standing in LinFor instance, last week I was on a short family vacation in Washington, DC. We were in the Archives Building where the original Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are kept. To view these documents, we first had to wait in line. As we got closer to the viewing area, the guards gave a little talk about what to do once we were allowed in. The rules were that there were no lines inside. We could view any documents we wished, and stay as long as we liked. There was no particular order to view them in, and we should simply spread out.

So that’s what I did.

As I was viewing the documents up close, I noticed that despite the guard’s instructions, many people began forming lines. I ignored them, and went straight up to the documents as we had been told. (There was plenty of room up front to do so.) Occasionally the guards would notice the lines and remind everyone to fan out. But inevitably, new ones would form a few minutes later.

Why did this happen?

My theory is that people didn’t want to look “pushy” so they formed lines in order to not stand out. They were so conditioned to not be “that guy that cuts the line” that they disregarded what they were told. In other words, their innate desire to conform, be liked and not make waves, was so strong it over-rode the actual rules of the situation.

This made me wonder…

How often do we not take chances with our work or with our personal lives, from fear of standing out?

Way more than is necessary.

What’s the worst that will happen if we stand out?

  • Perhaps someone might think we’re full of ourselves.
  • Maybe others won’t like us.
  • We wonder if people think we’re weird.

But where do these worst case scenarios come from?

They are all thought-generated “what ifs” that have no basis in reality. Yet we take them as gospel, and do or don’t do things in life accordingly.

Which is really silly and even kind of sad.

There’s no way to ever ensure that everyone will like us. We have no control over that (or anything else, for that matter!). Yet we have this made-up belief that if we act like others, we’ll have a better chance of being liked by them.

Being liked–and even more so–being loved, drives nearly everything we do.

From birth to death we are on an eternal search for love. When we find it, our desire not to lose it causes us to do crazy things. We’re constantly wondering whether they still like/love us. And when we think they don’t, we get all caught up wondering why and beating ourselves (or them) up about it.

It’s the belief that we need the love of others to validate that we are lovable. The innate desire to feel worthy, due to a sense of insecurity and lack. The feeling that something is missing if and when we aren’t feeling liked or loved.

All of which stem from a belief of separateness.

Because we live in the feeling of thought in the moment, which causes our “reality” to be different from everyone else’s, it creates division among us. So we do everything we can to feel a little bit less separate. Which is where conformity comes in.

Yet once again, the joke is on us!

The separateness we feel is thought-created.

But for the fact that we have different thoughts than others, we are actually one and the same. Our thoughts are literally the only thing separating us from everyone else on the planet.

What I mean by this is that underneath all of our personal thinking (both conscious and unconscious) is another part of us. It’s that part we notice when we’re feeling peaceful or in love. It’s that feeling we get when we’re living in the moment and are in the flow, letting life live us, rather than the other way around.

When we’re in touch with that part of us–the real us–we’re not separate from others.

That peaceful part of us is the same in us as it is in others. Put two (or more) people together who are in that peaceful state of presence, and the feeling is palpable. (Which is why people love to go on spiritual retreats.)

The best part is that because that loving feeling comes from us, or rather IS us, we don’t need to seek others to provide it to us. In fact, the love that we think comes from others, isn’t actually coming from them at all. It’s always and only coming from us and our thought (or lack thereof) in the moment.

Isn’t this good to know?

–Jill

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Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety


For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.


Jill's blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many "viral" articles on LinkedIn and is a writer for P.S. I Love You.


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