We all want to be liked. The desire for approval, appreciation, and acceptance by others is a normal part of being human. And although some people may care less than others about the opinions of their peers, on some level everyone wants to be liked. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. There will always be people who just don’t like you very much, and you’ll need to be able come to terms with that.
There is a distinct difference, however, between wanting to be liked and needing to be liked.
While the desire to be liked is normal, feeling that it’s necessary that everyone likes you and experiencing anxiety and stress when they don’t isn’t. In fact, an obsessive focus on being liked by everyone can be not only distracting but also disabling for many.
How To Tell if You Want Or if You Need to Be Liked
Being liked means feeling accepted. Feeling accepted means you are part of something, you belong, you have a tribe — and that feels good. When we’re not liked it’s rejection, it’s exclusion, it makes us feel different — and that feels bad. For most of us not being liked is uncomfortable and somewhat upsetting, but we get over it. We either accept it and move on, or we eventually figure out the problem and develop a connection at some point.
For others, however, the moment there is a possibility that someone might not find them delightful, it becomes mission critical to win them over. The idea that someone doesn’t like them can make them feel like their world is caving in, and they may make desperate attempts to get their attention and gain their approval. Unfortunately, this almost always backfires and has the opposite effect.
People who overtly need to be liked may exhibit the following behaviors:
- Constant efforts to please everyone.
- Willingness to do nearly anything, including things that are out of character, wrong, or even dangerous if they feel it will make someone like them.
- An unwillingness to stand alone or go against the “group.” They may even allow things to occur that they know are wrong just because they want to “join” and have others to approve of them.
- Agreeing to things that they don’t want to do in order to make or keep friends.
- Anxiety and intense feelings of stress when faced with disapproval.
- Becoming hyper-focused on any individual who seems to dislike or disapprove of them.
Why Someone May Feel The Need To Be Liked
Most people who feel like being liked by everyone is crucial are struggling with larger problems. Often these problems originated earlier in life and have never been effectively dealt with. They may not even realize what they’re doing or why.
People striving to be liked may have suffered emotional neglect as a child. They might have even been victims of emotional, verbal, or physical abuse in other relationships. These traumas can leave the lasting feeling that just being themselves isn’t enough, and that on their own they have no value. So, they constantly seek approval and acceptance from those around them.
An unhealthy desire to be liked by everyone is indicative of struggles with low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence, and these can be triggered and magnified by daily activities. For instance, the prevalence of social media in today’s society only exacerbates these struggles. People on social media literally compete for likes, thus increasing the potential for inappropriate or damaging behavior by those for whom being liked is an unhealthy need. Not achieving what they perceive to be the right amount of approval — especially through social media — can also lead to worsening psychological issues like depression or even suicidal thoughts.
Sadly, there isn’t a quick fix for those who feel the need, rather than simply the desire, to be liked. Finding a healthy balance between creating friendships and gaining approval, and the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness that can arise when someone doesn’t like you takes time. It may also take the help and support of those you love, or potentially a professional counselor.
It’s possible to find a balance though. But you’ll first need to learn to like yourself and accept that not everyone has to like everyone else. That includes you.