Some People Don’t Like You: Get Used to It

I had a friend in college who insisted that not a single person on Earth disliked her. This is not to say that she believed everyone liked her, or even preferred her; rather, that no one actively disfavored her. “That’s just not my personality,” she said. “I don’t rub people the wrong way. Maybe that’s true for you too.”

I was particularly puzzled by this assertion because I could easily have named a dozen people who hated my guts and another three who had bashed this very friend the night before. “God she rubs me the wrong way,” they all agreed. “She’s such a bitch. I’d like to put her face on fire and then stub it out with a pitchfork.”

If my friend ever knew these people felt this way about her she would have been not only terrified for her face, but would have been psychologically devastated. She truly believed (or at least really wanted to) that she was free from the disdain of others.


Now make no mistake: this wasn’t narcissism on her part. She wasn’t grandiose or self-entitled, had plenty of empathy, and never exploited another person to meet her own needs. The reality is most narcissists know that plenty of people can’t fucking stand them but they just don’t care because they’re “special,” or “gifted” or lots of other amazing qualities they actually are not.

No, this was more of a childlike naiveté that helped her obtain worth because she wasn’t able to simply value herself by the sheer fact she was a person and therefore of worth. She had to obtain validation from others. She needed to believe she was unconditionally accepted to at least some degree by others. This grand-scale coping mechanism isn’t only unnecessary, it’s self-defeating: because someone doesn’t like you, it doesn’t have to matter.

How do I know – other than by the hate mail I receive – that some people don’t like me? It’s simple: I’m human. That means at times I’m obnoxious, irritable and certainly disagreeable (just ask my colleagues). These negative aspects of people are simply part of the spectrum that composes the human psyche. These states make a person real.

My friend disagreed that she was ever those things. Shy at times? Sure. Outgoing at others? Of course. Independent at various points in her life, more conforming at other moments? No doubt. But mean-spirited, acrimonious? Never. She believed she had people tricked by having more benign quirks. Even if this was true, however, there are some people who simply don’t like one or more of those qualities as well. And because humans are prone to drawing large-scale conclusions based on a small sample of behaviors, inevitably there will be those who simply dislike you for being a full person.

The great Albert Ellis said that one of the best ways to create misery is to work from the mindset that all people must like you at all times. You’ll fail at it, plain and simple. Not only that, but this approach to life will cause you to constantly be modifying your own thoughts, behaviors and identity to suit the perceived desires of those around you. This saccharine façade will ultimately be detected and people will know you aren’t being your true self. This just won’t cut it.

Unfortunately for my college friend, she never learned this lesson. Rather, when she was told about someone’s dislike for her she fired back with “well, that person must have her own issues then.” That’s Polite Person Code for “if that slut doesn’t like me then she’s a total skank slag!” The reality is it’s easier to get angry and point the finger then sit with aspects of ourselves that might be uncomfortable. The problem with this is that it’s not only short-sighted, it’s factually inaccurate. And unless my friend found herself a good therapist she is probably still living out this perpetual dream, viewing others as toting neurotic baggage instead of acknowledging that she’s sometimes a pain in the ass.

Do I relish the fact that some people don’t like me? Of course not, I’m not a masochist. Unconditional love at any and all times sounds kind of sweet. But I have to accept this fact, and that subtle difference can change everything. I can always prefer that things be different on this score, but knowing that it’s not going to happen makes my day that much more manageable because I can simply be me, free from the emotionally draining pressure of seeking validation from others.

Some people learn this simply via experience, witnessing repeatedly that the world doesn’t end in an apocalyptic frenzy when someone dislikes them. Other people require a model, a therapist, a life coach or peer, someone to drive home the point that what we desire and what is necessary is not one in the same. And if you’re me, you need both, to help you sit with the fact that no matter what you do or say, someone won’t approve of you. And when you can simply sit there and embrace that, you recognize that nothing truly horrible happens, that what might feel like a glass ego isn’t all that fragile.

What, if anything, should you take from this? That it’s desirable to work on modifying specific behaviors for a greater good. However, this must come not from a desire to be loved by others but simply for yourself and the promotion of a greater society. In other words, you can change plenty of things about yourself, but accept that you are permanently fallible and that some will simply not accept you because of that. This will make your life much easier. And if you’re really, really lucky, you might even get your face lit on fire.

26 Responses to “Some People Don’t Like You: Get Used to It”

  1. Amber says:

    I’m one of those people that thinks…you know either you like me or you don’t. I hate the general public so I really don’t give a shit if people don’t like me. I’m brash, opinionated, but also extremely caring and kind. I tend to get very easily annoyed with people that either think everyone likes them, or wants everyone to like them. Life isn’t full of sunshine and happiness, your friend needs to get her head out of her rear and open her eyes to that. It’s OKAY to not be liked, some people just don’t connect.

  2. sandy says:

    I see quite a few “people pleasers” in my office. Determined to keep everyone happy, and of course, like you say, everyone but themselves. I’ve carried around a fairly good sized dose of this myself so I can relate. Have to regularly work on catching myself in the midst of worrying too much about other people’s feelings and opinions.

  3. Tam says:

    I used to work with a woman who hated our mutual boss (who I disliked also). And one day she was really indignant.
    “I talked to Bill,” she said, “and he said he thought I didn’t like him!”
    “He told you that?”
    “Yeah! Why would he say that?”
    “Well, you don’t like him,” I said.
    “But he doesn’t know that!”
    I thought it was funny how upset she was to be accused or something that was true. She seemed to actually think he was doing something wrong by believing (correctly) that she didn’t like him.
    I don’t think people “either like me or don’t.” Most of my peers didn’t like me when I was a kid, but I think most of my coworkers think I’m all right. I’m sure they gripe about me behind my back, like I do about them, but that’s normal. I haven’t known many adults (maybe one or two) who have made their dislike of me obvious enough for me to notice, which is just as well.

  4. Nadia says:

    “And if you’re me, you need both, to help you sit with the fact that no matter what you do or say, someone won’t approve of you…that what might feel like a glass ego isn’t all that fragile.”
    I remember one post you did on your mom making fun of you and you saying that your self confidence was so high that this really has no effect. I tend to see people in these categories; either their self confidence was inflated as a kid and or it was deflated, and they’ll always believe that. I look around and see people my age doing stupid things out of pride or plain inflated self importance, and I wonder if my ego is just at the lower end of the spectrum since childhood.

  5. Rhett says:

    Good piece. I’ve fallen into the trap of being a people pleaser in the past. I believe the realization that it is okay to be disliked also comes with age and maturity. If someone doesn’t like me today (in my 30s) I usually don’t give a rip. But when I was 18? That was a different story.

  6. Did you ever see the Seinfeld where Jerry says, “I am sure there are some people somewhere who don’t like me.”
    His mom snaps back, “Jerry! Don’t say that!”

  7. Sameer says:

    Nice to see you’ve finally gotten your head out of your ass long enough to write something that bears the faintest resemblance to “useful.”
    Just kidding… your posts are often amusing, and quite often enlightening. But this is possibly one of the most valuable posts you’ve written so far.

  8. Jenny says:

    I really loved this post because I often come to odds with other people and the end result is that I am disliked, however, I don’t think this makes me a bad person nor do I think that it is bad for me to in turn disagree with/dislike others. It takes a stronger person to stand up for what they believe in, and I am not making myself out to be a martyr because there have been plenty of times where I have kept silent because it is easier. My only point here is that there are some things in the world worth fighting for but when you take a stance one way or another, you will have an opposing side. Look at our greatest world leaders – MLK Jr., Dalai Lama, Gandhi and so many others working for a cause. They have many people who hate them, but in life there are truly more important things, especially when those same people who are hated and often deeply loved by those that understand them.

  9. Dorothy says:

    Good post Dr. Rob !
    I also think that gender comes into play a lot with these things.
    Growing up, girls are taught a lot more than boys to be agreeable and likable. I’ve also noticed that people will quickly call me aggressive or “intense” if I express my point assertively when most guys would be seen as assertive and appropriate using the same tone as me.

  10. Adam says:

    An old Sufi saying: “If a man should die and nobody in the village speak ill of him, you can be sure that in life he was a hypocrite.”

  11. Tim at ShyFAQ says:

    This problem of being liked/not being liked is a particular problem, I think, for shy people. Because of their quiet demeanor, they can be seen as aloof or unfriendly or just plain uninteresting, and because of their lack of eye contact they can even be seen as dishonest! But shy people really do want people to like them, they just have a harder time getting it to happen. This is especially unfortunate because shy people are rarely the great troublemakers of the world.

  12. Curt says:

    This is such a poignant topic for young people. Being in my early 20′s, like many of my peers I had a devastated self image, and low self esteem caused mostly by not having perspective in social circles. I think in the end it all comes down to that. Everyone is human and everyone is full of shit to one degree or another. Why should anyone give a fuck about what other people’s opinion of them are especially if they aren’t obligated to that person in some way. Like the old addage goes “They don’t pay my bills”. As a caveat I would like to point out most people realize there will be opposing forces towards them regardless of of anything they say or do. This is realized for sure by puberty, the problem is to counteract this one usually reacts in a equally abrasive way. It takes time, maturity, and worrying about the viccistitudes of your own life to simply not give a shit what every jack and jane’s verdict is of you. Ironically its the people who take this genuine approach to heart the most that seem to gain even the begrudgeon respect of their foes.

  13. Annie says:

    One day before my weekly appointment, my shrink steps out with his previous client, and said “Antonio, I would like you to meet Annie (Annie is a pseudo name I use because for some odd reason I´m not comfortable given my real name online)” I awkwardly said Hi and spoke in English since we are both from the States (he´s from Arizona and I from Fl) my shrink thought it would be a nice idea for us to meet and practice our English. We didn´t exchange numbers at that particular time since we are both seeing the same shrink, but during my next session my shrink asked me permission to give him my number. I should have said NO, but I agreed. Anyway, we met, went out, and it turns out that he doesn´t like me. I don´t know what I did wrong, but this experience wasn´t exactly a boost to my self-esteem. This is a great article and reminds me that “no one is a golden coin to be wanted by everyone.”

  14. Rob Dobrenski says:

    @ Annie: Sweet Jesus, that is so fucking inappropriate for your shrink to do.

  15. Annie says:

    Well, I don´t know what “appropiate” is in this country…

  16. Oh Dear says:

    One has to be quite vain to believe it is not possible that they are “unlikable” by some people.

    That mindset flattens people. “People I know or bump into are generally nature and well-adjusted so they should not dislike or hate me”

    Come on. A stranger who would otherwise like me if he or she was given a chance to have a coffee with me, may simply snap at me simply because he/she is having a bad moment right before meeting me. My best friend may ignore or cut me off today not because I’m so not adorable, but because I just said something that triggered off her present concerns about her zit/money/weight/whatever. People annoy me for no reason from time to time, so I must annoy people from time to time. Like now, most probably! Lalalalalala….

  17. Denwa says:

    There is no loyalty. Do not ask it.
    There is no fairness. Do not look for it.
    There is no reward for going the extra mile. Spend the effort on yourself.
    People are good to you when they are good to you. Enjoy it.
    People are bad to you when they are bad to you. Fuck em’. Move on.
    When you find that which fulfills you…..get all you can.
    When you are left feeling empty, alone and bitter read from the top.

  18. Lisa says:

    Stumbled upon this blog as I was scanning through your archives, and boy did it hit home for me today. Like your friend, I too have struggled with external vs. internal validation. I am tempted to say that the difficult things said about me today are the result of a few people’s prejudice and malice, but truth is, I probably brought at least some of it on myself. And admitting it, that I am just as fallible as anyone else, is simultaneously freeing and annoying as hell.

    Wanting everybody to like me is a hard habit to break, but as you said, we can all be pains in the ass to at least one other person on this crazy planet. Distinguishing between accepting my own foibles and working on trying to be less annoying to everybody else will be the work of a lifetime, I suspect.

  19. James says:

    I told my boss (who is like Michael from the office) this very thing the other day. People don’t like others for whatever reason. I told him I don’t like some people, and I probably couldn’t tell him why. Some people don’t like me either, that’s ok, because I do good things for people and I feel like a good person. I’m sure some people I don’t like are good too, but for whatever reason I don’t like being around them… This came from his complaining that people weren’t treating him with respect or whatever (he has real self worth issues I think, as he is always reminding me that he is the supervisor… Ok?). Don’t sweat it. I would rather someone be themselves than act the way they “THINK” society wants them to be. I get that everyone is different, and it gives them character.

  20. Sydney says:

    I liked your blog. It helped me see things in a brighter way.

  21. Anonymous says:

    A friend just sent me this link today after I had some upsetting comments on my blog. When we write on a public forum like a blog, obviously we expose ourselves to all kinds of people. And a lot of those people think it ok to go out of their way to write rubbish to you. I just had that happen to me today for the first time and it was really really upsetting.
    I know I should not let it affect me, but it did. And here I was/still am a little (very) upset by it. Reading this post helped.
    Thanks for making me feel better!

  22. Anon says:

    Just walking out the door and engaging in life opens up the possibility to be disliked. I am sure lots of us walk around with so much pain and give so much energy to figuring out how to change because we worry on those who dislike us. I wonder where that comes from? Why for some is it so emotionally unsafe to be disliked? How do you not give a fk but not become too ‘hard’ and defensive and remain open an care for others?

  23. Kate says:

    Thanks for this post. I was specifically researching “how to deal with people who don’t like you” because I have two co-workers who regularly say nasty things about me behind my back. We all sit in adjoining cubicles, and it is blatantly obvious that they are talking and chatting about me online. I have even accidentally seen nasty comments on their skype when passing one woman’s desk. When I came into the company I rubbed a couple of people the wrong way by suggesting better ways to do something and on one meeting one of the women jumped all over me and I snapped back at her. Later I tried to talk with her and clear it up, but she wouldn’t and ever since, she has excluded me from conversation, lunch, and collaboration of any kind. We are on the same team and it affects my ability to do my job. Mostly, it makes me feel bad. I know it shouldn’t, that being in my 40′s I am too old to feel so hurt, but I can’t help it. How do I keep coming to work everyday and sit next to that? I am friendly and professional but get nothing in return but obvious dislike.

  24. Anthony says:

    Kate – I’m going thru a very similar situation at work. It’s hard to disconnect emotionally but just think of how miserable they probably are. Hang in there. Remind yourself of people and things that love you and make you happy. Best of luck.

  25. Annie says:

    I love this piece. I have always wanted to be liked. However I do feel like people don’t like me!! I should not care but I do and it upsets me and gets me down. This artical shows me that everyone gets disliked sometime and that’s ok and to not put yourself down when it does happen.

  26. Aer Pee says:

    I’m in my 40′s and there is one girl who has turned everyone against me at work. It bothers me , but it doesn’t. They will ALL go out for lunch, but I am the one who doesn’t get invited. I have days where I say man how can people be so mean and childish and then I have days when I just don’t give a fuck. KARMA!!!

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