Part of who I am has increasingly become about not offending people. Even now, I regularly stop and say, 'I'm 33 years old and I still need people to like me' and that makes me feel very silly sometimes.
I've previously talked about how part of my Aspergers is living with the paranoia, anxiety and doubt that is usually due to the intense amount of analysis that goes on in my brain on a daily basis. I mentioned how pretty much all my choices and thoughts are met with a stream of dedicated and thorough examination, leading to a tirade of conclusions that are sometimes accurate and sometimes not. The conclusions are rarely voiced, but are essential to my social process.
Because of the unavoidable fact that I have to study all social input, and because of the inevitable sensations of paranoia, anxiety and doubt that comes with such intense scrutiny of the social input, the best and most safe place for me to start with people, is to try to be their friend. Obviously this presents its own set of complications. I am someone who really has a need to be liked. I never really understand why I wouldn't be. I mean, in my opinion, I'm quite nice. Those occasions when I annoy someone or upset another person are quite rare. Or at least I think they are. They might not be. Oh GOD!!!
Short tea break there. Purely to mull over that conundrum. Back to it. I guess everyone likes being liked. It almost validates you as a person. But I think my need runs a bit deeper than that. I suppose I'm saying that I really like to know I'm being liked. I need a vocal or physical validation of satisfaction with my personage. Most commonly in the form of a hug. Sometimes in the form of kind words. Presents are nice. I'll accept high fives and handshakes. To be honest, I'll accept anything, so long as it's clear and not inappropriate.
But why, when I'm a fully grown adult able to appreciate that we don't all think the same way or like the same stuff, do I still stress out that my opinion may cause offence resulting in my knowing that someone doesn't like me. I mean, it was one of the many reasons why I didn't want to write a blog. I had a fear of offending others or being told my opinions were either rubbish or unnecessary or worse still, poorly thought through and irrelevant. I overcame that hurdle and I must say, I rather enjoy writing this blog.
I think the answer lies in reducing the picture somewhat. If I offend someone with my writing, this doesn't make me a bad person. Although I might think it will, it really won't. My character is not in question when expressing opinions. There will always be people who disagree with me and can still have a drink with me afterwards. Although my game plan will be to convince that person that my opinion is the right one, it doesn't mean I lose or am less of a person if I don't succeed.
Which brings me to why I think this has become more of an issue for me recently. The world is currently encouraging us all to express ourselves. Social media has given a lot of people a voice. This is a good thing. We should talk and debate and seek to have our opinions expressed and thought about by others. Sincere debate will always lead to a dialogue and good natured conversation will always eventually allow us to progress. However, the world is also demanding that we compete. Competition usually deals in right and wrong only. A winner and a loser. This doesn't encourage debate and conversation. It seems to pit 'tribes' against each other. I'm not saying there isn't a place for aspiration or target attainment. I'm saying there is no need to damn others for not matching your expectation of life. It seems that as a society, we seem to only celebrate success and not effort. I feel as though I have to be liked because I think society tells me so. If I'm not liked, I'm not a good member of society. I'm not succeeding. I'm not winning. I'm not contributing the way a good person should. Therefore, I must be a bad person. An episode of Black Mirror springs to mind. Maybe one day, we'll only be able to live in a nice area if we have a solid social rating. Shudder.
How can anyone NOT feel the need to be liked with this social stigma attached to popularity. It seems as though over the years the world has become a rather tribal place. Those at the top are successful, those at the bottom are routinely ridiculed or criticised by those above them. We seem too keen to damn those 'beneath' us rather than aspire to help improve the quality of the world for everyone above and below. Those close to me may well tell me I'm wearing my rose coloured spectacles again. Dreaming of a kind of utopia where we ARE all equal. I say, why not? Dream big!
But I digress. Back to my perception of being liked. It all stems from the analysis of social situations. I become worried that a person doesn't like me or that I've insulted them because I can't read their actual reaction or I mistake their reaction for a negative one when it is actually just a different way of expressing a positive one. Sadly, it's not often I feel confident enough to just ask if someone likes me. Can you imaging how much easier the world would be if you could be so blunt? It's a touch needy, I know, but at least you have some validation of yourself out in the open.
Is there any harm to needing to be liked? I've asked myself this a lot. Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that the positives outweigh the negatives. To garner favour and friendship from those around me by being myself isn't a bad thing. And there is the key. I must remain true to myself. A difference of opinion does not result in my character and who I am as a person being called into debate. We would do well to listen to other peoples stories and experiences and not be afraid of our differences. That way lies a more positive and inclusive world.
For my part, I'll always be saddled with over analysis. That will forever be my burden. I will however, remember that if I'm not liked for whatever reason, the chances are the 'fault' lies with the other person and their desire to not like me. Unless I've done something to cause them grievous pain or anger, it can only be that way. And if it's something I've said, you can always call me out on it. We can talk, a discussion will be had, a conference of ideas will happen and a solution will be arrived at. We'll go our separate ways feeling that we've been heard, thought about and valued. Even if we've had to come to a compromise or even if we've left the conversation with a difference of opinion, at least we can walk away feeling like decent human beings. There's no need to be offended. After all, I'm only trying to be nice. I'm a nice guy. Or am I? AHHH!!!!!!