I know all too well the burden of likeability.
The suffocating feeling of wanting to be the most desirable, and the easiest to like in the crowd.
Your life begins to feel like an endless audition.
The uncomfortable smile, the shrug, the subtle shifting away while your insides twist in revolt...but still lacking the will to voice dissent.
And when you do speak and you seethe in anger at the audacity of everything, you silently wish they still like you afterwards.
Because you can't imagine a world you are not likeable.
It is after all your social currency.
It is how everything in your life comes to being. Or so they say.
They say they like you and that's why you get anything.
And you believe them.
All you are and have boils down to how likeable you are.
You forget your wit, your curious mind that questions everything, your sharper than steel memory and all the great qualities that make you so good at what you do.
You believe all you have, was permitted by them because you auditioned so well every time.
A smile here, a wink there, a wave of hand, a hug, handshakes given with a generous dose of warmth.
You never fail the likeability audition.
You can't afford to fail.
And when they say jump you have but only one answer,
Eager to please, you bend your will until it hurts then bend some more.
The burden of likeability is a familiar addiction.
Like lava, it trickles down inside of you and makes you feel strong and weak at the same time.
You are driven high on the ecstasy of approval and then it drops you into the abyss of shame.
Have you ever felt the wild joy that floods your insides when you please if only for a minute, strangers who ordinarily wouldn't give you the time of day?
To be accepted by this difficult to please society if only for a fleeting second?
To watch them smile and nod as a sign of their benevolent approval if only for a day or two.
It shakes something inside of you and makes you feel alive.
Then the sink.
It is the sinking feeling in your guts when you realize for the umpteenth time that your validation lies outside of yourself.
Why am I not enough?
Why do I need them or their approval?
You can't answer your own questions.
Next comes the shame.
I have no real power over my life.
I need strangers to validate me.
You see, having your validation outside of yourself means living never knowing how to be yourself.
You know who you are but lack the capacity to simply be.
Crippled by expectations, you sink lower and lower in despair each time the strangers whose approval you crave so deeply, finally look away and withdraw their glowing praise like they are prone to do, because their attention lasts only for a minute.
The burden of likeability feels like a necessary burden but isn't.
The courage to drop it all and face life like you truly want, in every decision and every way is difficult to summon, but worth your while.
How do I know?
I used to carry the same burden.
Like you, I want no part of it any longer and crave a release.
I want to be me.
And so I have commenced a journey to self.
The journey is steep but the rewards are far reaching, more impactful than the fleeting moments of praise.
It feels good to look in the mirror and say, I am enough for everything.
I validate myself.
It feels even better to look a stranger in the eye and say no.
No, I don't want you in my space.
No, you are wrong.
No, I am intelligent and I deserve it.
It feels good to know that they don't have to like you.
It feels so good to drop the burden of likeability, and forge a path within self where self-pats on the back mean more than a dozen accolades from strangers.
Words by Ejura Salihu