Saturday, March 04, 2006

The importance of being liked

On my first day in the juniors at school (or, that's the way I remember it at least) I got put on the Bumblebee table with all the girls. The other tables were pretty much mixed up, but I guess we were sat alphabetically, which happened to mean there were no other boys sat with us apart from me. Gutted. The girls whispered and giggled and were silly, and just generally all things irritating to a 7 year old boy. At playtime, I went over to the boys, and they all laughed and told me to go away, to go back to the "gerrrrrls". Within what realistically was a day (but at the time, felt a good few weeks) I was put on to a table with boys and girls, and nobody batted and eyelid and all was forgotten about. For them anyway, but clearly, if I can still recount the story years later, it's still in my mind. Now, not that I've been beating myself up over this, or feel scarred for life, or any pretentious bullshit like that, but isn't it funny how at a young age it is vitally important to be liked, to be included.

It's assumed that as you grow older, these feelings go away. You become more of an individual and happy to be who you are, without the need of constant agreement from your peers. You get your teenage years over and done with, and you're on your way. Right?

I dont think so. For me at least, the need to be liked, not by the masses, but by those who I put time and effort in to, or who I like myself, is huge. People spend their whole lives compromising who they are to a certain extent, to get along, to not be difficult. People compliment others for things they personally aren't even fond of. People give 50p to a charity on the street and wear the sticker showing everyone they have. So what is it? Do we do nice things because we're just good inside? Or do we do it, our whole lives, because we want people to like us, to think good things about us?

Of course there's no rule for everyone, there are people in this world I'd like to think do things solely to make others happy. But I'm not wrong un, and when I get a bunch of flowers delivered to my girlfriend at work, I do it because I want to make her happy...and because subconsciously at the time, I want her to like me that little bit more.

So this sounds all very negative, that people are wandering around doing good things just so they can be more popular, but I think that's only if you take a cynical outlook. But I think there's something very healthy about that child that's still in you, as long as it's beneath the surface, as long as you have the capacity to do nice things with aims other than just being liked more.

My brother knows a lad from school who just tried to kill himself. His girlfriend had dumped him, and his mates didn't really think to make a fuss of it, so he just got fed up and downed a shit load of tablets. My brother told me that when his own girlfriend messed him around, this lad was nowhere to be seen, didn't make any effort. Is this what happens when we don't make the effort to be liked, and then don't feel liked as a result? Extreme example, sure, but it has some basis to it.

So today, be selfish and nice all in one go. Do something to make someone like you more. Give something up, buy something, say something...but just do it. Because feeling liked is more important than we give credit to.