Saturday, August 18, 2007

Like Thyself ...

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can please some of the people all of the time and you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.

As much as I'd like to think that I'm enough of a self-actualized human being that I can float through life unaffected by the opinions of others, I don't know how many of us mature past our grade-school insecurities. No matter how old you get, it sucks to get picked last for a team. Everyone wants to be wanted.

But part of being a grown up, besides having to pay for one's own home repairs, is coming to terms with the fundamental differences between people and grasping – perhaps weakly at first – that despite our best efforts and intentions, some people will stay steadfastly on the other side of the field, arms crossed tightly across their chests, a not-so-subtle sneer on their lips as they try to stare you down.

You can walk into a room of 100 people and win over 99 with your wit or charm or thoughtful gestures but you'll die trying when it comes to getting No. 100 to like you. It's just not going to happen.

And if you're like me, you can obsess about No. 100, trying to figure out all the Whys? and What Have I Dones? And you can try to tell yourself, time after time, that it doesn't matter.

But it matters.

It matters a lot.

Everyone likes to be liked.

But then comes the day when you get a glimpse into their view of you and you realize that they don't know the whole story. You realize that they're basing their opinion on half the truths.

Oh, the relief you feel. Finally, you have a chance to change their minds. All you have to do is supply the missing pieces and the picture puzzle will be complete. And then – finally – then they'll like you.

Except maybe they still won't. And you start to think that you don't owe them a full recounting of your life after all.

No, what you need to do is realize that it doesn't matter if No. 100 never comes around, because Nos. 1-99 love you.

And the No. 100 who matters is yourself.

I'm pretty sure I arrived at that place tonight and for that, I have my friend Linda to thank. She just sent the nicest note to me about my 3-Day letter, and ended it saying, "Please tell your parents that they raised a wonderful bitch who knows how to have fun and accomplish good at the same time. That ain't easy!"

In part, I replied, "It's been a week of emotional highs and lows, and I've found myself in a real struggle to remind myself that despite one person's opinion to the otherwise, I'm fundamentally a good person and most people like me."

As much as we'd like to be free of external validation, only the truly enlightened among us can live above it. I am surely not one of the truly enlightened.

But I'm a little more wise tonight than I was when I woke up this morning.

And I'm very fond of the description "wonderful bitch."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell us, who is "they" and what happened to make you write this? Just curious.

12:49 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

Good post. I think sometimes the one person may not like us BECAUSE of the traits the other 99 admire.

I also have to say one of the best things about getting older is caring less and less what other people think about me. I'm not saying I go out of my way to piss people off but I've put in 50 years on the planet and I feel like I'm entitled to live as I choose.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Anon: Ah, the vagueness is intentional, my friend. A "names changed to protect the innocent" sort of thing. And actually, the particular person is not so much the point of the post, but rather the coming to accept that one person's opinion is just that.

Marquis: Excellent point about some people resenting us for the very qualities that others admire. And I agree entirely about caring less and less. At the end of the day, so long as I know I'm being true to myself and conducting my life with honor, I can't worry about those who choose to be antagonistic.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you about "wonderful bitch."

9:20 PM  
Anonymous girlanddog said...

Ah, yes, it's a hard lesson to learn, but once you get through the hurt, you gain so much strength!! I loved your line: "The No. 100 who matters is yourself." Well said!

Last year, I struggled to please all my clients and I would break down if I received a negative comment after working so hard. My boyfriend finally helped me realize that NEVER will you be able to please everyone... And that's OK as long as you give your best.

You rock, Beth. You give so much of yourself to others, and if someone doesn't appreciate that, they don't deserve to be in your circle of friends.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thanks, girl. Yup, it's a very freeing thing to fully understand that it's just not possible to please everyone. And you rock, too. So glad to have found your blog and become cyber pals.

2:21 PM  

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