I was listening to a podcast recently with the boss babe trinity – Oprah, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon. I find each of these women so inspiring. They discussed many points on female empowerment . A concept they introduced to me in their conversation was the idea of becoming more relate-able and less likable.
There are a multitude of adjectives used to describe me. Likable was never one. I am not a likable person, let’s get that off the table. It used to be something that caused struggle and an immense self doubt and insecurity within me. Mostly because my possessed traits that others had deemed unlikable were the things that made me who I am. People really don’t care what color hair you have or the kind of clothes you wear. These are not the things that make someone likable. I am outspoken, strongly opinionated, and competitive. If someone or something is wrong, I say so plainly instead of looking the other way. I can be very judgmental, distrusting, and manipulative if needed. I brag if I’m good at something. If I like someone I love them, and if I dislike someone there will be reasons and plenty of them and little to nothing will change my mind. These are not traits that can be changed with my outfit. There is this undercurrent of pressure to make myself more likable as a woman. An ambitious man is viewed as a positive thing. An ambitious women is spoken like a curse. If a man is opinionated he is strong – he is a man. If a women is opinionated, she’s a bitch. I believe as a woman I am unlikable – but if I were a man I’d be respected and praised. I am not quiet or small. People are more comfortable with me if I act quiet or small. But then I have to stop and think about these people who are uncomfortable with the space I take and realize my purpose is not to diminish myself for the comfort of anyone. Especially for small people to feel bigger.
It’s taken me a long time to just accept myself. There are parts of me I have accepted, completely. There are other parts that are bit more difficult. But I’ve come to realize that there are worst things than being unlikable. Unlikable does not equate with unlovable and that is an essential distinction. I have a favorite sweater. It’s old, and pilling. The color of the thread has worn and faded and it’s too big. I love this sweater and how much more valuable is a human being than a sweater?
I’ve been told more than once by multiple people that I’m intimidating. As I grew older I started asking people to expand, no longer afraid the answer. Someone who was posing as my friend at the time told me that he and this other girl thought I was intimidating. I asked him how so. All he could answer was, “You don’t see how you’re intimidating?” to which I replied, “Obviously not if I’m asking you.” He, as per his usual, could not give an answer. Let me be clear dear reader, if someone is intimidated by you – it is more about them being intimidated (their insecurities, their weakness) then it is about you. Do not shrink yourself for the comfort of someone intimidated by you. Take up all the space you need, there is plenty for all. You are only too much for someone who is not enough.
My challenge now is to become more relatable. I do not flaunt my shortcomings. I do not broadcast my mistakes. This fear comes from the same place as the pressure to become likable. It’s the need for approval of others. Last night my father was away on business trip and so I went to visit my mother. She asked me how my day was and I gave her the unedited version. l didn’t worry about her approval because I know I have it. When we do not accept parts of ourselves we feel shame and when we feel shame we edit. Being transparent takes vulnerability and it’s hard to be vulnerable if you’re the only one who is. It’s hard to relate to perfection because we are not perfect. True connection, deep and meaningful can only happen if we allow ourselves to be transparent about all aspects of ourselves.
My new mantra is focusing on becoming relatable over being likable. I am going to recognize the difference of the two and prioritize being open and transparent about my shortcomings as well as my triumphs and to take pride in that both make me who I am. It’s the only way for a healthy self esteem.