Wanting to be liked is one of the fundamental human desires. Our brains have evolved to believe that social acceptance is part of survival and that we have higher chances of defending ourselves as a group. We may not have to defend ourselves against wild animals or fight for survival anymore, but we still have the innate need to surround ourselves with like-minded people, feel accepted, love, and be loved. So, when we’re in a situation where people don’t seem to like us, the feeling can be quite upsetting.
Whether no one laughs at your jokes, you weren’t invited to the group chat, or nobody wants to come to your birthday party, you may ask yourself: Why don’t people like me?
Feeling that nobody likes you can be quite damaging to your self-esteem. It can make you feel isolated and unwanted; it can make you question yourself, struggle with feelings of inadequacy and, the more the feeling persists, the more you risk getting caught in a vicious circle of obsessive thinking.
Do people really don’t like me, or am I imagining it?
Before you can decide how to move forward, first you have to answer this question:
Do people really don’t like me?
Because it’s entirely possible for people to like you, but only be under the impression that they don’t. This can happen for several reasons:
- You have gone through a difficult or even traumatic event that affected your self-esteem. For example, if you’ve had a complicated divorce, a bad breakup, or a best friend moved away, the feeling that nobody likes you can be triggered by a negative belief pattern and not anchored in reality.
- You have a higher need to be liked and accepted, so when one person doesn’t like you, you tend to generalise and assume that everyone thinks the same.
- You’re an overthinker. Overthinkers tend to have obsessive thoughts, and one of the most common obsessive thoughts is that nobody likes you.
- You project. You don’t like something about yourself and assume that others are bothered by it too.
- You never meet new people. If you’re very introverted and you never do any activities that involve forming connections, you may be uncomfortable interacting with new people (“socially awkward”), which may lead you to believe that you’re unlikable.
The most common reasons why people may not like you
If a person doesn’t seem to enjoy your company, the most straightforward way of clearing all doubt is to ask them about it directly. However, that doesn’t always work because you may not be close enough for this kind of question to be appropriate, or the person may avoid giving you an answer. More often than not, you need to do some self-reflection to find out why other people don’t gravitate towards you.
Here are some of the most common reasons that can make you come across unlikable:
- You have a negative perception of yourself
- You don’t let people know you
- You’re not a good listener
- You have a victim mentality
- You’re overly critical of others
- You don’t respect other people’s opinions
- You talk about people behind their backs
- You don’t show others that you’re reliable
- You’re unpredictable
How to react when people don’t like you?
The healthiest way to react when people don’t like you is to turn inwards and understand the cause for their attitude. If the problem does indeed come from you, it’s important to be proactive and start working on yourself.
If people don’t like you because you put up too many walls, let them get to know you. If you talk too much and always take over the conversation, learn to listen and give them space.
If you judge others too harshly, be more tolerant.
No matter why other people don’t like you, it’s essential to understand that you cannot change them; you can only change yourself. If you have a negative habit that makes other people uncomfortable and prevents you from making friends, but your reaction is to victimise yourself or insist that they accept it, then things won’t change anytime soon.
Some people seem to be naturally and effortlessly likeable. However, no one is perfectly good or perfectly awful. We all have flaws; the trick is to not let them overshadow our virtues. Most of the time, making new friends and being likable takes work and no one is 100% good at making friends. So, don’t bring yourself down if you behaved in a way that made people dislike you. Accept your mistake and focus your energy on improving yourself. Without realising it, people will start liking you.
Understand that it’s impossible to be liked by everyone
No matter how nice or interesting you are, there will always be people who don’t like you or don’t want to be friends with you. While it’s normal to want to be liked and belong in a certain group, the excessive need to be liked can stem from a deeper issue.
People who have been victims of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse and emotional neglect can have an unhealthy desire to be liked because they grew up with the idea that they are not good enough. On the same note, people with low self-esteem tend to seek approval from their peers. Excessive social media use can also turn into a risk factor because it makes you overly sensitive to the opinions of others and instills the idea that your self-worth is connected to your number of likes and followers.
How to tell if you have an unhealthy need to be liked:
- You never go against the crowd. You try to be a people pleaser, agree with the majority and sacrifice your own values for fear that others might hate you.
- You’re willing to do anything to fit in, even if that means accepting harmful or toxic behaviours.
- You experience stress and anxiety when someone disagrees with you, is mad at you, or doesn’t want to be around you.
- You tend to obsess over someone who dislikes you and neglect other relationships.
If you feel that you rely too much on other people’s opinions and struggle emotionally when someone rejects you, a therapist can help you boost your self-esteem, work on past traumas that may be behind this negative thought pattern, and help you form meaningful relationships.