“Like” Me…or Not

thumb up likeMy conversation with Seth, who was explaining how to use my new Facebook business page, was wrapping up. “So then,” he said, “you send out a post to everyone on your list inviting them to ‘like’ your new page. That builds your audience.” I nodded in understanding. “Got it!” I assured him, then repeated back the concept, “What I need to do is get people to like me.”

Later on, my words came back to me and I groaned – and laughed. I’ve been working for years to transform old patterns of wanting to be liked, of looking to others for approval…and now Facebook was setting me up to ask people to like me! Yikes!

Just the words “like me” pushed some old buttons. Even though my relationship with this issue has improved a lot, the phrase “get people to like me” took me back to childhood popularity games – who sat with whom in the lunchroom, the pecking order for gym team picks, which circle of kids to join on the playground. It all mattered a lot more at the time than it should have, and the resulting variability of feeling liked or not liked was sometimes hard on me.

And it stayed hard, because, over time, I developed a pattern of internalizing information I got from people’s comments and judgments and using that information as the basis of my self-worth. This pattern of defining my “likeability” from information outside of myself continued into adulthood and, I’ll admit, persists to some degree today.

But, I realized a long time ago that it was a changeable world out there, and that the rollercoaster of input from interactions and situations was not a reliable source for defining my self-worth. More importantly, I realized that defining my self-worth was a job for my “self” to tend to – as the word self-worth implies. I’ve now come to believe that self-worth is an “inside” job – not one to be outsourced!

As I’ve worked on this over the years, what’s changed is that I now recognize earlier on when my old pattern is kicking in, and I detach from it sooner. Remembering that “I am not that negative comment, criticism, or energy” really helps me stay clear of messages that whittle away my self-esteem.

I’ve also realized that healing this dynamic of defining myself from external input isn’t just a matter of detaching from negative messaging, but also of detaching from the positive messages I hear. In other words, if I’m overly responsive to and flattered by compliments and positive comments, I’m still in danger of defining myself from outside information. Neither one should be the basis for my self-esteem.

This was illustrated to me back when I was supervising and training teachers. In the year-long Methods class, I was part of a team that taught adults how to work with children using the principles of eurhythmics, a musical pedagogy. At the end of each semester, the students did teaching exams to show how they’d grasped and applied what they’d been learning. Invariably, at the first exam in the fall, the other teachers and I would look at each other in dismay as student after student struggled to teach effectively using this challenging methodology.

“Have we taught them nothing?” we’d ask ourselves, watching the results of the semester’s work. We’d question whether we’d done a good job and adequately given the students what they needed in order to do well.

But, by the spring semester, the students had generally come a long way and were much more accomplished and secure in their grasp of the method. “Ah,” we would say, “We really did teach them something! We did a good job after all!”

It came to me eventually that we didn’t need to accept all the responsibility for the student’s failure in the fall, but that we also didn’t get the full credit for their success in the spring. With that realization, I recognized a different way of viewing the situation. I would do my best to help the student teachers, but I would let go of taking full credit when it was going well or full blame when it wasn’t. And, I certainly wasn’t going to define whether I was a good teacher solely on the basis of how my students were doing during pressured exam situations.

These days, I’m experimenting with thinking less about blame and credit; I’m trying to hear and receive both criticisms and compliments from a position of neutrality. I try to observe everything happening on the outside and on the inside (my inner commentary) from a kinder, more neutral place, registering the information I’m getting, considering it, and discerning what I should keep and discard. I certainly want to be sensitive to my part of a dynamic when I’m hearing something that’s negative; I also want to lightly enjoy compliments. But, I no longer cling to these moments or determine my worth from them, one way or the other. Instead, I get my sense of my self from my Essence, from the Divine Love we all are.

Things come along all the time in life that we could interpret as either a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” about ourselves. It’s interesting to try keeping the thumb in neutral, not interpreting things as good or bad, favorable or unfavorable. When I manage to do this, it’s less emotionally exhausting than the roller coaster I used to ride and immensely freeing.

My Facebook business page coach didn’t mean to send me into a tailspin about popularity by talking about “likes” on Facebook. He was talking about Facebook’s playful use of the term. For myself, I’m not collecting friends and likes for my ego’s sake. I created my Facebook business page to find people I might be able to help connect with their Essence and discover the spirituality that can be found in any moment. These are my goals, and my hope is to create an online community of like-minded seekers.

So, if that’s something you want to be a part of, please come on board. If its something your friends might like to hear about, please share the site with them.

But don’t wonder if I’m keeping track of whether you “like” me or not, or if my feelings will be hurt if you don’t click the button. Really, I’ll be ok either way. I’m doing my best to stay in neutral.

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