Wanting to be liked could help you connect with the people in your life, but the need to be liked could lead to stress and anxiety.
The social side of human nature evolved from the need for cooperation to survive. Being liked meant being fed and protected.
Although it’s easier to manage independently in the modern world, people still benefit from social connections. A healthy social network could protect both your physical and mental health.
So it’s natural to want to be liked. If you enjoy people’s approval and feel a little bothered when people don’t like you, you’re not alone.
But a fixation on getting people’s approval at the expense of making your own choices could interfere with how you live your life.
Wanting to be liked is a human trait shared by most people. On the other hand, if you need to be liked, there are some telltale signs.
This could include:
- continuous efforts to please people
- willingness to do almost anything, including things you know are wrong or dangerous
- heightened anxiety when facing disapproval
- reluctance to stand out from the group or go against the grain
- fixation on a person who doesn’t seem to like you
Most people prefer approval over criticism. They want others to like them, and they feel bad when the feedback they get isn’t good.
But they can usually shake off disapproval and move on, and focus on the people who recognize their strengths.
If you feel persistent anxiety when someone doesn’t seem to like you, there are several possible reasons.
External locus of control
Your locus of control is what you perceive as the main causes of events in your life. There are two types:
- Internal locus of control. You believe that you control the direction of your life and have an influence over the events that happen.
- External locus of control. You feel that external influences determine the course of your life.
If you have an internal locus of control, you might see your job prospects as being connected to the amount of time and effort you put into education and training. Someone with an external locus of control might view factors such as the job market and economy as having more influence over career outcomes.
If you have the need to be liked, you might have an external locus of control. You might connect your self-worth with the number of people who like you, rather than how you feel about yourself.
Sociotropy is a state of being dependent on other people and a preoccupation with people-pleasing. It’s the opposite of autonomy, which is a state of independence and individuality.
Older research found a connection between sociotropy and external locus of control.
In other words, if you have an external locus of control, you might be more likely to be a people-pleaser who needs to be liked.
Fawning as a trauma response could cause a person to be preoccupied with the needs and wants of others. Being likable means that you might be less likely to engage in conflict or receive criticism.
Needing to be liked could be a way of seeking safety.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
If you have social anxiety disorder, social situations could cause you a great deal of stress. Fear of being judged negatively is a common characteristic of this type of anxiety.
A need to be liked becomes a fear of being rejected that’s severe enough to interfere with work, school, or any other type of social setting.
Anaclitic means dependence on another person for emotional support.
Babies can experience anaclitic depression when separated long term from their primary caregiver. In adults, anaclitic depression could involve a preoccupation with the approval of others, as noted in a
Working to meet the high standards of other people could also play a role, according to the study.
Having the social and emotional support that you need from family members and friends might make you less likely to be concerned with everyone liking you.
It could even be liberating not to have the stress of living up to everyone’s expectations.
Not being liked has an upside. When you’re concerned with maintaining likeability, you might make choices based on the approval of others.
But when you’re not concerned about what others think, your choices might be ones that are better for you and better aligned with your values and goals.
If your need for approval from every person in your life is causing you stress, consider learning how to live without it.
Try asking yourself these questions.
Should everyone think the same way?
The attributes that make you likable to some people are the same qualities that could trigger dislike from others.
Social media and its polarizing discussion content demonstrate this concept well.
If the world is full of people with opposing views and differing opinions, is it logical to expect everyone to like you?
Does someone’s disapproval stop me from living my life?
Whether it’s a haircut, a hobby, or the possibility of a new career, consider whether you sacrifice the things you want in favor of someone else’s choice for you.
Can I change someone’s previous experiences?
There could be external factors over which you have no control that could influence whether a person likes you. Maybe you remind them of someone they dislike or a bad experience they had.
Should I be the most important part of everyone else’s life?
While you worry about who likes you, the people you think about are probably concerned about who likes them.
It’s human nature for each person to see the world from their own perspective. So someone else’s opinion of you might not be their primary concern.
Should it be yours?
Can I succeed if people don’t like me?
Think about the people who inspire disapproval but still thrive. They don’t need everyone to like them, so why should you?
If I always agree with everyone around me, am I being myself?
Having an opinion that differs from that of a friend or family member doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re wrong. It simply means that you’re an individual with your own thoughts.
If the fear of being disliked causes you to hide your opinions, you might not be living authentically.
Am I spending too much time on social media?
Your time spent giving and receiving likes, shares, and comments could be setting you up for self-esteem that’s dependent on approval from others.
What would happen if I didn’t try to please everyone?
You could start small — for example, try to give your honest feedback about a movie you saw with a friend. Or say that you’re busy if the idea of a weekend gathering isn’t appealing.
You might find that the people in your life still value you.
Should I get counseling?
If you’re experiencing anxiety or distress from continuously trying to live up to the expectations of others, counseling could provide you with helpful coping strategies.
As humans, we’re hardwired to want acceptance. While most people can accept that not everyone will like them, others can’t and have a need to be liked by everyone.
If you have that need, there might be an underlying reason driving it such as past trauma or anxiety.
You could create stress in your life when you continuously try to please everyone.
If your need to please everyone comes at a detriment to your day-to-day life, consider speaking with a mental health professional.
If you don’t know where to start, try our find help page. You could also ask a healthcare professional for a referral.