Why Doesn't Anybody Like Me?
Maybe you don't understand it, what keeps them awake at night
What goes through their little minds when you turn off the light?
Always having to say sorry tears are stained on the pillow
Like the light of the moon they can't be one
Can't exist without the son
Let's think clearly for a while
Can he shine without a smile?
Why am I alone with no one to be found?
Looks like they know what's best for me
Why doesn't anybody like me, I don't understand?
Guess I'll have to crawl inside and I don't know why
I'm sitting by myself, when the problem isn't mine
excerpt from Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Me, No Use For a Name
I am a major giver-of-advice. I’m like an old lady with a pile of peppermints kicking around at the bottom of her purse, handing out sweets nobody asked for, and one of my favourites is this: you have to ask for what you need.
It’s a piece of advice that has served me pretty well when it comes to the people who love me. My husband is great with this kind of request. Tell him what I need, and I can be sure he’ll respond positively. It’s actually a pretty useful piece of advice in a marriage. It’s not accusatory. It’s really simple. “I need a hug” is a request that’s always answered immediately. “I need to explain why I’m upset” is another request that is usually approved. But as with most simple formulas, it only works in context.
Let’s put a pin in that and get some context. In case you missed it, I recently suffered a serious personal setback. Five months into my pregnancy, my husband and I had to make the difficult decision to terminate because our baby girl had a heart defect. I was devastated, and needed distraction, and told all of my work colleagues, who begged to know what they could do to help, to give me something to do. Fast forward a few months and I’ve never been busier. Most yoga teachers you know have more than one source of income, and my other source is a career I’ve been working toward for 15 years – event coordinator.
I’ve always wondered why this job is tabbed as one of the most stressful jobs. It landed fifth in last year’s tally, according to Forbes magazine. The first four spots are held by first responders and pilots – so it seems there is nothing harder than event planning unless you literally have people’s lives in your hands. That never really made sense to me. Except then you think about what kind of person ends up as a planner, and who they are dealing with, and it all starts to come together.
I have always been concerned with what other people think of me. I tend to be solipsist in this view, thinking I’m the only person who feels this way. My therapist would be quick to point out that a lot of people worry about what others think of them. But for most, it isn’t enough of a concern to keep them up at night. I can tell you that when I worked in catering and would get the call on a Tuesday or a Wednesday to find out if I was working that weekend and whether I got the good payday or the priority client and eventually figured out where I ranked in the boss’s mind that week, it kept me up at night. When I got cut early, when I was told I was “having a blonde moment” (I’m not blonde), or when I found out my friends got more gigs that week than I did, I would lay awake with circling thoughts, wondering what I had to do to be loved and accepted next week.
“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business,” Don Corleone famously said in The Godfather.
I don’t work that way, and I’ve always made that clear. When colleagues insist that it’s not personal, I retort that of course it is, for me, and they have no trouble accepting that when it suits him. My bosses have always appreciated my ability to cultivate relationships with clients. At Gap Kids, I could recall kids’ names, sizes, and favourite colours. In my Starbucks days, I’d start a customer’s elaborate drink order as soon as I saw them coming up the steps. Now, my claim to fame is that I have forged human connection in an industry where people are often simply referred to by their job title and gender – I know the name of every employee, from the “sound guy” to the lighting technician, the florist’s assistants, the schleppers, the dishwashers, and the cooks… I know ‘em.
This can go either way for me. Usually it’s great – it means that I have friendships with colleagues, that we work as a team, we have fun, and we rarely have issues communicating because we like and respect one another. But there are huge drawbacks to operating this way.
One: blurring the lines between the professional and the personal means you might think you can tell me I look sexy at work. I’m a party planner, not a model, and you’re not a photographer. You don’t get to tell me how you feel about my appearance. I give zero fucks. Believe it or not, I hear this more often from women, most recently from one who thought it was a good idea to exploit my relationships with some of the heavy lifters by presenting me as a gift to them: “Look, I brought you a sexy yoga teacher.” (This, just weeks after I complained that the building manager at a prominent synagogue had threatened me with a spanking when I unconventionally suggested we put the kippahs for the ceremony – gasp – outside the ceremony room!) I can’t believe this still needs to be said but apparently it does: Do. Not. Comment. On. My. Body.
Two: my kindness is seen as weakness. The easiest way to bully someone is by text message. Hidden behind a keyboard, you can shoot out your anger and then lock your phone and put it away. Ha. You sent out your anger into the world, you feel relieved, and you don’t have to experience the shock and hurt the other person suffers because you aren’t looking them in the eye or hearing their voice catch on the other end of the telephone wire. You then scroll down, forget your own unkindness, and demand even more from the person you have just attacked because they are locked into a work contract and they are too polite (and to eager to keep their job) to defend themselves. This is even worse, for me, than the sexual harassment, because in the former case I’m treated as an object, and I know I’m not an object, so I can usually dismiss the harassment as ignorance (even when it makes me feel gross). In the latter case, I’m not an object – I am fully seen as a human being, just a worthless one, which tugs on my deepest fear and brings it to the surface. I am worthless. I’m not as good as other people. I’m not liked. Here come the circling thoughts and the sleeplessness.
I’m coming back around to the advice we put a pin in earlier. You have to ask for what you need in your relationships, but it’s not really possible when you’re an event planner. And that is why it’s tabbed as the fifth most stressful job in the world. You work hard to build relationships, to build yourself a career, and to maintain your identity throughout. But you don’t get to pick and choose who you work with, and you end up on site again and again with people who have disrespected you, sexually harassed you, abused your kindness, and you take all that shit with a smile because the first one to complain is a rotten egg. You don’t get to tell clients not to be rude. You don’t get to say “that’s not my job” because you’ll be out of any job, not just the one that wasn’t yours to begin with.
I brought up this fear, that people won’t like me, in therapy. She asked me, “Why wouldn’t someone like you? I mean, you’re a very nice person, you’re thoughtful, you care about other people… so why wouldn’t someone like you?” I don’t know. “What would happen if someone didn’t like you?” Maybe they would tell other people. “And your reputation is really important in your industry. You’ve worked hard to earn that reputation. Do you think that if someone didn’t like you and told other people they could hurt your reputation?” No, because I deliver, and it says more about the person who disparages me than it does about my actual work. When you work with me, you’ll see. That’s all. If you don’t, you won’t, but talking shit about others actually makes you look bad… not the other person.
There’s a story that yoga teachers love to tell about the monkey god who leapt across the ocean to discover the whereabouts of the kidnapped princess, Sita. We tell this story a lot, describing the hero’s journey, the leaping pose, the discovery of one’s own greatness. We talk about how brave and loyal Hanuman was, how much he loved his friend Ram to risk his life to find Ram’s princess. But we never talk about Sita.
In Hindu lore, Sita represents the ideal woman: irreproachable, fertile, and obedient. But in the story, when she finally returns to India, Ram questions her loyalty and insists she walk through a purifying fire to prove she has not been unfaithful during her year of captivity.
That is so fucked up.
You don’t have to walk through the fire. Your loyalty is not in question. The person who has those doubts is the one who has to dive inward and forgive, let go, and move on. Remember that you don’t always have to be the dutiful wife and good daughter. Let the other one, the one who judges, turn their gaze inward and put themselves on trial, because you know the truth about yourself. If people don’t like you, or don’t trust you, that’s their problem. Don’t let it keep you up at night.