For whatever variety of reasons, my 10 year old son has spent the last couple weeks struggling with the phenomenon I call “nobody likes me”.
My teacher doesn’t like me. My coach doesn’t like me. You and Mom are always upset with me, etc. etc.
Now, objectively speaking, he’s a pretty likable kid. He’s got a good heart. He’s a loyal friend. He’s a good listener. More often than not he tries pretty hard in his studies and he enjoys making other people laugh. Okay, he does have a tendency to eat with his mouth open and he’s not above antagonizing his sisters, but all in all, there isn’t much not to like about him.
That being said, as a Dad I figure it’s part of my responsibility to let the kid know that spending a whole lot of your life energy worrying about whether or not every single person in the world likes you or not isn’t generally a road worth heading down.
Unfortunately, for as many different ways as I’ve tried to communicate this to him, it just doesn’t seem to be sinking in. And in fairness to him, grasping the concept of “not everyone is going to like me all the time” can be a challenge for a sensitive 10 year old to get his mind around.
In the midst of trying to negotiate my way through this little parenting mine-field I got an interesting reminder from the universe vis-à-vis one of the sales managers I work with at the radio station.
On my way out of the building last week, Sales Manager Jeff stopped me and with a big sh*t-eating grin on his face proceeded to tell me about a meeting in which a potential client spent an inordinate amount of time telling Jeff how much he disliked me.
Keep in mind, I’ve never met this guy in person. The “me” he was referring to disliking was the “me” he hears on the radio everyday.
Apparently he finds me to be an arrogant know-it-all who spends way too much of his time noodling around with an act that focuses on false modesty and ill-prepared one liners. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the gist.
Now, Sales Manager Jeff and I aren’t exactly friends, but we have a pretty good working relationship. I respect what he does. He respects what I do. And the times we’ve hung out together, we’ve gotten along just fine. (Note: This is probably less common in the world of radio than you might like to think.)
So Jeff actually says to this potential client, “You know, I’ve been in radio for a long time now and I’ve worked with a lot of really arrogant self-involved jocks before, but trust me when I say, Mike Casey isn’t one of those guys. He’s down to earth. He’s friendly. He works hard and he isn’t a prima donna at all.”
But for whatever reason, nothing Jeff said was going to change this guy’s mind, so eventually he just let it go. I think he got such a kick out sharing the story with me because he just couldn’t fathom how this guy could’ve landed on a definition of me that rang so false to someone who actually knew me in person.
But as has been said a million times before, “perception IS reality.”
Now, is it pleasant to hear that someone out there in radio land intensely dislikes what I do everyday? Of course not.
But will I let it change the way I go about my job tomorrow or the next day or the day? Not likely.
And in some ways, I think this is the lesson I’ve been trying to communicate to my son: all you can do is be yourself. Some people will like you and some people won’t. But as soon as you give someone else the chance you define you, you’ve lost your way because you will never be all things to all people. (Unless you’re Katherine Heigl….)
Define yourself, son.
Have confidence in who you are as a person, the things you stand for, the values you represent.
Understand that not being perfect isn’t a failure, it’s a reality of the human condition.
So someone doesn’t like you? Big deal.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that one person is a fair representation of the whole.
Plenty of people like you, kid. Trust me on this.
And as long as you remember to like yourself, everything will be A-OK.