you don’t have to like me

September 23, 2014


In 1987, Dirty Dancing was released and T’Pau’s China In Your Hand was the UK #1 for 7 weeks straight. I was 14.

I watched Johnny masculinely remove Baby from the corner on a London-bound 747. And I wore out the rewind button on my walkman listening to that craptastic 80s ballad, while I spent three months travelling around England with Gran. Thatcher had been re-elected and the stock market had just crashed. I was immersed in the music and the politics and the Englishness of it all. I had my first Proper Snog with one of my cousins friends. It was all so exotic and thrilling and an entire universe away from my home town of Waikouaiti, New Zealand. Population: not-quite-2000.

I went back to East Otago High School with my hair done exactly like Carol from T’Pau and was immediately ostracised. I had been away too long, changed too much, grown in ways I couldn’t put into words. My classmates knew I was different and they hated me for it.

I was bullied relentlessly for over a year. Most of it was verbal.

Dad came home from work unexpectedly one lunchtime and discovered me hiding in the wardrobe with a torch and a book. I admitted I’d been avoiding school at least two days a week for months. At the start of the next term I moved to an all girls school, happily making the daily two-hour round trip to Dunedin.

I thought I had left those teenage sadists behind. But they shadowed me for years.

I was so determined to avoid being disliked, I spent decades twisting myself into a version of me that was ‘likeable’.

In every relationship of my life, I showed up as a compromised parody of me. I spent a lot of time pretending and lying about who I really was. So even the peeps who said they loved me, only loved the me I let them see.  I was convinced that if they knew the real me, I would be abandoned.

Being an approval whore is freakin’ exhausting.

It wasn’t until my ex-husband left me, that I finally had no one else to project my twisty self onto. It was shocking to realise that I really had no idea who I was without him.

Eventually, I found that the more I got to know myself, the more I liked the real me. And whenever I was tempted to return to my twisty ways, it just felt so icky. Thank sweet baby Jesus he left!

Still, its taken me years to really really get it.

Whatever anyone else thinks of me, is just not up to me.

At the end of last year when I left Corporateering, I found there was no longer a split between the online me and the ‘professional’ me. And creating my fancy new website has removed yet another layer.

Now I can just be all me, all the time.

But this has not been made of fluffy rabbits and ice cream.

As I have shown up as completely myself, several long-term relationships have ended.

This has been at times confusing, deeply hurtful and difficult. I’ve had a few long dark nights as my oldest fears have been exposed as valid – I showed you who I really am, and you didn’t like me.

I’ve been grieving these friendships. And after the initial sadness, there is the work to look at what I want to choose to make this mean.

I’ve done a lot of self-coaching to reject the thought that I am doing something wrong. And I’ve come to find a deeper and truer relationship with myself, and with my people.

Just because you don’t like me, that’s not a reason for me to not like me.

And if I change myself to be who you say you want me to be, you wouldn’t like me then either. You’d like the twisty version of me.

So when you decide to walk away, I’m just going to love me enough to let you.

I curious to know if have had friendships end as you’ve grown into yourself? There doesn’t seem to be a manual for this! I love to know more about how you moved through it.

Updated – here’s a resource worth checking out: My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends

PS: if this post resonated with you, please check out my new group coaching programme: Rethink Your Relationships – registration is now open!

Leave a reply

32 Responses to “you don’t have to like me”

  1. Ti says:

    Oh, Sas. I needed this today, so much. A commitment to showing up for my own life, as myself, with all the scars, bruises and smile-lines… has cost me some relationships. It’s been burning a hole in my heart, this loss. Thank you for putting words to what I know, instinctively (but sometimes lose sight of).

    Thank you for writing this, for sharing these things that are an integral part of each of us.

  2. Helana says:

    When I was growing up, I was the only Swedish-Filipina living in my small town (less than 1000 people). My “mixed ethnicity” was strange to a lot of my peers, and I was bullied relentlessly until I packed a suitcase and left town in grade 9.

    I’m much older now, but that experience still haunts me. To be pushed out of the crowd, to be called down on, to be disliked—it still hurts. Rejection is so bitter. I have psychic wounds from a large portion of my past, and I can see traces of them in my life today. I find myself holding back and biting my tongue, just in case what I say will be met with confused looks or rejection. My past tells my I’m not enough. My hair is too dark, and my ancestry is too foreign. I don’t have the right last name, the right family, the athleticism.

    Stretching myself out of this mentality has become a daily practice, and I’m s l o w l y easing myself into vulnerability. I’m forcing myself to be naked, to show up as my Self, to be honest.

    Like you mentioned, I have also tried to find myself through my relationships; which is a dangerous road. I lean too hard, need to much, hurt too deeply. All of this has been pressing on my shoulders for too long, and the past few months have been devoted to deep, messy, aching inner-work. As painful as this work is, it’s also cathartic. I’m exhaling all of the stale air in my lungs, and even though my legs are shaking, I know they’ll get me the hell out of where I was, and to where I need to be—as long as I keep moving. Thanks for writing this post, Sas. x

    • Sas says:

      Oh yes to being naked – sometimes it feels like my skin is missing too. Healing like this is I think, the bravest work we can do. Bravo and much love to you xxx

  3. Halley says:

    Aw, man. That is shit. Friends are supposed to see the greatness in you and be excited when that comes to fruition not hold your head under the water.

    I’ve had the opposite happen, “friends” treating me like shite when I was just starting out and then as I grew more successful them pretending to like me. It’s a horrible feeling either way.

  4. Oh wow, can I ever relate to this. My family made several cross country moves when I was growing up. Each time, I was rejected by my new classmates because I was “different.” I spent my whole childhood feeling like I didn’t belong, even though I would try mould myself into someone the others would like. I realize now that I’ve done the same thing as an adult. Similar to you, I’m slowly shedding my facade, revealing my true self. Some old friends have slowly slipped away. Nothing dramatic – they just don’t call me or return my messages. It sucks, but I try to remind myself that I’m creating space in my life to welcome in people who like me just as I am. Keep being you – I like you just as you are!

    • Sas says:

      Hey you – yes I had that realisation too – that I was employing the same coping tactics in adulthood as I had in childhood. And a hell yes to creating the space for the awesome peeps to be welcomed. Love that. We so often concentrate on what we’ve lost rather than what we are making space for xxx

  5. Sas says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you, lovely. There are few things more devastating than this kind of betrayal. It’s no wonder you are questioning everything right now – what a completely reasonable response to a hurtful situation.
    With everything I am, I believe there is a way back to yourself – but not the you that was with him – a better-than-you-can-imagine-whole-you.
    Because you have survived bullying, you have overcome that spirit-crushing experience, I know that you have the strength to feel your way through this.
    A terrible thing happened to you, but you mustn’t let it define your life.
    And right now trying to work out the precise thing that caused him to betray you in this way, is going to drive you fucking nuts. You’ll just never really know.
    So instead, turn towards your deepest and most important task right now – thats you. Allow yourself to grieve this, be in that shitty ragey shocked hurt. Watch sad movies and talk it out with your closest, trusted friends and sometimes wrap yourself in a blanket and just let the furniture hold you for a while.
    Trust that feeling all of this – accepting your new reality – is the fastest way through it.
    Trust that at the other end of this, there is waiting for you, the spectacular life that you just couldn’t have with him. I know this is true, because he has proven to be unworthy of this task.
    This will be hard work, it will hurt for a long time. And so it should, there is no point in denying the awfulness that is happening right now.
    But hold on to the knowledge that you have so much goodness ahead of you.
    I am sending you love xxx

  6. Helen Stewart says:

    I was bullied as a teenager for being different and have struggled with wanting to be liked all my life.
    I got back from holiday yesterday to my husband waiting for me at the door to tell me he’s been having an affair with another woman for the last 2 years. I’ve been married to him for 14 years. I’ve been thinking about what went wrong and I wonder if I tried too hard to make him like me, love me. I wonder if I’ve changed who I am for him, just so that I’m liked.

    For example I have a very short fuse and I’ve hardly ever raised my voice with him as I know he hates this and walks away from me when “I lose my rag”…

    Have I just wasted 2 maybe 14 years of my life?

  7. kolleen says:

    resonated and resounded deeply with me and in me.

    thank you for your words, your wisdom, your truth.

    i slowly grieved the loss of these friendships, often grappling with the why’s, the what is wrong with me’s, etc…

    i am still on my journety of growth, growing into the real me, the authentic me … and have realized as i grow, a friendship may not grow along with me and i have to find a way to be okay with that … and as so perfectly said by you… “Just because you don’t like me, thats not a reason for me to not like me.”


    • Sas says:

      Hey lovely you!
      Yes its so natural to go into that place of questioning ourselves right? And there aren’t the words in our culture to discuss this with others, I think so many of us suffer alone.
      I have also found that I am so much more tolerant I am of uncertainty – in relationships (and everywhere). i am not sure if that is to do with losing my inability to doubt the mystery and magic of the universe – but just knowing that I’m loved by a force that is creative and fun and utterly benevolent, seems to have left me with a sense that whatever is going on is ok. i have so much more resilience to the ups and downs. its like I am starting every day with a full bucket.

  8. samantha o says:

    Sas. Thanks for this post. I was in the class you came to. You were friends with someone in the class and that was good enough for us. Yes we had our clicks but for a bunch of teenage girls we did pretty well. I remember being in love with your hair and your skinny ankles. I remember you being shy and becoming one of us like you had been there forever quite quickly. We never hung out but you always said hello. It was a good year to be us and be seniors. Im glad you came and helped us concour the teenage world of school. Thanks for sharing. My heart is sadened to hear of some of your stories but my soul sings when I see how you have walked out of the fire of life happy and whole. Thanks for living this and sharing to help others like me have so we direction and a vision of what can be achieved.

    • Sas says:

      Sam I completely remember you! I think we had English or Art History together with Miss Sinclair?
      I have such fond memories of OGHS – it was the making of me. Everytime i hear ‘we’ve only just begun’ I think of our senior class! We were a great year 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by lovely xx

  9. Cherie says:

    I don’t think there is a manual for this kind of growth. It’s a hell of a lot easier to be armoured than it is to be vulnerable, even armoured towards yourself so it’s ‘easier’ to get by. To be just yourself requires a lot of openness & vulnerability because then we have to look directly at the pain that is causing us to lock down.

    It’s interesting to me the common thread of divorce … I feel the most me *after* I broke up with my common law dude after 15 years of being considered a unit. I think the inertia of being comfortable kept us together for so long, until push came to shove & I reached the end of my rope. I had to confront that I had lost my sense of who I was. I had lost my individuality … or, more to the point, I had abandoned myself. Maybe your partner reflects who you are, who you *think* you are &/or where you are in life at that moment. Once I started yoga, I entered into physical presence & mindfulness that didn’t allow me to continue to tell myself comforting lies about how happy/good/awesome things were. It was like going through the confusion of being teenager all over again because I had to figure out who the cool bands were now & how to not spaz out when there were hot men in the same aisle in the grocery store.

    • Sas says:

      I love that idea that our partners reflect who we are/think we are. And doesn’t that make total sense that when we lose ourselves in the relationship, or morph into a version of them, there is nothing to reflect back so the energy falls out of the arse of the relationship?
      I totally relate to the not spazzing out!
      Love that you found yourself in yoga – there is something so magical about just being present with ourselves – there is no reason to hide from who we really are.
      Love this comment!

  10. Marianne says:

    I’ve had friendships that I allowed to go into hibernation for lengthy periods because we simply couldn’t seem to meet each other with the love and acceptance that we both needed. Some of those friendships have come out of hibernation, some never had and – I expect – never will.

    It’s hard for me to believe that your old friend(s) don’t like the real you (the real you, in as much as I’ve met her, is utterly loveable) but it’s not at all hard to believe that the real you – the real any of us for that matter – could be very unsettling, even threatening, to someone struggling with loving and embracing the real them.

    Isn’t it odd that we don’t have many ways of talking or thinking about this? There are SO many poems and stories and songs about the beginnings and middles and ends of romantic or sexual relationships – and so few about other friendships. There are, thank goodness, lots of novels written by women about this – because I think we’ve always understood how crucial and complex our friendships are.

    Sending big love to you, your wonderful, wonderful woman. xx

    • Sas says:

      M – yes i think thats so true – that anyone being real is going to be unsettling for someone who is growing into themselves and is all spiky and awkwardness.
      Its like we are missing a whole section of our vocabulary to talk about how to end female friendships with kindness.
      Thank you for taking the time to stop by – this really touched me and I’ll bet many others.
      Big love right back to you.

  11. I was nodding all the way through reading this post- thank you so much for writing it!
    I had an ah ha moment a few years ago when I realised that every time I started a new friendship I was waiting to see what sort of person they needed me to be and then acting accordingly. For me the last year has seen personal transformation and expansion on a level I have never before experienced and many things (thank God) have not survived this process, some friendships included. One friend actually came over to my flat a few weeks after I had been through major surgery to tell me that she was disappointed I had not been so available and sociable and that if we were to continue being friends, I had to try harder and make more of an effort. After she left I actually sat and thought about how I could do that, because I like to think I am loyal and a good friend. It really stung me. We haven’t spoken since but you know what? that is absolutely fine. I knew the relationship relied on my lack of self confidence, that she could compare herself to me and come out favourably. It’s actually quite hard to write that.
    The friends I have made in the last year more than make up for any loss. They know all of me, messy bits included and actively cheer on my becoming. I don’t think I’ve ever had that before- it humbling.

    • Sas says:

      I love this Rachel! So good to know that friendship required you to be small, to work – its like a ‘OH THATS who you need me to be’ moment. Just to ask ‘why are we friends?’ is an amazingly revealing question to find the answers to. And yes to friendships that embrace all the messy bits. You are brilliant xxx

  12. Hello and I’m glad you wrote this. I’m… somewhere in that process of shedding skins, too. The question you asked landed in an aching spot in my heart – yes, I have lost friendships.

    When the economy tanked and my husband lost his job, we lost friends because we could suddenly not afford dinners out to spend time with people. This is, in my mind, not a huge loss – if, knowing our circumstances, they couldn’t break out of their model of friendship and find ways to connect with us, that demonstrates what circle of friendship I can trust them in. It took…. a lot of grieving, and a lot of awareness that I WAS grieving to get to that point.

    Next, I removed myself from a long-standing friendship. As I had grown towards shedding identities and becoming more wholly myself, she had moved towards a more shallow, celebrity-obsessed way of living. It finally came to a breaking point, and after a lot of thought, I cut enough ties to be disengaged from her everyday life. Again, a fair bit of grief, a lot of tears, and a firm belief that this is what’s best for me. And walking through my days knowing that I miss the person she used to be, but not who she has become.

    • Sas says:

      Oh Poppy that is exactly the conclusion I came to – I missed the friendship we used to have. When I really sat with the truth of it, it was clear that we had been drifting apart for a long long time.
      You’re sharing sage wisdom there, lovely 🙂

  13. Jenny Hyde says:

    I think there’s LOADS that’s unsaid about friendships! Compared to romantic relationships, we hardly talk a peep about how friendships can shift and change, and require pretty much the same about of reflection, care and energy as relationships. This really resonates for me, having just launched into the world on my own, and learning that some friendships aren’t worth it anymore. There’s a reason I don’t trust certain people, and that I felt icky after being in touch…

    • Sas says:

      I think you are so right Jen – its almost taboo to talk about it (so of course i went there).
      And yes I think this is so much likely to happen when you are in a period of growth and expansion – some people just can’t be with that. But what is the alternative – stay small and sad and keep them happy? #nothanks

  14. I think the most profound thing that happened as a result of me growing into myself is that my mother stopped liking me and, for a while, seemed hell-bent on trying to “save” me by telling me that she was disappointed in, and “concerned about” who I’d become.

    I cut her out of my life for a while…until I could un-enmesh myself from her, take responsibility for me, and love myself enough to (as you said) let her walk away if that’s what she wants. In the meantime, at any given moment, I get to choose to love her unconditionally…because when I choose to feel love for her, I GET TO FEEL LOVE.

    In the end, the greatest lesson for me has been that my pain doesn’t come from what I was or wasn’t given in the past (even if the past is five minutes ago), any pain I have comes from not giving love now. So good to know, right? From moment to moment, I get to choose.

    • Sas says:

      So good to know! And yes to choosing – I had to really sit with this: do I want to choose to give away my ability to love me without this friendship? That seemed crazypants.

  15. Victoria says:

    Thank you for this post. I love your raw, open vulnerability. Yes, as I shed the masks I adopted as a child–the ones that got me approval, acceptable and yes, love–and as I blossom into my real, unadorned self, I’ve lost a lot in the realm of relationships. But then I realize that those relationships were based on conditions, on me showing up in a specific way (the good girl), so I know the only solution is acceptance. I will not, I cannot return to who I was, to my story. I’m still shedding and still blossoming. So much of who I thought I was is not me. It is the voices of the people who downloaded so much into my child-soul. But these voices, like houseguests, must move out of the space. There is no more room for them or for the people who like to hang around them.

    Instead, I’m opening the space for the new and awaiting those who resonate with who I’m becoming. I do still have a few friends who ride with me through the waves of changes. We’ve had our bumpy times, but we are connected but the real, not by the mask. They accept my messiness and I accept theirs. Not even some of my family members are willing to do that. Not even my ex-husband and the father of my two sons–someone I spent thirty years with–is willing to do that. Those are heavy burdens to bear, but I cannot afford to see myself through their eyes. Their projections and judgments of me are not an accurate measure of my worth. So I look to the present and to those who really see me and appreciate me. I look ahead knowing my tribe of friends is ever expanding and I will indeed attract people who will resonate with me as I am, not as I pretend to be.

    Blessings to you…may we all be loved as we are. 🙂

    • Sas says:

      I love that idea of blossoming and shedding. It is such a natural process really. Thanks for adding that Victoria.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Hello! Thanks for writing this. I think too often we feel the need to hold on to relationships and friendships that are no longer in line with who we are. Sometimes, just stepping back a little does the trick and the friendship has the space to change and renew itself. But sometimes we change too much and to stay in the friendship would be a compromise. I have had friendships end this way and sometimes it has been a shock as just through being myself I have managed to unintentionally upset people. This has bothered me in the past and I’ve viewed the situation as “my fault” but now I realise that being myself will attract the right people into my life and letting others go is just part of the process – kind of sad, but necessary…

    • Sas says:

      Sad, but necessary – yes.
      And isn’t it good to know that the hanging on to friendships that no longer fit is completely unnecessary.
      I don’t want to be around someone who isn’t excited to be with me (at least some of the time!).

  17. Love this post and your honesty. I think this is par for the course when you are going through so much inner transformation. I’m regularly ‘letting people go’ and it’s usually the ones I was least expecting it to happen with and has included some of my closest friends over the years, that I would never have foreseen. I find that it’s not even always necessary to say anything specific – there seems to be a natural closure when you’re no longer on a similar wave length. It leaves space for new people and experiences too. I’ve found this very challenging at times, but when you’re being true to yourself, it seems to be unavoidable…. 😉