I spent a lot of time today being angry about people who don’t like me. And it was a total waste of time. I could have been doing anything in the world but this. But I did it anyway. It’s a habit. I’m an introvert and growing up I always felt like people didn’t like me.
Especially in high school. Except for a handful of friends (that I spent very little time with), I was alone. I read long books that no one else read like Atlas Shrugged and War and Peace. I never got invited to a prom. But one day, 18 years after high school, something strange happened that made me think that at least some of my self-loathing was overkill.
When I was 36, I went through a yoga teacher’s training and after the training I stayed on for a few months and worked in the Programs Office of the ashram/retreat center. I had been given a different name by the guru there and went by that name. One night, as I was checking people in for a retreat, a woman came up to me and said, “Wow, how great it is to see you after all these years!”
I had no idea who she was, so I said, “Sorry, do I know you?” She told me her name and said that we went to high school together. As I looked at her closer, I did remember her. What was strange about the encounter was that when I was in high school I don’t think I ever talked to her. The only reason I remembered her was because her older sister committed suicide. But she remembered all kinds of things about me – and all of her memories were positive.
After we spoke I thought about how we might have been friends in high school if I had not carried around the idea that nobody liked me. And, if this woman that I barely remembered liked me, what about all the kids that I actually did talk to? Maybe I missed out on a lot of opportunities for friendship because of a false assumption about myself and others.
So when I came across the saying today, “when people don’t like you, nothing actually happens,” it rang true. Not liking myself or other people, or thinking people don’t like me, is a void, nothing happens. I can sense this sometimes in social situations. If I am in a good mood and feeling receptive, strangers smile at me and even make conversation. But if I am in a bad mood this never happens.