As a writer on Quora I get these questions a lot:
– I am feeling lonely. I have no friends. What do I do? I want friends.
– I am dull and not confident. I can’t approach people. Nobody really likes me or approaches me with any interest. What to do? I want people to like me.
– I am ugly and unattractive. Nobody talks to me. Nobody approaches me romantically. Is there any hope for me?
All these questions stem from one common thought: Having another loving, adoring person around us will remove our feelings of loneliness, will even make us feel happy. This is a core illusion at the heart of our self-respect and social identity. If only we had an attractive girlfriend or boyfriend that loved us tenderly, if only we got a good bunch of likes and comments on social media, if only someone made the effort to understand us, if only, if only, if only… some mythical person somewhere did something we would be happy.
Really? Come on now. That’s wishful thinking.
But this kind of thinking is also very human and very natural. After all, we are social animals. We need intimacy and connection to feel validated.
But there is a prerequisite. Getting people to like us doesn’t guarantee happiness any more than getting a religion can guarantee a place in heaven. If you want a place in heaven then religion is not a ‘ticket’ to the destination. You have to live right. You have to be right. In other words, if you’re not religious on the inside, going to church and getting blessed by the pastor is of no use.
So, let’s apply the same analogy to our subject: If you’re not content with yourself, external approval can only make you happy temporarily.
And if you’re content with yourself, content with being alone then external validation loses its importance.
Wouldn’t that be great? If we could live as though external validation was irrelevant. We would be truly free!
So my answer to these kinds of questions is simple: learn to love yourself and be OK with yourself.
#1. I can’t be alone. I need friends.
Practice being OK alone before making friends.
I see a lot of people who are terrified of being alone. Their sole objective is to surround themselves with friends. Only then can they feel validated and secure. What happens if you are alone for two hours, I ask. I feel scared, I can’t handle my thoughts, they tell me. Well, there lies the problem. Create a life you don’t need to escape from through other people. Practice sitting alone in a room with your thoughts for an hour every day. If you cannot find peace within, you will not find it outside. You will simply use people to satisfy your needs the way people drink water or consume food. That is not a healthy way to be – for yourself or others.
Yes, man is a social animal. We need people. But we cannot use people as bricks to make the house of our soul. Every person has to make their own soul, all by themselves in a room. Soul-making is not a social activity. It is a solitary activity. If people like the soul you have made for yourself, treat it as a bonus. But most of all, construct the beautiful soul by yourself, and for yourself.
#2. I feel vulnerable and tongue-tied before strangers. How do I overcome this?
Don’t be afraid of being yourself.
Feeling tongue-tied before strangers is the universe’s way of telling you that you are tongue-tied before your own mind, nature and contradictions. For if you are at peace with who you are, what is the need to fear an interaction with a stranger? The trick then is to know yourself, be comfortable with yourself, and, most of all, to accept and embrace who you are. When you know who you are and are comfortable with yourself – warts and all – the world becomes easier to face. And people will see you for what you are – clear, confident. Do this today: take one fatal flaw in your nature and own it. Accept it. Say, “I have a weakness for junk food” or “I don’t trust people at all” or “I can be very selfish and lazy at times.” Accept it completely. How does that feel?
#3 How do I make myself more attractive to others?
First, groom yourself. Then be yourself.
I like this question because I believe we all must make an effort to be more interesting to others. Not to advance ourselves, but simply because it’s worth it. The first thing to note is to groom ourselves. Nobody finds bad hair, bad skin or body odour interesting. So take care of that. Then be well-dressed. Well-tailored clothes and good shoes are a must. It’s not about brands. It’s about a sense of style. Now comes the best part. Be yourself. Whatever you do, be passionate about it. No apologies for being yourself. Take your weirdness and make it your signature without offending sentiments. People will remember it and love you for it.
Most of all do remember to put yourself first and to make your soul all by yourself. Make it lovingly and painstakingly. Make it without borrowing bricks from other people. Make an identity from which you do not need to escape through other people. Do this and all the other questions will automatically get answered.
Still confused? A good life coach or any extended form of life coaching can help you come unstuck and give you a sense of who you are and what is your purpose.
So tell me, what do you like about yourself? Come on, there must be at least one thing you’re proud of.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a leadership & transformation coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories. Sandhya’s services include Executive Coaching and Life Coaching.