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Letting Go of the Need for Likes

I was talking with a coaching client recently about the pressure he feels in modern society to be “liked,” but he didn’t mean it in the traditional sense completely. He was talking mostly about the self he shares with the public via social media and the desire to post things that will be liked. I have been aware of that recently too.

I post on about six different Facebook pages that I moderate, sometimes daily, and when I’m traveling, less often. Before I post for the current day, I often go back and review the previous day’s discussion or likes to see what generated interest and conversation. I admit to being completely flabbergasted most days that something posted flippantly and off the cuff might generate a ton of likes, shares and comments, and something thoughtful that I took more time to formulate or share – nada.

It can be frustrating to create content (which is what I do quite a bit with discussion prompts, telecourses, retreats, theme trips, blogs, books, articles, speeches, etc, etc) and feel like people aren’t interested, or worse, didn’t even notice. Frustration and the question of whether or not I am making a difference with all the work that I do seem to be present when I notice a dearth of likes or shares or comments.

And then I get a text from a college friend I haven’t seen in 25 years telling me she liked my blog, and an email from a university president saying my book has made a huge difference for her family as her brother navigates a terminal brain cancer diagnosis, and a note from a client telling me my coaching “saved her life.” It’s difficult to believe in those moments that I was concerned even for a split second about a lack of Facebook likes.

Authors, speakers, musicians, artists and poets aren’t just putting out content. We are often sharing the deepest part of ourselves; vulnerably putting our hearts out into the world. Because of that, we have a strong desire to measure the impact that our authenticity has made. The “feedback” we get is often inadequate for really measuring that – book or record sales, art prices, being published, radio airplays, retreat registrations, book sales, or likes, comments and shares on social media.

As a coach, I tell my clients all the time, “What other people think of you is none of your business.” Time to practice what I preach. However, we all want to know that we make a difference, that we matter, that others are “picking up what we’re putting down,” so to speak. As I trust my intuition more and more, I feel freer to speak my truth, say what needs to be said, share what I feel compelled to share and let go of the outcome.

That’s not always easy when someone is offended by my honesty, disagrees with my point-of-view or is simply triggered by their own stuff, but it is always preferable (for me) to saying what I think someone wants to hear, going along to get along and dying a little bit inside each time I step over something that was calling out to be acknowledged. I did that for years and years, and it rotted me from the inside, or, sometimes, exploded in a giant fit of rage when I couldn’t stuff it down anymore. Neither of those approaches work.

Being a coach requires telling the truth, without concern for being liked. In reality, that is the only reason people hire me – to give them a different perspective, and to say what their friends and family (who have to live with them everyday) probably won’t say, in a way that can be heard because it doesn’t come with a bunch of personal baggage attached. Coaching others has forced me to sacrifice any personal desire to be liked in order to be a stand for my clients’ healing.

How does your need to be liked get in the way of your honesty? How have you sacrificed your own integrity to avoid a disagreement? How have you worn a mask or hidden who you really are in order to be popular? We all do this regularly, and often without taking notice. It has become a bad habit, and one that promises to keep us trapped in an identity that is not really our own, scared to be ourselves for fear of not being liked.

Every time someone tells me that they love my blog, when I didn’t even know they were reading it, or mentions a social media post from weeks ago (that they didn’t “like” or comment on at the time), or tells me that something I said to them helped them see things differently, I am reminded how important it is to keep sharing my truth, even when it’s difficult, even when I’m scared, and even when I get push-back or someone takes offense. Because I know that what other people think of me is none of my business!

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