That Fear of Not Being Liked
Last night, I was reading a small book full of big truths: "We all should be feminists," written by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. What stroke me was one of her arguments in which she states that women are educated to "please" everyone, and because of this we live in fear of not being liked, which becomes a cage for our self-expression.
Chimananda brings up situations in when female executives have to lead difficult conversations with their subordinates, and they are criticized for being too strict, strong and masculine. She contrasts these situations with a male executive having such conversation and resulting in being exalted by those subordinates, as an efficient leader who does whatever he has to do to achieve the common good, business growth and increase productivity.
And just this morning, a very close friend wrote me and asked me why whenever she must have a difficult conversation with the work team she leads, she feels a lump in her throat and a sense of physical discomfort that makes her feel weak and want to run away. I spoke to her of Chimananda's words, and I told her how I identify myself with that culture in which we are raised and educated to be respectful and careful to "be liked" at the expense of our effectiveness as leaders, our professional productivity and even our happiness.
These inherited cultural conversations are perhaps one of the reasons behind all the atrocities that we have been victims of and that have been evidenced by testimonies such as that of the #MeToo movement. Women have been educated "to be liked," shaped by societies that value "being a good girl" (at any cost) as the correct female behavior. As a result, when faced with the strength of an assertive man, sometimes our response is to be silent and act as if we agreed to step over ourselves, whether in negotiating of our salary or in allowing situations that bother us on a personal and even intimate level.
I invite all of us to stop being victims and to assume a position of power, to take responsibility for our life and our happiness. We will have to have many difficult conversations in our lives, and the way of breaking those paradigms and limiting conversations that we inherited is to breathe deeply, love ourselves, and fill ourselves with Light. From that love, we will be able to assume leadership positions, act empowered and know that with that power we are not only strengthening ourselves, but also making the companies, institutions, and people around us stronger.
The world benefits when, not only women but all of us, assume our real power and from self-love and the love for what we are building, which is larger than ourselves, we generate Light, far beyond conversations that come from and terminate in ego, such as "I hope he/she likes me".