In his book, Kitchen Confidential, world-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain described his mentor asking him if he had any enemies.
“You know Anthony,” he said. “I have many, many enemies. It’s good, sometimes, to have enemies — even if you don’t know who they are. It means you are…important.”
I hate it when people don’t like me.
I hate it. I feel awful. I want to call them immediately and make up. I’ll do whatever it takes — just please take this awful feeling away.
After 4 years of writing, I had nothing to show for it — no followers, no views, seemingly no progress of any kind.
But finally, I started taking myself (and my work) seriously. Around year five, my writing exploded:
- I gained 20,000+ new email subscribers
- I received around 200,000+ views a month
- I signed my first book deal
- I made thousands of dollars/month from my writing
These incredible triumphs have also come with terrible lows, however.
I was publicly accused of plagiarizing and reported for it (it was an accident — I wish I could have explained my mistake privately).
Editors have fired me from their publications, telling me my writing is “annoying” and “not authentic.”
I’ve gotten countless emails from readers describing how stupid my writing is.
Don’t even get me started about the comment section.
What do you do when people don’t like you?
You can either fight a losing battle with your critics, or learn from them.
How to Unlearn Your Constant Need to Be Liked and Chosen
“When we are not chosen, we feel bad. When we are chosen — even by idiots — we feel good. We need to unlearn this imprisonment. Not dissect and analyze it. Just completely unlearn it.” -James Altucher
A lot of people are slaves to approval. They need it. Their entire image of themselves — their clothes, job, political views, what they eat, where they drink after work, their Instagram posts — is based on getting the all-important nod from others.
I was just like this. Growing up, I was an utter people-pleaser. It make me sick how much of a pushover I was.
For instance: I grew up in San Diego, and I was always a fan of our NFL team, the Chargers. I remember going to a party in college, and I mentioned I liked the Chargers to someone I had just met.
“The Chargers? They suck!” he proclaimed condescendingly. “They’re awful. They’re the worst team in football.”
“Yeah, totally,” I replied mechanically. “Yeah, they suck. They’re the worst. I don’t even know why I’m a fan.”
I drove home that night hating myself. I couldn’t even stand up about which football team I liked to a jerk at a party. What was wrong with me?
I had a severe need to be liked and chosen, and it was crippling my integrity.
My fear of being disliked was more powerful than my personal integrity. I wasn’t being me. And as David Kadavy once wrote:
“When our true self doesn’t get a chance to follow its desires — when it doesn’t get the creative exercise necessary to arm it with a vocabulary in which to express itself — it acts out in strange ways.”
Waking up every day knowing people don’t like you will hurt. It feels terrible sometimes.
But not being you will destroy you. A life lived for “them” is ultimately a life wasted.
At first, I was terrified of being disliked. But once I started to take a stand, I got critics, sure — but I also started getting emails every week from readers saying how much my writing has changed their life and how grateful they are for it.
“Personal incongruency is what causes so much of our pain. Not being you will destroy you.” -Tim Denning
If You Want to Get Better, Be Content With Ridicule
“You can’t be an important and life-changing presence to some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.”
-Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck
Thousands of years ago, the great philosopher Epictetus remarked:
“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
Greatness is only possible if you embrace the fact that you’re probably going to look like a fool in the process.
Most people are almost entirely unwilling to look stupid. The risk of getting laughed at, the jeering and burning cheeks…it’s too much. No way.
This is how the world conditions you to behave. As best-selling author Grant Cardone once wrote, “Take into account that you have been educated with restrictions. Be aware of this so that you don’t underestimate the possibilities.”
Nobody ever said anything mean to me in my first 4 years of writing…probably because I was so scared of rejection, my writing was awful — so no one ever commented!
I censored everything. I published every article only after asking myself, “Nobody could get mad at this, right??”
It wasn’t until I started taking a stand, and making controversial points that I knew lots of people would hate, but that some people would love.
If you want to become a better version of yourself, accept you’re going to get laughed at.
People will dislike you. They will try to bring you down, for reasons you don’t understand.
That’s OK. The more you know this, and the more you learn from them, the faster you’ll improve.
“The great achievements in this world are reserved for those willing to look like a fool in the eyes of society.” -Chad Grills
The More You’re Disliked, the More Important You’re Getting
“The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth.” -Ryan Holiday
When a basketball player is really good, opposing teams will often double and triple-team them. They will leave their opponents wide open and opt to gang up on the better player.
That’s kind of what being disliked feels like.
But the reason players get ganged up on is precisely because they’re so good.
They demand respect. They attract more obstacles, more pressure, and more difficulties than the average.
The same is true with you. It is only when you do important things that you garner the ire and dislike of others. But with that disdain comes respect, if only begrudgingly.
When you’re disliked, it means you’re important. It means you’re someone to reckon with.
Granted, being disliked doesn’t feel good. I hate it at times.
But that’s OK for me, and for you. As Ted Talk speaker Bill Eckstrom once said:
“Only in a state of discomfort can you grow.”
Of course, you can be disliked for just being a total jerk with hurtful opinions; many people rightfully are. But that’s not what we’re talking about.
The truth is, if you want to become a more secure person, the more you should lean into criticism. As author Ryan Holiday wrote in The Obstacle is the Way, “Bad things are fuel. And you don’t just want fuel — you need it. You can’t go anywhere without it.
I could have kept writing safe, stale content and avoided any criticism for years. But I chose to move into discomfort and risk. The result? Criticism, sometimes extremely harsh and hurtful.
But I’ve also achieved 1000x more success in my writing.
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” -George Addai
The Right (and Wrong) Way to Deal With Critics
“The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.” -Marcus Aurelius
When someone hurts me, I want to hurt them back.
That’s my natural instinct. I want them to feel as bad as they made me feel.
Critics make you crazy. They can make you do crazy things. The first time I ever cussed was in 4th grade. I was playing basketball against a mean 5th grader named Zack.
He had been bullying me all game. Eventually, I fouled him.
He was angry. “Fuck you!” he spit at me.
“Well…fuck you too!” I spat back, bewildered and seeing red.
This is how most people respond to criticism and dislike.
The right way to respond to dislike is by learning from it. Not to appease them, mind you — but to solidify who you are and what you stand for.
Critics, in my opinion, are one of the best teachers you can possibly have. You know they won’t hold back any punches. You know they’ll be brutally honest. In their attempt to wound you, they reveal an extremely valuable secret — what you need to work on.
The wrong way to deal with critics is to stoop low and retaliate.
The right way is to objectively process their dislike, and determine if it’s warranted or not. If it is, then improve and change.
If it’s not, then forget about them. Don’t even think about them for another instant.
It sucks to be disliked.
It’s haunted me. I’ve lost sleep over people rejecting me, telling me I’m stupid, and saying they don’t like me. I still get flashbacks of when all my friends in 2nd grade kicked me out of the group and threw rocks at me at recess.
But dislike reveals progress. It shows personal growth and evolution. It’s proof you’re an important player, someone to be reckoned with.
Don’t stoop to childish levels and retaliate. Don’t get resentful and hateful in return. Try your best not to get upset and lose sleep (easier said than done).
Learn from them. Ask yourself if you really should change something. Be willing to be humble and improve, not stagnate in pride.
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