Updated: Dec 7, 2019
I think I was around twelve years old when one of my neighborhood friends told me that Mrs. C., a local mom whose kids were also my friends, had said that I was “an Eddie Haskell.”
I had never seen an episode of Leave it to Beaver, but even I, even then, intuited what that meant. And it wasn’t good.
The dictionary told me it meant I was an “insincere sycophant” with a “shallow and sneaky character.”
It stung then and to be honest, it still stings now–and I’ve carried that idea of me with me over the years.
In various self-reflective phases, I’ve tried to determine how true her assessment (assassination?) of my character actually was/is.
I do want to be liked. To the point where I can definitely be guilty of being an over-promiser and under-deliverer. I’ve said yes to so many things even when I don’t mean it or can’t do it or plan to cancel because I don’t want people to get upset and want them to love me always and forever.
Roxane Gay, in an essay in her book Bad Feminist, writes about likeability as “an elaborate lie, a performance…[and] characters who don’t follow this code become unlikeable.”
That’s interesting in the context of my own experience vis-a-vis Mrs. C., because if what Gay writes is true, I am in a double bind of dislike: I was apparently performing for her, but she STILL found me unlikeable.
Maybe these likeability “performances” are just more obvious than we think, and maybe, as Gay writes later, “This matter of likeability is largely a futile one.”
Gay brings it home for me when she concludes, “Perhaps saying ‘the truth hurts’ is what lies at the heart of worrying over likeability or lack thereof–how much of the truth we’re willing to subject ourselves to, how much we are willing to hurt…”
In accordance with my very first Pillar of Female Empowerment (Awareness and Insight) I've learned how to step outside my comfort zone, embrace a growth mindset...and be hurt.
Because understanding that pain is inevitable, especially when it comes to learning about myself (because apparently it’s not all roses and unicorns up in this sometimes-hot-mess called Leanne Kelly Shear), is part of the experience of being a goddamn human.
And that brings on the realization that the only real resource I have available is me, myself, and I, warts and all.
“Unlikeable women refuse to give in to…temptation [to worry about what other people think of them],” writes Gay. “They are, instead, themselves. They accept the consequences of their choices, and those consequences become stories worth reading.”
Speaking of choices (and stories worth reading!), when I announced the closure of Uplift, I had to deal with the hurt of closing a business and the hurt of a lot of people not liking me as a result.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” one client hissed at me, as I stared at her, mouth agape, and wide, teary eyes.
The fury, fear, and frustration of all of my employees when I--and they--realized I couldn’t keep things going anymore and in fact wasn’t able to pay them the full amount of their final paychecks. Fuck. Me.
“Are you giving refunds?” another few clients asked. No, I explained, because we literally ran out of money. There isn’t anything left to give refunds, plus to be totally honest, that would be hovering at somewhere around #11 on my list right now.
“Ok, then I’m going to sue you.”
So yes, a few people were angry and unsupportive or just downright cold and insensitive.
And because we humans are wired to give more weight to negative things (the good old negativity bias at work), it was really hard to see past them to the hundreds of positive and loving and supportive messages, overtures, cards and flowers, and hugs I received during the same time.
From that, I learned two things: first, even if our primitive brains initially see things the other way, the good almost always outweighs the bad, both inside us and especially with the outside world.
Second and super huge for me, and for you, I learned that nothing is personal even if it feels that way.
The guy that ghosted you? Not about you.
The acquaintance who block you on IG? More about them than you.
Even some major praise or a big win probably isn’t (all or just) about you.
With Mrs. C., who knows? Maybe the damaged little girl in me came out more strongly at that time, and it didn’t mix well with her own life experience.
Same thing with, I am sure, the numerous other people in my life who have crossed my path who didn’t (or don’t) like me and want nothing to do with me.
And that’s that.
But again, that isn’t necessarily even about me, and more importantly, it's not necessary for me to internalize it.
What is about me? I try my best. And “my best” keeps getting better. I have no choice but to forgive myself for all of my shortcomings and recognize that. It’s all fluid and evolving in a positive direction.
Because just like nothing is personal, nothing is final, either.