How can I get people to like me?

Originally appeared online in the teen series: Q&A - October 22, 2019

Q: How can I get people to like me?

A: At school I was desperate to be liked, and in particular, to be one of the popular kids. The “cool” kids bullied me a lot, so I figured that if I could just be friends with them, the bullying would stop. 

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I was thrilled when Luke, one of the coolest guys in school, started talking to me online one day. He opened up to me about his life, and he told me that I was pretty and that he had a crush on me. These long online conversations continued, and I didn’t mind that Luke wouldn’t talk to me in front of his friends at school. I was just excited that someone was showing an interest in me. 

One evening, Luke told me that if I would take my top off for him on a video call, then he would be my boyfriend and talk to me at school. Although I felt pretty uncomfortable, I liked Luke, and felt that getting a boyfriend and having the cool kids like me far outweighed any negatives. So I upheld my end of the bargain, and then went to school the next day thinking all my problems were solved. 

The reality was pretty different. Everyone was laughing at me and giving me weird looks. It turned out that Luke had told my whole class what I’d done. Not only was he not my boyfriend, but he even thought it was funny that I would think he liked me. My plan had completely backfired, and I wished I could hide in a hole and never have to interact with anyone at school again. 

I was grateful that it wasn’t too long before the drama at school died down, and my peers forgot about the whole thing. But I’m more grateful that this experience was a turning point for me. I started to learn a little more about genuine friendships and how to make them. I knew that a real friend wouldn’t ask me to do something I felt uncomfortable with. And I never felt pressured into doing something like that again.

The most reassuring thing I’ve learned is that whether or not we feel liked at any given moment, each one of us is loved by God.

I also realized that getting people to like you is less about being funny or interesting or pretty, and more about being approachable and kind and selfless. You may have heard the phrase “What would Jesus do?” It might sound cheesy, but I’ve found that it can be a pretty good question to ask when it comes to friendships. People were literally drawn to Jesus; they couldn’t help but want to be around him and be near him. It can be helpful to think through some of the qualities Jesus expressed that made him attractive. For example, he was humble, kind, loving, gentle, and didn’t judge people by their appearance or by their mistakes or weaknesses. Fortunately, these attributes aren’t unique to him. I’d learned in the Christian Science Sunday School that because we reflect God and all of His goodness, each of us must also include, and can express, these qualities. Recognizing this can help us more actively embody love, kindness, compassion, and many other good qualities in our daily lives.

The most reassuring thing I’ve learned is that whether or not we feel liked at any given moment, each one of us is loved by God. This isn’t an intangible type of love; it’s actually a very secure, solid feeling of knowing that wherever we go, we’re safe, cherished, known, and valued, because God loves His creation. This is a permanently established fact of our being. We don’t need to earn it; it just is. Jesus knew he was loved by God, and that’s what allowed him to do all that he did. The same is true for us. 

Now, when I find myself worrying about whether someone will like me, I remember this foundational fact: I am always loved by God. Knowing this helps me become aware of the truly attractive qualities that I reflect and am able to express toward others. I’m grateful to have learned that when we let go of feeling that we need to impress people, our friendships are so much deeper, more genuine, and full of love.

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