As part of our #BREAKFREE from Likes campaign, one mother writes to her daughter - and explains why being 'liked' will hold her back...
There’s something you should know: I like you.
It’s handy really. We’re inextricably linked by DNA and stretch marks, it would be awkward if I didn’t. That said, whilst ‘like’ is nice and ‘love’ will last forever, there may come a time when the feeling isn’t mutual. I see that already, whenever I sing or dance in public. You’re seven, and you’ve got that eye-roll down.
The thing you should know – what I’m trying, awkwardly, to say – is this. Being liked is not a pre-requisite in life. It’s not required to breathe. In some cases, it’s just a bonus. Like the extra dollop of ice cream on an already over flowing cone.
Whether we are born this way or learn it as we go, we all try to be liked. We seek external validation just to function, day after day. In school, at work, through family gatherings – surrounded by second cousins, twice removed. But social media makes it worse.
Because, when my Instagram posts of avocado on toast go unnoticed by The Cool People Of The Internet, it feels like a kick in the teeth. (It IS still relevant, Nigella’s ‘recipe’ WAS a taste sensation and no, I don’t want to upload a picture of an artily-shot, heavily-filtered tree trunk.)
Of course, if someone doesn’t like you, it might matter a lot. But it also might not.
It depends on who it is.
It depends on why they came to that decision.
It depends on if, and how you fueled their fire.
What is not okay, however, is to go through life hiding from the things you want to do, or say, or be, ‘just in case’.
Saving face, striving for acceptance, conforming to whatever stereotype your generation presents as perfect will never make you happy. Hollow likes take more than they give.
That’s why this is a letter to me, too.
When you do things that portray your total and inherent, seven-year-old self-confidence, there’s a giant part of me that is so very proud. You trust and believe in who you are – so clearly – and that’s amazing. It’s more than amazing. It’s inspiring and brilliant and joyous. Yet, there’s a part of me, secretly and shamefully, that worries people might think you’re obnoxious: too full of yourself or arrogant. And that anyone might think those things makes me scared.
I don’t know why I care what they think. I know you; I know your motivations; I know your heart. What does it matter what anyone else thinks? If I encourage you to play down your true self, to fit in and be liked, what size is the disservice I give to you? What damage could I do?
Protecting you will never be shaping you to ‘fit in’. Because most of us, on some scale, never do. So often we fake it till we make it and hope we pick up likes along the way. Maybe now is the time to stop, before I pass it on.
So here is my pledge to you: from this day forward, I hope to lead by example. To show you, through my own actions, that who we are is valuable – irrespective of social media followers, the nod of acceptance from the person you vaguely know, or the like on your picture of delicious breakfast. (Thank you Nigella. Thank you.)
I’ve spent too long thinking that being liked should be the foundation of my self worth. It’s held me back, and stopped me doing the things I wanted to do.
You, my daughter, are brilliant. You should do, be, say and feel your own truth, regardless of the likes on your page.
You are in fact, teaching me.
And I like that.
Find out more about our #BREAKFREE campaign here, and get involved!