I want people to love me. More than that, I want them to like me. I want them to think I’m funny, smart, helpful, wise, kind, intuitive, quick-witted. I want them to like my Instagram and LinkedIn posts, and I want them to live for Saturday mornings when my newsletter gets sent.
I blogged for years until I finally faced the fact that no one read blogs anymore. I started sending a weekly newsletter instead about 6 months ago. With blogging, I couldn’t tell who was reading or not. With a newsletter, I get a little taunt in my inbox every time someone unsubscribes.
When this started happening, I over-analyzed why a particular friend, colleague, or client might not want to hear from me anymore. Are they upset with me? Do they think I’m annoying? Is my writing not striking the right tone anymore? Am I bugging them?
Of course, it might be “Yes!” to all of those questions, and all of that is okay. In fact, it might even be a gift.
I heard Rick and Forest Hanson talking on this podcast about dating and the gift that rejection can be in that context. It can also be a gift in other contexts. I’m not talking about being rejected for who you fundamentally are or for identity markers like gender, race, class, ability, age, or all the other ways we manage to oppress one another. I’m talking about some people just not wanting to be in your orbit.
I am not everybody’s cup of tea. You are not everybody’s cup of tea! And why should we be? We are very particular bundles of personality, life experience, opinions, volume and energy levels, skills, and wounds. It’s kind of amazing we find kinship at all with one another! It makes perfect sense that some people might think, “She’s not my jam.”
The trick is not to take it personally. As a woman, I’m especially prone to the niceness trap. I was taught that making others feel comfortable was my highest calling. And that if I did that, people would like me.
It’s such a joy to teach my 15-year-old daughter that niceness is not a virtue. Kindness, honesty, justice, creativity, authenticity, courage—those trump niceness every time. And that means some people will “unsubscribe.” We can hold them as able, trusting they are deciding what’s good for them and good for us. Rejection can be a gift, allowing us to keep becoming who we most are. In biology, this is called “autopoiesis”—the acorn cannot help but become the oak tree. Who we are becoming is already inside us, and sometimes that growing process takes some room.
And the reverse is true—just as some folks may want to unsubscribe from you, maybe you have a few lists you want off of. Obligations, relationships that aren’t lifegiving anymore, email or text strings you’re desperate to remove yourself from but you don’t want to look like a jerk.
Do it. Leave it! Spread your big, gorgeous branches and become the oak tree that’s ready to take up space. You aren’t for everyone. Yay!
P.S. If you supervise people in a work context, some of them may decide that they want to unsubscribe from you. This is painful and frustrating, and you can’t very well ignore them. My tidbit about this: They need a fair, consistent boss more than they need someone they like. My longer tidbit about this: Schedule a consultation with me. This is hard, and there aren’t easy answers.