This is a post altered and expanded from what started as a comment on a Facebook thread related to the below video of author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (full disclosure – I am unfamiliar with her writing but am now crushing hardcore and about to embark on an Amazon Prime quest for her work). I did not want to lose my thoughts on this topic, or keep them buried in a thread; sometimes this is how posts are born…
“Likeability.” This 5 minute video is lovely, but you can skip to around 3:14 for Adichie’s thoughts on “likeability.”
The idea of “likeability” is a bit of a hot button with me… I’d like to see more pleasant kindness and compassion in life in general – and people who are pleasantly kind and compassionate are typically very “likeable.” But – for me – living with the filter of “likeability” is no way to live. Constantly not sharing ideas, opinions, or stories that are essential to your being because you are scared of someone not liking you if you did is – to me – stupid. I’ve tried at many points of my life. And it always sucked. And I lost a bit of myself every time I consciously filtered. It sat in my soul uncomfortably. Plus – I don’t want to be liked based on the filtered version of myself. I deserve more than that. We all do. If I am liked, I want it to be for who I *really* am at my core. Which means being truthful. And in being truthful, you don’t have to be unpleasant or unkind to people – because tact and compassion are still things to use. In fact I think sharing your truth is actually much kinder than a “likeable” facade – even if it is a little rougher going at times. I’d rather people let me see them for who they truly are and get hurt or offended right off the bat than be lulled into a sense of secure, “likeableness” with someone who is not being honest in our interactions because they don’t want me to dislike them. Plus repressed selves always seep their truths out in other ways – often very passive aggressive, more damaging ways than if folks were just owning their gnarly edges from the start.
I don’t have time for that.
If I want to know you, I want to *know* you in your own skin, owning your personhood for the unique, fascinating individual universe you are – the “likeable” and “unlikeable.” And I’ll let you see my universe, too.
Extending this to artistic endeavors – specifically with the written word which Adichie is addressing – you can’t be worried about who you may offend or who may not like you because of the story you have to share. The filter of “likeability” doesn’t allow people to be authentic and true to creation because that filter demands that you reign in and judge honest, visceral reactions – particularly to hard or ugly stuff. But the hard and ugly stuff is so important to honestly put out there, too, or else people are left to struggle through being human on their own without knowing that others have thought, felt, questioned, and struggled in the same way.
Filtering by “likeability” is isolating – not just to an individual but to culture as a whole.
This is something I am keenly aware of in the space of this blog because no story I share is just *mine*; all stories involve other people (directly or indirectly), some of whom may be offended by what I choose to write. For the more personal posts involving others – even seemingly peripherally – I let myself word-vomit a completely unfiltered draft and hold nothing back. Then I will edit with kindness and compassion in mind while keeping the integrity of my truth intact. Sometimes that results in posting something that may still make others upset or uncomfortable; I am positive there are those who have read a post or two and gone “NOPE! Don’t like that chick,” or “She’s too much,” or “What a weirdo.” And I’ve grown OK with that. Because my intent is never to harm or hurt another person; my intent is to share bits of my life in order to connect with others and – through sharing – understand this world of humans a little bit better than I previously did.
I have more things to say. There are more stories that want out. And I don’t want to be “liked” by everyone … I want to be honest. I want to be truthful. I want to be understood. And – ultimately – I want to be cared for by those who want to know me for who I actually am, unfiltered. And on my body is a written reminder: “Trust your heart, and trust your story.”