But the thing that has plagued me since I was a child was the need to be liked.
I remember when I was in second grade. A girl named Dorian was the class bully and had set her sights on me. The best offense is a good defense, they say, and in my heart I believed that the way to get through elementary school was to be on neutral or friendly terms with all the kids at school. I wanted no trouble. The fact that someone outright didn't like me was very distressing.
So, I set out to rectify the issue.
She loved Pee Wee's Playhouse. (Who didn't? It was the 80s.) I was at the mall with my mom, and she had told me beforehand that I'd get to pick out a toy for some special reason that now eludes me. I saw a Pee Wee doll on a rack at K-B toys and knew what I had to do. I decidedly explained the plan to my mom and wondering why she had a perplexed look on her face. I don't think she said anything.
Dorian lit up when I gave her the doll. "Oh my God, it's PeeWee!" she shouted, the turquoise blue packaging radiating across her face. And that was that. She left me alone. I don't remember anything else about her except an awful story about her mom abusing the family cat. One day I saw her in the back of a Bikram yoga class as a late 20-something. She sweated miserably in what was clearly her first hot yoga experience. I would have felt somewhat appeased except that even to this day I don't see her as an enemy, just someone to keep at arm's length.
Obviously, this quality of wanting to be liked doesn't jive 100% with teaching. It's helped me be who I am--someone who can have an engaging conversation with virtually anyone and who can win over a crowd, or at least a classroom.
It's good to be thought of as a likable person, I suppose, but the distress that accompanies any perceived ill-will can be overwhelming. For the first few years of teaching I carried each and every student grudge--perceived or real, legitimate or not--against me around my chest like the albatross. I had dreams about Clara who complained that I graded way too harshly, Kevin who thought I didn't set up the assignments well. I checked RateMyProfessor often and soared with each positive review and plummeted with any negative ones.
It's gotten better over the years, thank goodness, and I now no longer sweat it when I know a student won't be getting the grade she has her sights set on. Still, I struggle to let it go when a student has decided to believe something about me that I feel is untrue (she cares only about stupid stuff, she's racist, out to get me, too stupid to recognize my genius, etc).
It would be such a relief to let the needing to be liked stuff go.