How do you overcome the fear of being disliked by others? Here are my tips to build the courage to be disliked and challenge the status quo.

FACT: Standing up for yourself is scary.

Especially if you’re feeling the need to be liked.

How do I know this? 

Because whenever I decide to do or say something, not in line with the status quo – which is pretty much every day – I feel fear creep in.

The fear of being disliked, judged, criticised, laughed at, left out, yelled at, you name it. 

I used to believe, like so many women, that being “likeable” was the most desirable trait. 

I was a people-pleaser at my own expense.

I’d say yes to things I felt I ‘should’ do then feel exhausted and depleted afterwards – resenting my decision AND the person I thought asked too much of me. 

I used to be very familiar with the fear of being disliked, judged, criticised, laughed at, left out or yelled at. Until I started to set boundaries. Image: Lyndi Cohen
I used to be very familiar with the fear of being disliked, judged, criticised, laughed at, left out or yelled at. Until I started to set boundaries. Image: Lyndi Cohen

Setting boundaries helps keep you healthy, with enough energy for yourself.

Do you ever feel:

  • Like you do things because you should?–  If I don’t do it, she won’t like me
  • Scared of saying “no” – If I don’t agree, he will think I’m boring
  • Afraid to stand up for yourself – If I ask them to stop commenting on my weight, they won’t understand
  • Like you mirror the people around you, even if it feels wrong – Everyone else is saying yes, so I better say yes as well. 

The truth is, we all crave the freedom to be ourselves. 

To say what we really think, eat what we want to eat, wear what we want to wear, and openly share what we believe. 

But we also want to feel loved and accepted.

Life has tricked us into believing we’ll only be loved if we show up as the prettiest, happiest, thinnest version of ourselves… and push anything “undesirable” deep down where no one can see it.  

“But I just want to be liked”

There are days when the fear of being disliked will be enough to keep you quiet so you go with the flow – even if feels all wrong.

But here’s the thing… 

Prentis Hemphill famously said: Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.

If you’re constantly serving others – and doing what you think is expected of you instead of what you really want to be doing – you’ll become depleted and low in energy.

While setting clear, healthy boundaries is essential, so is accepting that it’s OK if not everyone likes and agrees with you. It’s difficult but oh-so-important to learn how to accept being disliked. 

No matter what you do, what you look like, how much you weigh, what you wear or what you believe, there will always be someone who doesn’t accept you.

You can be the world’s juiciest peach, and yet some people simply don’t enjoy peaches.

Ready to feel the fear of being disliked and write or wear or dance it anyway? Image: Unsplash
Ready to feel the fear of being disliked and write or wear or dance it anyway? Image: Unsplash

So many people I know end up being the passenger in their own life (as I used to be). But you – my dear – you are the main character in your life. You need to be in the driver’s seat, and choose which direction to go.

But to do this, you need strong healthy boundaries and the ability to say NO – even if means being unliked.

Why it’s important to overcome the fear of being disliked

Accepting that being disliked is inevitable frees you up to choose what you REALLY want to do – instead of living your life for other people.

According to palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, the most common regret of the dying is this: 

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

Courage is a choice. Your choice.

It takes courage to create change and challenge the status quo. 

It takes courage to face the fear of being disliked.

I get why it’s so hard. Common sense and human instinct make us not want to be hated.

So saying NO when people ask too much of you or standing up for yourself means you have to have courage.

The beauty is when we have the courage to show up as our REAL selves, we also give the people around us permission to do the same. And it’s a relief to those around us because now they can finally speak their mind too. Courage is contagious.

How to overcome the fear of being disliked

So, wondering if there are any tricks that’ll help you learn how to be ok with not being liked? I’ve got a few strategies up my sleeve that you can practice if you want to learn how to deal with not being liked.

Ready to feel the fear and do – or say or write or wear or dance – it anyway?

Here are 6 challenges to build the courage to be disliked and challenge the status quo.

Let’s do this:

CHALLENGE #1 – Care enough about yourself to say no

People are going to continue to ask too much from you. That you can’t control.

You can either get angry with them for asking too much of you (but this method doesn’t work, I’ve tried) OR you can get good at setting clear boundaries.

Here’s my own example: About once a week I get an email asking me to work for free. I’ve agreed in the past but these types of requests always drain my energy and leave me feeling resentful.

Instead of getting angry at people for asking me to work for free, I realised that I was the boss of my boundaries. So now I use this phrase to guide me:

If it’s not a ‘Hell Yes!’ then it’s a ‘No Thanks’.

In other words, if it doesn’t light you up and excite you from the very start – if you have to think about it – then it’s probably best to say no.

People will always ask too much of you. It’s up to you to enforce your own boundaries because no one is going to do it for you.

You need to care enough about yourself to say no.

If it's not a 'Hell Yes!' then it's a 'No Thanks'. Image: Unsplash
If it’s not a ‘Hell Yes!’ then it’s a ‘No Thanks’. Image: Unsplash

CHALLENGE #2  – Say yes to yourself first

Paulo Coelho said it best: “When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.”

If you aren’t ready to make drastic life changes, start small. 

Instead of saying yes to dinner with someone who spends the entire night talking about themselves… suggest a 30-minute coffee catch-up instead.

Sure, it might feel uncomfortable at first. 

The discomfort of saying no is better than resenting it later.

Chances are, your friend will be totally fine with it, and you will get 90 minutes of your life back.

Here’s another example.

I’ve noticed many women do this thing where you make all of your family members lunch to take to school/work but then don’t make yourself food.

It’s really important that you prioritise feeding yourself nutritious food – just as you try to feed your family.

Here’s my challenge for you: When you are next making food for the family, make your food first and then provide for others.

“You are worthy of the life you so easily give to others” – unknown

You might like this poddy episode: 15 ways I learned to love my body

Podcast No Wellness Wankery

CHALLENGE #3 – Speak your mind (kindly)

If you sit on the fence for too long you’ll end up with splinters on your bum.

So now it’s time to let your words and actions reflect what you actually believe to be true.

Chances are, if you speak your truth and stand up for yourself, not everyone will be happy about it. And that’s OK.

My advice? Be kind.

It’s really hard to be mean to someone who is genuinely kind. And if they are mean about it, then it says more about their insecurity and fear than it does about you. 

Also, I think it’s a good idea to share your opinion as it happens instead of bottling it all up and then one day erupting. 

CHALLENGE #4 – Remind yourself what brings you joy

In order to set healthy boundaries, first, get curious about what brings makes you happy – and what doesn’t.

Spend a day asking yourself if you like/enjoy/agree with the things you do, see or hear. 

Try not to put any judgement behind it. Just notice if your mind or body feels open or closed to it. 

If you normally agree with your partner or a friend because ‘it’s easier’, take a moment to really think about what you want.

Here’s an example of what I figured out:

  • I don’t like watching scary films. I’d prefer to read a book.
  • Being busy all the time makes me feel depleted.
  • I’d rather spend time with my friend in person than text.
  • Being on social media for too long makes me feel anxious and not-good-enough.

You may be surprised by what doesn’t bring you joy, which will help you get clearer on what actually does.

What brings you joy? Image: Unsplash
What brings you joy? Image: Unsplash

It’s liberating to finally be aware of how crappy it feels when your actions or words don’t align with what you actually believe. 

And once you start noticing when things don’t feel “right”, it’ll be hard to ignore.

The next time someone asks you what movie you want to watch, what you feel like eating or whether you have spare time – speak up and stand up for yourself.

CHALLENGE #5 – What’s the worst that can happen?

I’m not a superstitious person. If you’re not either, hear me out.

Grab a piece of paper and write down the worst thing that could happen if you do X.

For example, what’s the worst that can happen if:

  • I tell my boss I believe I deserve a promotion? I don’t get the promotion
  • I stop meeting my friend for dinners → They get offended and we will drift apart as friends
  • I finally sign up for that beginner Hip Hop class I seriously suck at dancing hip ho
  • I don’t send that chainmail to 15 of my closest friends → Nothing will happen – no one will die.

Now – is it really that bad? 

If it is that bad, then of course reconsider. 

But if it’s not… let’s potentially fail/embarrass ourselves together :)

I’ll be right there next to you!

CHALLENGE #6 – Practice until it becomes a habit

If something is worth fighting for, chances are it’s not going to be easy. 

Being courageous is a habit.

And it’s still something I struggle with every day.

Sometimes, I’m so overwhelmed by how much still needs to change in the wellness industry that I contemplate moving to Costa Rica and raising a family of sloths (true story). 

So when life gets overwhelming, take a step back, get some clarity, seek out the help you need, and get back on the proverbial horse. 

Because by practising courage, you are putting your desires first, and lighting the way for the dreams of those around you.   

And that’s worth a few dislikes. 

What have you always wished for the courage to do?

How have you learned to set healthy boundaries and put yourself first?

If you want to dig deeper into this topic, try reading these books:

  • The Top Five Regrets of The Dying by Bronnie Ware
  • The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
  • Me Time by Jessica Sanders

Other ways I can support you:

📱 Want to be healthy but can’t handle going on another pesky diet? My Back to Basics App has everything you need. Try it FREE for 7-days.

🎙️ Listen to my podcast No Wellness Wankery, which will help you sidestep wellness wankery (phew!) so you can be healthy without dieting and feel better in your already wonderful body.

💜 Want help with binge or emotional eating? Check out my online program Keep It Real. It’s already helped thousands of people create a healthier, more balanced and intuitive relationship with food.

🥙 Just looking for recipe inspo? You’ll be stoked to find hundreds of FREE, deliciously simple recipes on my website!

Free Meal Plan Download. Image: Lyndi Cohen
Download my FREE meal plan! Hint: It might be different from any meal plan you’ve seen before…