So earlier this week me and a couple of mates went to a comedy night at a local bar.We had agreed that we could do with a bit of laughs and being a Monday there was not much else on the social calendar to do so off we went .(My Monday’s are usually reserved for Monday night football but being the International break my interest levels were low ).We laughed and it’s safe to say our Mondayitis was quickly cured .That cliche laughter is the best medicine rang true .
One thing that has always struck about comedy and in particular comedians is how observant and perceptive they are of the human condition and how they seem to be able to transform some of our misfortunes and manipulate them in their efforts to solicit laughter from the audience with success. Another interesting facet about comedians is their role as social commentators and they manage to tackle social issues and are able to make us as society or as individuals look into the proverbial mirror.This usually puts us in a head on collision with our flaws by working to disarm our defensive instincts . Comedians achieve this by camouflaging their social commentary with humour , there by reducing the sting that we might otherwise feel from such home truths.
One of the jokes that resonated strongly and which I must admit made me laugh rather uncomfortably was about people who like their own Facebook status.The social analysis on which that joke drew its material from was the whole idea of wanting to be liked .This comedian in particular rounded off the joke saying that if Facebook ever shut down , you would see these people who want to be liked running around the streets with a picture asking people if they liked it .I laughed ( you had to be there )
After the show and as the laughter faded away I became reflective .I questioned why I had laughed so hard at that particular joke , whilst my mates who had found the joke funny too hadn’t laughed as hard . It was in this moment that I realised that I was in my own way trying to take the sting out of a joke which I was reluctant to admit had hit a bit too close to home . I must point out that I’m not one to like my own status .But I did relate to the whole idea of wanting to be liked and I will admit that it has got me caught up in a few compromising situations in the past.
This reminded me of something else that I head read about a while ago dealt with the concept of “The nice guy contract “I came across this nice guy contract when I was struggling with letting go of some of the relationships I had been part of and this Nice guy contract was just the epiphany I needed to gain clarity and courage to make some changes. Until that epiphany, I had no idea what a Nice Guy Contract was, much less that it had been the standard contract I consistently signed with almost everyone in my life. But in that startling moment of clarity I understood not only what it was but why I kept signing it: my self esteem, which I’d previously believed to be built on things solely internal, was in fact entirely dependent on something external,the good will of others. Basically the idea behind my particular Nice Guy Contract was simple: I would agree to be nice to you, to advise you, to sacrifice for you, to care about you and in return you would agree to believe that I was wise, compassionate, excellent as a human being in every way, and finally and most importantly, you would LIKE me.To quote one of may favourite TV characters Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother , You would think I was “Awesome”.
In order to better understand how the Nice guy contract worked in my case I will refer a break up I had a whole ago . This particular break up was the straw that broke the camel’s back and enabled me to free myself of all the nice guy contracts I had unwittingly signed .Like many break ups,the end came in stutters and sine waves rather than just as an abrupt but mercifully irreversible amputation. What was even more pathetic , and for reasons I didn’t understand at the time is that I quickly began to resent, my ex when she continued to ask favours of me. I grudgingly continued to grant them.Even though I wanted to say no.The reason I remained unable to say no was that I’d established a Nice Guy Contract with her.Something I only figured out in retrospect and only after I had had my epiphany .The only difference in this case being I didn’t just expect to be liked; I expected to be loved. And for a while, I was. Unfortunately, once I’d had a taste of that love, it became my ego’s addiction, and when she took it away from me I became profoundly depressed, not because, as I originally thought, I’d been left by someone I thought was the “love”of my life, but because I genuinely believed without that someone I couldn’t be happy. Sadly some part of me believed if I continued to fulfill my contractual obligations to her, she’d start fulfilling hers again to me. To say I was shocked to discover my self esteem had been built on such shaky ground would be an understatement!
I didn’t realise it at the time, but when I had that epiphany about my propensity to sign Nice Guy Contracts with everyone in my life, I suddenly stopped doing it. This was proven to me months later when a friend confronted me asking why I had become such a douchebag to some of my “friends”. My initial instinct was to go on the defensive and deny it. But then I stopped myself, realising that he was absolutely right. I was a douchebag to some of these so called ” friends”.I then began to wonder why I had in fact become so dismissive of some of my “friends”and realised that I’d somehow stopped needing their approval to sustain my self esteem and had somehow ripped up all the Nice Guy Contracts I’d signed with them (these were people, it turned out, with whom I had little in common to bind us together in genuine friendship). I’d somehow discovered a way to love and value myself without feeding off the love and esteem of anyone else.At that very moment I proposed a mental toast to myself …a toast to the douchebag!
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with wanting to be liked. At the same time I am not claiming that I no longer care if I’m liked or not. What I am saying is that in freeing myself from the NEED to be liked, in learning to derive my self-esteem from internal support systems.I can more easily let go of the dissonance that (still) occurs when I’m disliked. Ridding myself of the need to sign Nice Guy Contracts has been liberating.
I have stopped being obsessed with people liking me .I am now constantly working on establishing more authentic relationships.Relationships based on mutual interest, free of the underlying agenda in which I would use the goodwill of others as a crutch for my self esteem and to feed my ego. The most important side effect and welcome benefit has been that I have been able to tone down the incidents were I have had explosive expressions of pent up resentment. Not being able to say no leads to resentment toward oneself that often gets projected onto others but that is paradoxically rarely expressed (becoming angry at someone would violate the terms of the Nice Guy Contract)until it builds up to the point where it must be expressed and then often is in explosive and damaging ways.
I m not saying I have all of a sudden become perfect but I believe I am learning and growing and can safely say the desire to be liked does not drive me as much.
So with that in mind I would like to propose a toast .A toast to the douchebag ! Have you ever signed a Nice guy contract? This is not just limited to romantic relationships but occurs just as frequently in platonic ones too.If you have hopefully sharing my experience will help give you some clarity.
P.S Feel free to like this blog …I am still a work on progress after all .*winks*