Do you occasionally lack confidence in yourself? Are you at times uncomfortable in social situations? Do you sometimes feel shy, rejected, lonely? Well, join the crowd! Almost everyone feels this way at some time in his or her life.
However, I was different. I was one of those people who felt this way most of the time. If you’d looked up “self-conscious” in the dictionary, it would have had my picture. Okay, not really. But it seemed to me that almost everyone else was happy and confident, easily making friends, while I felt all alone! I didn’t grow up with an outgoing, confident personality and lived much of my young life in fear of what others might think of me.
As I got older I thought that the way to get people to like and accept me was to change myself—to be better dressed, better groomed, one who exhibited all the social manners and graces that society demands, well-read so I could be a better conversationalist, etc. And while these things are certainly good for all of us, they are not automatically going to make us feel accepted by others.
Many people today believe that having more self-esteem is the solution to all of our social problems. S elf-esteem implies that our esteem is wrapped up within ourselves. But if that is really so, then how come we aren’t all soaking in it? After all, just about everyone thinks of himself or herself almost constantly.
But with all this thinking of ourselves, we may still feel unaccepted. So how do we overcome shyness? How can we be accepted by others? Before answering these questions, let me tell you about an incident that changed my life.
A stuck-up snob?
By the time I got to college I had decided that to be liked I should say as little around others as possible. After all, if people didn’t have anything to criticize or dislike about me, they would like me, right? But that’s not how people work, and one brave young man finally told me the truth. He said I came across as a stuck-up snob!
I was devastated. Me? Shy, introverted, wouldn’t-hurt-a-soul, quiet, unassuming me? How could it be that through all my efforts to be completely inoffensive I had managed to do the complete opposite?
This mind-numbing revelation convinced me I had to change. And in my quest to do so, I stumbled onto a key to love and friendship the likes of which I would not have believed possible. To me it seemed stranger than fiction!
I discovered this incredibly simple but oh-so-important truth: Every person on earth has a need to be liked and accepted by others . It is not something we can learn to live without or overcome in some way. It is a basic human need, and the first step to being accepted is to remember that everyone we’ll ever meet also craves this.
Focus on others
Unfortunately most people try to gain acceptance by boosting their self-esteem (without considering their own conduct) or by acting up in some way. Many boast, act silly, bad, funny, dumb, shy, proud, etc. Yet the key to love and acceptance is captured succinctly in Proverbs 18:24 Proverbs 18:24A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
American King James Version×: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” This simply means that if we want people to like us, we must like them first ! Rather than focusing on ourselves, as the self-esteem movement advises, we have to focus on others.
And herein lies the key to receiving the love and acceptance we all crave: It isn’t because people know us better that people like us. It is because we know them better that they like us! Strange but true! Philippians 2:3-4 Philippians 2:3-4 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
American King James Version×shows us what to do: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
When we show others that they are worthy of our respect and interest, they almost can’t help liking us. The more we try to get people to like us, usually the less they actually do! But the more we like others and show that we are interested in them , the more others will usually want to be around us .
What Jesus said
Jesus Himself confirmed this principle saying, “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you” (Luke 6:38 Luke 6:38Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete with it shall be measured to you again.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).
When we are concerned about others instead of constantly worrying about ourselves, others will be inclined to give us acceptance and friendship. (Of course we must remember that Jesus also said in John 15:20 John 15:20Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
American King James Version×that those who followed Him would face religious persecution.)
Every person we meet has ideas, experiences, cares and woes that he or she would so willingly share if only someone would ask—if only someone were truly interested. There is nothing more delightful than to find someone who truly wants to know and understand us. Aren’t you drawn to people who are interested in what you have to say, in how you think, in where you’ve been, in your opinions and experiences? So use that knowledge to reach out to others!
Bringing other people out of their shells is an art. And like any art, it can be learned and constantly improved. One key is to think of each person as a unique planet in the solar system—a planet that has buried treasure of new information we’ve never known before. Each person is a unique combination of genes, experiences, beliefs and ideals. If we will forget about ourselves for a moment, we can join in others’ laughter, sense their pain and imagine their dreams.
We can ask them what they think, how they feel, where they’ve been, what they like, how they do things—and then we can listen, really listen—with our eyes as well as our ears. (Did you know that some 50 percent or more of what people tell us is in their body language?) We can use words that help keep them talking and show that we are not only listening but that we want to hear more. Try words and phrases like, “I see!” “I’d never thought of it that way.” “Amazing!” “What happened then?” “How did you feel?” “Why…?” “When…?” “Where…?” “How…?” Of course one’s interest in others must be genuine.
People who are sincerely interested in other people will be loved and accepted. And when we are concentrating on others, a most wonderful thing happens: We forget about ourselves ! Give and it will be given to you! VT