Why we love to be liked

Lana Del Ray just wants you to like her.

Lana Del Ray just wants you to like her.

Right now perched atop the global music charts is one Lana Del Rey, a singer who I consider to be the most interesting person in pop music right now (sorry, Gaga.) If you’re not familiar with her, long story short, her very first single Video Games got her massive online buzz (and 28 million YouTube views), which whiplashed even more quickly into online hate when it was “discovered” that the seemingly indie songstress had been given a suspiciously pouty, retro-style makeover by her big bad corporate record company. Heck, her name wasn’t even Lana Del Rey, it was the much less seductive moniker Lizzy Grant.  Add in one distinctly lacklustre Saturday Night Live performance and before she’d even released her first album, Born To Die, Del Rey was one of the most-criticised women on the internet.

Now what I find fascinating is all the hate that’s been levelled at her. She’s barely released one album – so what is her crime to warrant all this attention and vitriol? I think it lies in people’s dislike of feeling they’ve been manipulated by a manufactured image. It’s interesting that a more outlandish pop star like Lady Gaga is actually considered more “authentic”, because she seem to be following her own private muse rather than calculatedly remaking herself for maximum commercial appeal (the main criticism levelled at Del Rey).

It’s deeply ironic that Lana Del Rey, whose lyrical persona is built on her overwhelming desire to be loved, is currently one of the most unliked figures in modern-day pop. It seems her main transgression appears to be the rather minor matter of doing anything to be liked by the general public... and letting it show.

But perhaps we should cut the lady some slack, after all she’s guilty of something many of us have fallen victim to – changing or downplaying our true selves in an attempt to be liked. Now wanting to be liked is normal when it’s in regards to our nearest and dearest, but can become a problem when it extends to feeling upset that a casual acquaintance doesn’t think we’re the cat’s pyjamas (they’re possibly irked by our archaic use of the term “cat’s pyjamas”...) Analytical Psychotherapist Peter Richard-Herbert (northshoretherapy.com.au) says that wanting to be liked is in fact a basic human instinct with an evolutionary purpose. “It’s safer if we keep people onside and don’t make too many enemies,” says Richard-Herbert.

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This instinct can start to curdle however when we try to remake ourselves into something we’re not or bend over backwards being extra nice just to gain the approval of others. It can lead to others perceiving us as “fake” or questioning our motives. “People start to think ‘Why is this person doing this? What are they getting out of it?’” says Richard-Herbert. He warns that manipulative types may even take advantage of this drive to be liked. “We sense other people within basically 30 seconds of meeting anyone.  And some people if they sense the other person is trying too hard will take advantage unfortunately.”

Being inauthentic to yourself can also be emotionally draining. “It can lead to hyper vigilance of how you’re coming across to people, which in turn can generate a kind of a free-floating anxiety. You’re always on guard – ‘Am I being liked? Am I doing the right thing?’” says Richard-Herbert. Eventually it can even damage the very relationships it was meant to foster as it causes you feelings of internalised resentment.

If you think you may have a case of Del Rey’s disease to please there are strategies you can employ to make sure you aren’t being exploited in return for your niceness. “People could learn refusal techniques to stop themselves being manipulated. Some people have trouble giving even everyday refusal to people who are strangers,” says Richard-Herbert. “I suppose it’s really getting a gauge on how far you want to go. Any kind of behaviour to a point is adaptive, in other words once it gets to a certain threshold it’s working for you, but once it goes past that threshold it starts to work against you and can become what’s known as maladaptive. So it’s about keeping an eye on how far you want to go before it starts working against you.”

And the next time you hear Del Rey being criticised as “fake” maybe consider sticking up for her? After all, as she croons in Video Games “It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you, everything I do”...

 

7 comments

  • Women in general want to be liked and feel as though they are 'part of a group'.

    I think it also comes down to self esteem. Those who suffer from low self esteem feel 'better' when they are part of a group or liked whereas those who don't can be who they are and not feel any 'less' of a person when they are not included in certain groups.

    I also say to myself 'if ?? doesn't like me I will find someone else who does' There are soo many people in this world that I am sure I can find someone who does...

    Commenter
    Elle
    Date and time
    March 02, 2012, 9:47AM
    • Lana Del Rey's first album was actually called "Lana Del Rey aka Lizzie Grant" so don't know why you are repeating the canard that somehow she has created this whole new persona to hide from her original self as Lizzie Grant. Her new album is great and one's enjoyment of it is changed by preciely nought by the hoopla about her in the media and on the web. "Listen without prejudice" as George Michael said.

      Commenter
      StBob
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      March 02, 2012, 12:19PM
      • As a reformed "pleaser" if tempted to give in I recall the maxim "No good deed goes unpunished". Help other people out without being asked to first and they will eventually hate you because (a) it makes them feel inadequate, (b) they think you think they owe you something, and, (c) deep down they know they wouldn't do the same thing for someone else and it confuses them why you did. If you really need a fix then donate some money to charity, they're always grateful and don't resent you later. Just don't expect anything in return.

        Commenter
        JJJim
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        March 02, 2012, 12:24PM
        • I used to get really hung up on this stuff but I eventually realised that everyone isn't supposed to like everyone else. Now I tell myself that if there are people that I don't like, then there are bound to be people who don't like me. C'est la vie.

          Commenter
          Nic
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          March 02, 2012, 1:25PM
          • Could it be that is is about wanting to simply get along in the world? I mean unless you have an extraordinary skill set or abilities, most people find that wanting to be liked is normal, people want to earn money usually to function or contribute to society.

            I mean being constantly arrogant is not really going to get a person too far, unless that is a requirement of a job, but many people just want to get on with their lives.

            Being liked in may ways has an economic benefit in the end. Once a person no longer feels bound by debts or constraints, once a person can operate truly independently it doesn't matter if you are liked or not, except may be from a social perspective.

            Commenter
            Dave
            Location
            Canberra
            Date and time
            March 02, 2012, 4:59PM
            • I think it's more a matter of creating a stage persona than wanting to be liked. Lady Gaga has done exactly the same hasn't she? There's just no evidence of what she was before or nothing that we've seen or heard. I don't understand what all the fuss is all about either.

              Commenter
              Mel
              Date and time
              March 03, 2012, 5:43PM
              • It is more the fact that 'Lana Del Ray' has blatantly lied in interviews about facts pertaining to herself and her background. She has said that her lips are totally natural and they only look bigger in the clip for Video Games because they were and I quote "cartoonized". She also downplayed/lied about her familys' wealth - her millionaire father bankrolled her foray into the music industry; whilst she was trying to play the struggling artist, saying she couldn't afford even breakfast cereal and was living homeless under a bridge! Her authenticity as a songwriter is also questionable - for reference listen to "Roads That I Loved" by Eleni Vitali on Youtube. Rant over.

                Commenter
                RedMarine
                Date and time
                March 04, 2012, 11:09AM
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