I tried. I did. I intended to read only the first book, just for a little pick-me-up. And then move on to the rest of my TBR list, which is beginning to virtually rival the Empire State Building in height (only because I read on my Kindle). But I couldn't resist. Once I entered the world of the Elder Races, I was hooked—line and sinker—and moved helplessly on to the next and the next. So, here we are with another post inspired by Thea Harrison's amazing books. The book in question is Storm's Heart, within which we learn about Niniane, the heir to the Dark Fae throne, and her Wyr mate, the Thunderbird Tiago. This is one kick ass couple and the story of their mating as Niniane ascends the throne amidst assassination attempts and disgruntled subjects is storytelling as art. One of the most interesting passages in the book comes as Niniane contemplates what it will take to be queen and thinks about what her old mentor and protector, Dragos (my favorite dragon), would do. Dragos told Niniane that she had "one great flaw when it came to taking the throne." "You want to be liked," Dragos had warned her. Wanting to be liked is not a helpful characteristic in a leader. It's not the best quality for the rest of us, either, if we want to live a life of integrity and fulfillment.
Most of us want to be liked. I believe that many of us are stuck in our high school years, where our lives were defined by who liked us and who didn't. The popular boys and girls ruled the roost, while the geeks and freaks hugged the shadows and tried to avoid notice. It was hell. Then, when we grew up, we were shoved into the same situation at work, at the yoga studio (yep, those who can execute a perfect standing split tend to congregate away from those of us whose legs will never make a 180° angle in this lifetime), and even at our kids' schools.
Personally, I learned a long time ago to abandon any hope of being widely liked. My give-a-shit meter has never been particularly sensitive and I've never suffered fools well. Not to mention I have resting bitch face, so when you put all of that together, no one who doesn't know me thinks I'm cute and cuddly. Nope, they think I’m a nasty woman and I'm fine with that. It means fewer people trying to start up a conversation on airplanes or in line. Works for me. Because I know I'm not easily liked (it takes a certain amount of discernment to warm to me, which is perfect for my misanthropic tendencies), I don't care and I don't try. Which also happens to make me a good leader and a strong decision maker. I'm okay making unpopular choices. I'm willing to risk confrontation and others' unhappiness to do the right thing. Or the thing that's right for me, although not necessarily for others.
But I'm the exception, not the rule. Most folks say "yes" when they'd rather say "no." They say and do things to please others rather than risk disapprobation and unpopularity. I understand. I'm sure if I'd ever been more universally liked, I would behave the same way. I watch as others volunteer to be class mom and team mom and plan the after-work social and assume extra shifts because someone else is having a bad day. I watch as people do and say outrageous things so that others will see them as generous, as a team player. As nice.
It's good to be nice. It's better to be happy. How many self-help sites and books try to teach us that "No" is a complete sentence? How many of us take on tasks and obligations because we don't want to upset, disappoint or otherwise ruffle anyone else's feathers? We inconvenience ourselves so that others will be spared. We smile and we add just one more thing to our plate. We go against our better judgment and offer to bring the chili to the potluck, even if we don't own a crock-pot. We can go get one. Because then we will be liked. Then we will be a part of the whole.
Except it doesn't work that way. The more we do so that others will like us and approve of us, the more the hole in our soul grows. Far from becoming complete, we deplete our resources and steal time and attention from those who should rightfully expect it, like our spouses and our children, so that someone else can spend time with their family. That shit is just fucked up.
Living like this breeds exhaustion, burn out and resentment. It’s living a lie. We're too "nice" to refuse to take on one more thing. We're too addicted to being liked to stand up for ourselves and say NFW. And we find that while others may like us, we don't like ourselves too much. Sounds like a problem to me.
Life is not a popularity contest, reality TV notwithstanding. The truth is that not everyone is going to like us. And we are going to disappoint some people and piss others off. That's okay. The trick is to make sure the person we are disappointing isn't ourselves or a loved one.
I'm not suggesting we imitate the Lord of the Flies. We don't need to revert to life being nasty, brutish and short. But we do need to get and keep our priorities straight. It doesn't matter if we are part of the popular crowd, or how high we climb on the social ladder, as long as we are taking care of ourselves and our loved ones on whichever rung we land.
Niniane learns this lesson early in her story. She realizes that she's not going to make all of the people happy all of the time. Instead, she learned to be strategic instead of sycophantic, fair instead of well-meaning, and effective instead of milquetoast. If she can do it, so can I and so can you. And those who count will still really, really like us.