Runner-up, Ms. Popularity 2016

vote

I have been thinking about “likeability” a lot lately. As much as I claim to be above the fray, a lean-in era woman who cares more about accomplishment than acceptance, I realize with each passing day that I am just like everyone else (who wants to be liked by everyone else). I don’t want to care, but the human nature that runs through my blood warms my body with anxiety and shame. Why do other’s opinions matter so much?

Recently a colleague of mine was promoted to a position for which I was well-suited, but did not apply. The fear of being ostracized was too much to bear. In a (before my time) turf war that is still an unsolved mystery to me, I had been branded an “enemy”. Also, my crisp blazers and type-A tendencies did not sit well with a more casual, long-tenured group who did not enjoy a shift in the status quo. Ultimately, I bowed out, taking a can’t-lose-if-you-don’t-play approach and moved on.

Multiple sources have since confirmed that yes, even though I carry more experience/qualification, if matched against the now-transitioned employee, I would have lost. Because she is more well-liked. This was something I knew, but it still wasn’t all that easy to hear. I thought I had accepted the fact that you cannot control other people’s feelings–that sometimes, you have done nothing wrong. But hearing this casual reaffirmation of once held beliefs was a smack in the chest while struggling to remain upright, like a Weeble that will just.not.fall.down.

How do I combat a reputation that I do not feel is representative of my true self? How can I navigate the murky in-between of social acceptance and staying true to oneself?

The current political climate is rough. As with most non-incumbent presidential election cycles, there are so many opinions and pitches and nonsense thrown our way. Although it is definitely not as high-stakes as who will be the eventual leader of the free world, office politics function very similarly. Departments instead of parties; the eager millennial working for a third less pay than the disgruntled, somewhat lazy incumbent with “experience”; the dysfunction of playing telephone through e-mails and whispers instead of backroom deals.

If I could have my own office campaign ad, what would I say? “I might be hyper-organized, but I love creativity!” “I am supportive of female leaders taking charge!” “These blazers are actually super comfortable!” “I’m not that bad!”

I don’t ever want to get to a place where I wouldn’t even vote for myself. But with the daily chip.chip.chip at my self-esteem, and the constantly hopelessness that accompanies not knowing “what did I do to make you hate me?” the threat of an unchecked ballot looms ever greater. Would you still submit your vote when you know it won’t be counted?

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