In this month's subscriber-exclusive blog post I reflect on respectability, authenticity and why I will no longer be a people-pleaser.

(No longer) aiming to please

I am okay with not being liked.

But this hasn’t always been the case. I, like most of the women I admire, tend to be labelled as “aggressive”, “too up-front” or, my personal favourite: “over the top”.

This is no better encapsulated than with my favourite musician Nicki Minaj. As a rapper, she is branded as anything from “too mainstream” to “too over sexualised”. As a woman she is branded everything from “too loud” to “too bitter”. As an artist she is discredited for almost everything she has brought to music, despite being the only woman to have over 100 songs in the Billboard Hot 100 and being the highest selling female rapper of all time and one of the highest selling female artists overall.

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So what is it then that makes people not like this woman and the other female powerhouses like her? In my view it’s that she has absolute, unfettered discretion over who she aims to please and how she spends her time and energy. She’s never cared to placate people who have never expressed any interest in her beyond wanting her to please them. She’s never switched up her style at someone else’s request. In a complete buck against the trend for female rappers, she’s never allowed a man to write her raps, suffering years of false accusations that she had a ghostwriter as a result – leading multiple men in the industry to feel compelled to refute this on her behalf.

I’ve come to realise now that most of the time the reason people won’t like you is not because they don’t like what it is that you do or what you stand for. In fact, people tend to get aggressive when they can see that you are unconcerned with pleasing them or making them comfortable. There’s this negative energy that some people have towards those who are in complete control of their own body, conscience and actions. I think for a lot of people that is extremely intimidating. As someone who always found themselves trying to do my absolute best to please those around me, it took me awhile to realise that the reason I was doing that was because I wanted to make myself as palatable as possible. I didn’t want to be called “too much”, or “over the top”. I just wanted people to like me in the same way they did others.

Being called things like “OTT” really pissed me off because in reality, I am perfectly okay with not going with the group, pursuing my own interests and doing my own thing. Take this blog for example. It didn’t matter to me that a lot of other aspiring barristers were terrified about what blogging would do to their future career prospects, or that people would go out of their way to tell me that the Bar is extremely conservative and I should “tone it down”. I’ve never been much phased by things like that. But what was always contradicting that was my desire to ensure that I made others comfortable.

I am a massive people pleaser. I will go way beyond my capacity and means to try and make someone’s life as easy as possible and to get them the absolute best. It has taken me a while to realise that what I consider to be a basic amount of effort is actually a massive commitment of effort and time. It’s only now that I am relatively free and left to my own devices that I can see how much I can complete in a day when there aren’t any other people’s demands upon my time. Making others comfortable is a draining and laborious task and definitely constitutes a demand upon your time. It requires a lot of energy to put aside what you want in consideration of what someone else does. Or (which is more likely) what you think that they want from you. It’s an exhausting exercise and one that I am no longer going to complete.

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What’s so great about being liked anyway? Peoples’ approval isn’t necessarily going to earn you their respect. As someone making her way into a profession rooted in reputation and standing amongst your peers, I spent a long time agonising over making everyone like me: chambers, barristers, my colleagues at school – the usual suspects. Eventually, after I stopped and just focused on being authentic and open about myself, I developed even closer bonds than before that were based on a genuine respect for my personality and differences.

I’ve decided to ignore the part of me that says making people uncomfortable means that I am doing something wrong. It just doesn’t. You could be the sweetest, least harmful person with a solid gold heart and people will still get at you or feel some kind of way about something. That’s not even just from personal experience, I’ve seen it happen to friends and colleagues. Going forward, I don’t mind if people don’t like me. If I’m being authentic and true to myself I am doing the right thing, always.

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Until next month,