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'Don't Disagree or They'll Hate You': My Guide to Friendship With BPD

If anyone out there doesn’t like me, I’m doing something wrong.

Not just a specific person. Anyone.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a massive people pleaser. As a child, I would write down the names of the other girls in my class (not the boys because ew, cooties) and evaluate my friendships with them. I would call them if I hadn’t done so in a while. I painstakingly hand-wrote invitations to birthday parties. I would go out of my way to be nice to absolutely anybody who might like me back. I’d laugh at unfunny jokes, I’d nod in agreement if someone said something that probably wasn’t true. Don’t disagree, or they’ll hate you was my philosophy.

Most kids seem to grow out of that phase as they realize not everyone in the world wants to be their friend. Heck, there are people out there who they don’t want to be friends with in the first place. Their own self-worth starts to be defined by more than just the opinions and friendships of others.

Yet here I am, desperately baking things for every single coworker’s birthday. Even if I don’t like them in the first place, I need them to like me. If even a single person out there doesn’t like me, how could anyone? Once that thought trickles in, I start hating myself. If I don’t know the particular reason someone might not like me, I’ll just hate every single thing I say or do, as well as how I say or do it. I moan to my therapist, “I have no friends! Why doesn’t anyone like me?” when in reality, I have plenty of friends.

Rationally, I can recognize that as a ridiculous idea and one of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder. I evaluate myself based on how I think others do. Not knowing why someone doesn’t like me is agonizing. I try to change the way I act, think, talk… I basically try to change the way I exist. It doesn’t work, because fundamentally, I’m the same person, no matter how I act, think, or talk. It’s difficult to see that sometimes through my borderline brain.

I don’t realize I’m doing it. I still laugh at stupid jokes, write thank-you notes, and try to act agreeable. I fantasize about arguing with people, but at this point, it’s almost a physical limitation. I tried arguing with a coworker once, and I thought I was going to throw up. I was convinced she would hate me. In turn, I would hate me. And you know what? I don’t think she hates me. Sure, we were annoyed with each other, but we got over it.

I’m going easier on myself now, finally, in my 20s. It takes a lot of energy to be a people pleaser. So I’m learning how to say no. My husband helps me walk through rational reasons to say “no” to people sometimes, and it helps immensely. It doesn’t mean I like someone any less if I say no. Isn’t it funny how that works?

Before you know it, I’ll like me for me, not just for others.

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Thinkstock photo by Creatas Images