There's an old expression that I heard a lot growing up. Paraphrasing, it went a little something like this:
There are four kinds of people in this world:
people who like you for the wrong reasons;
people who like you for the right reasons;
people who dislike you for the wrong reasons; and
people who dislike you for the right reasons.
And it's only the last group you need to worry about.
These aren't the four people, but the article was really screaming out for this layout-wise, don't you think?
I have googled variations of this phrase many times and have always failed to find its origin. Guesses include the writings of Jean Paul Sartre and/or an old episode of TV's The White Shadow. Regardless, I believe it is the truest and wisest thing ever uttered by an existentialist French philosopher and/or fictional inner-city high school basketball coach. And because this maxim comes in list form, it seemed appropriate to examine it further in a Cracked article. (Also, Jack "I have no nicknames" O'Brien nixed my original submission entitled 9 Venereal Diseases the Cracked Editors Picked Up at Comikaze.)
I have placed a picture of breasts next to this paragraph in the hope of attracting the Net's attention to this important introductory point. The expression suggests that you be most concerned about the people who are right to dislike you. Basically, listen only to valid criticism, and become a better person. But as I examined the expression further, I realized that in order to understand which people fit into that final category, you need to examine all the categories, and each category has its own value. The way I see it, the last category is set aside more as the best place to start for self-improvement -- not the only one that matters. So that's what I did below. I examined each category using examples from my life to illustrate. Specifically, two very formative areas of my existence: college and writing for the Internet (I would have used examples from your life, but I don't know you that well. You seem cool, though. You read Cracked and pay attention to breast-based paragraphs. We should hang out.)
#4. People Who Like You For The Wrong Reasons
Who are these people who like you for the wrong reasons? Well, there are many kinds. People who like you because other people like you or because they think they're supposed to like you. People who like you for superficial qualities like money, appearance or social standing. And there's a more interesting category too: People who like you because they think you have traits and characteristics you don't actually have. People who like a fake version of you.
College-Based Real Life Example:
When I look back at my life, there is definitely one category of person who liked me for the wrong reasons: just about any girl who had sex with me in college. I went to school at Cornell, which in my day was composed almost entirely of either sorority chicks or hippies. Neither group was particularly attractive to me.
Please note, neither beautiful on the inside either.
In fairness, at 18, I'm not sure how attractive I was to them either.
Here I am as a freshman doing a super cool thing where I made my fridge look like a person. I called him "Mr. Hungry Spoon Man," and he was super good at helping me not have lots of sex.
I seemed incapable of finding any girl who didn't fit into these two dreaded categories. Making matters worse, Cornell was also devoid of my dream girl: the bohemian, sexually-perverse, dangerous chick with emotional issues that both Hollywood and my own retarded sexuality had trained me to admire.
No trace of her. Not even in the School of Human Ecology.
Feeling terribly alone, but not wanting to actually sell out and become a hippie or a frat guy, I did the only thing I could: I grew out my hair. "Long hair!!! Hippie!" you say. "Not so fast," I reply. It was the '90s. I was a grunger, baby.
Please note the necklace made from a holographic dinosaur watch I got in a box of Cocoa Pebbles.
And just like that, hippies started having sex with me. It didn't matter that I hated Phish and the Grateful Dead or that I didn't get high. I had long hair and they saw something in me that probably wasn't there. And with the influx of hippies, came more confidence, and then girls who shaved and wore make up too. Even some who thought they had feelings for me beyond sex. But I didn't get a big head about that. I knew it was smoke and mirrors. They had fallen for an illusion, and feeling special about their love or lust would have been a mistake.
I had a short-term girlfriend who used to think I was the nicest guy in the world because on nights she slept over, I'd drive her to class the next morning. To me, it was just being polite, but she told me it was because I was a sensitive, caring guy. If I'd believed her, I might have been fooled into thinking courtesy passed for compassion. That civility passed for love. I might have kept acting in the same superficial way (being a crappy boyfriend to her or other women) and I might have missed out completely on the next category.
#3. People Who Like You For The Right Reasons
This is very subjective. It's quite possible you have no idea what the right reasons for liking you are. Maybe you think you're "passionate," but in reality you're just an abusive, loud-mouthed asshole. And while not as important as the final category on the road to self-betterment, reflecting on who likes you for the right reasons is still a beneficial exercise. For one thing, it requires you to have an ounce of self-esteem. To accept that there are real reasons for people to like you. For another, as I was hinting at above, it provides a definition of love.
College-Based Real Life Example:
Something I forgot to mention about my college days. I went to school at the height of political correctness. So when I say there were hippies there, understand that these were '90s hippies without all those positive traits you could attribute to actual '60s hippies like non-violence, idealism and a predilection for orgies. At my school, hippie meant privileged kids with long hair and Birkenstocks who were so emotionally scarred they could only interact with others by sitting in a circle and passing weed.
"Here's a song about rainbows that almost silences the memories of what Daddy did when he'd been drinking."
And so periodically throughout college, I was vilified as a fascist for disagreeing with some of the following statements:
Calling any girl over 12 a "girl" is hate speech;
If you sleep with a girl who has had a beer that night it's date rape;
AIDS is the biggest crisis facing America (which even in the '90s, by the way, was not the biggest cause of death in America);
A man has no right to say a mom is being selfish about anything ever (especially getting high while pregnant); and
Guns of any and all kinds should be outlawed in America.
Even more annoying, none of these disagreements were ever met with an actual debate. There was no capacity for debate. Only an unspoken agreement as conveyed by the passing of a bowl. But then, after college, I met a very liberal-minded, educated, assertive young woman from UC Berkeley, and you know what? She didn't hate me. She didn't even disagree with most of the above, and if she did, she didn't see those opinions as some evidence of my dark spirit. And where there was disagreement, there was the capacity to discuss and get deeper into someone's head, and for the first time, I felt known. I felt she liked me for the right reasons, the real me, and I married her.
Of course, years later, I woke her at 3 a.m., screaming, "Fooled ya!!! I totally suck!" But that's not important right now.