I had one of those “lightbulb” moments last week during a conversation with my son. To celebrate Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday, I’m having my two oldest kids read through the Ramona books. Today, after reading a chapter of Ramona the Pest, I had my kids write down their advice for Ramona and Beezus.

I smiled as I read my son’s words of advice to Ramona – things like, “Try harder to follow the rules,”etc. Then, I noticed something else he’d written. “Try harder to get Beezus to like you.”

My response was almost immediate. “Buddy, I can see why you would want to say that to Ramona, but the truth is, we can’t make anyone like us. We can do our best to be friendly and kind, but we are just not in control of anyone else. We can’t spend time worrying about how to change the way other people think and feel. We are only in control of ourselves.”

What I told my son is absolutely true. But how many of us believe that? How many of us live that out? How much time and energy do we actually spend worrying about what people think of us?

We feel like if we are funny enough, say just the right things, volunteer the right amount, dress a certain way, talk a certain way…..THEN people will like us.

Here’s the hard truth – authentic relationships cannot be built on an if/then statement. But oh how we try! We think if we just do xyz, then we’ll finally be in that inner circle. Maybe if we try just a little bit harder then they’ll notice us. If we conform, change, or modify ourselves to the image we think they’ll like, then they’ll like us.

You are NOT in charge of other people’s opinions of you. What they think, how they react and respond, and how they treat you is NOT on you.

You can be pleasant (and should be!). You can put your best foot forward. You can be interesting, kind, and positive. But you can’t make other people like you.

So what can you do?

DO spend time focusing on the people who like you unconditionally – for who you really are – who don’t need you to meet some list of expectations or fit certain criteria before letting you into their circle.

DO take control of what you can control – yourself! Be the best version of yourself. Check your attitude, responses, and actions. Be the type of person you want to be around.

DON’T waste time worrying about what other people think. Their thoughts are none of your business.

DON’T change for other people. Be yourself and trust that the right people will embrace you for who you are – faults, imperfections, quirks, and all.

It’s not about trying harder, conforming, or living your life to impress. It’s about being who you are and finding your tribe. The right people will love and accept you without making you perform, jump through hoops, or prove your worth. Don’t worry. Don’t stress. Don’t spend your life trying to be someone you’re not just to be accepted.

Be YOU – and the right people will be there.