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“What’s wrong, son?”

Dad could tell as soon as I got home from school that I was upset.

“Nobody likes me” I told him, as I broke down into tears.

School was rough for me as a kid. I was what most adults saw as an odd duck, and what most kids saw as unlikable and weird. It seemed like the more I tried to make friends, the more these potential friends were determined to pull back.

This day was especially difficult. Most days the other kids just tried to avoid me. This time, they’d made it clear that they didn’t like me, and probably never would.

So, I’d sulked all the way home, and now I was extra upset because I thought my dad was going to make me relive the emotional trauma by having to explain things to him.

Dad surprised me that day.

“Son, I’m going to tell you something that isn’t going to make you feel better right now. You’re not going to look back on this one day and laugh. Having your feelings hurt, through rejection, doesn’t work that way. This is always going to sting.”

“Great,” I thought. “Why couldn’t he just let me go straight to my room?!”

Dad continued… “I can see by the look on your face that you just want to go hide in your room. That’s fine. I’m going to let you — but not until you hear this.”

“How does he do that?” I wondered to myself.

“Hear me, because I’ve been through this stuff myself. You’re better off sitting alone, than surrounded by a bunch of people who don’t really like you. I know you’re not like the other kids. That’s OK. Sure, you can change to please them, but they won’t ever be friends unless they like who you really are. What’s worse, is that you won’t like who you’ll have to become.”

Dad had my attention now. “If they don’t like you, and you don’t like you, how do you think that’s going to feel?”

I didn’t answer him. I didn’t have to.

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