I'm somewhat soft at work and avoid ruffling feathers, so this tweet struck a chord.
Heard this today from a coach, and resonated: stop chasing being liked by everyone, start chasing being respected by everyone.— Akshay Kothari (@akothari) November 20, 2020
Don't misunderstand me. Being liked feels good and being nice builds healthy and enjoyable relationships. But I find that when I'm mainly driven by wanting to please or not offend people, I end up making suboptimal or unprincipled decisions that make me unhappy and unsuccessful in the long run.
You can't control what others think of you. People have various reasons to like or dislike you. Many of these reasons are selfish, irrational, short-term and finicky. Putting your self-worth, purpose and actions at the whims and fancies of this black box is a recipe for unhappiness and insecurity. The reasons to like or dislike are also often at odds with other people's and even your welfare, principles and goals. So aiming to be liked doesn't lead to the best outcomes.
I'll go a step further from this tweet and say that don't even aim to be respected. Even though chasing respect may be in some ways better because respect can be slightly more rational, principled, long-term or outcome based, it has the same core problems as chasing being liked.
So what is the alternative? Chase your principles and goals.
The core idea behind Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Success People is to be "Principle centered" rather than centering around People, Self, Family, Money, Health etc.
That means you define (and periodically revise) your principles and goals. Then you aim to live with integrity - your thoughts, words, actions match your values, principles and goals. You can and may likely have to still be humble, empathetic, respectful and supportive of others while pursuing those, but you may not make all people happy and that's okay.
Being principle-centered will mean being opinionated, saying no and disagreeing with people, that may make people dislike you. There's a chance that some of them may respect you in long-run because they see that you are independent, principled and successful. But most importantly, you live with the happiness of working on what you control, chasing self-created and steady goals, and the satisfaction and certainty of being true to your core principles and living the life you want.