I read a blog post yesterday that said, when it comes to dating, we attract who we think we are worth. That’s definitely true. As I read, I was nodding along. The title is Who You Date Is a Function of Your Self-Esteem. Absolutely correct.
I likely would have said that Tony was “out of my league” ten years, five years, one year, or even six months ago. He’s intelligent, handsome, sweet, attentive, successful, amazing in bed, responsible, wonderfully quirky, hilarious, gentlemanly, quick-witted, and more. He has a way with words, he’s in touch with himself and his emotions, and he’s genuine. He is the true definition of “the total package.” He’s got everything a girl could ever dream of and then some. Seriously.
The old version of me would have been intimidated by that. I probably wouldn’t have given the five star “nudge” because I would have been positive that he couldn’t possibly be into me. I would have been shocked and maybe even skeptical when/if I got a message from him. I certainly wouldn’t have had the confidence to engage and interact with him the way that I did.
That’s not to say that my personality or taste have changed lately. I’ve always been the person I am, for the most part. Certainly, I have grown over the years, especially emotionally. However, my sense of humor, natural intelligence, honesty, caring nature, talents, and even body haven’t changed that much in the last decade. I’m pretty much the same me I’ve always been, with added maturity, insight, and confidence.
I have also always been attracted to the qualities that Tony possesses. Who wouldn’t be? I just never thought I would get someone like that. Or that I deserved to.
Reading that, even after coming to the realization on my own, is painful. I knew great people existed with all of the qualities I admired and desired. I simply thought none of them would ever want me. I was sure that I would have to make concessions when it came to a partner.
So certain, in fact, that I didn’t even let myself desire someone who had it all. A man like that might catch my eye for a second, then I’d mentally move right by. If he happened to be married or with a girlfriend, I would compare myself to that woman and confirm in my head all the ways I fell short: I wasn’t as pretty, thin, interesting, social, charming, graceful, etc.
If a man like that appeared to be single, or I heard he was through the grapevine somehow, I convinced myself there was no possibility that he could ever be attracted to someone like me. It was often a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we did get a chance to interact, my reserved, insecure communication and failure to show any interest would ensure I wasn’t noticed or he was discouraged from making a move.
Even if a “total package” man engaged me in a way that could be construed as flirting, I was positive that he was just being nice to pass the time until someone better, more interesting, or more attractive came along. A man like that rarely pursues someone with no self-confidence, especially someone who doesn’t seem interested. So my behavior reinforced my beliefs.
As I matured and became more comfortable with myself, I did let my personality out to play more. I learned to be a pretend extrovert and engage with a variety of people. I was always far more confident and comfortable with people who were “less than” in some way, though. I would rather be a big fish in a little pond than feel like a small one in a big pond. The same concept applied to my relationships… I was drawn to “projects.” Those were the type of people that I felt confident being myself around.
That’s not what I really needed, though. Not that I ever sat down to consider what that was. I was more concerned about being everything my partner needed. I rarely stopped to ask myself what I was getting or if I was fulfilled. After all, if you’ve already decided that you’ll have to settle, it’s not surprising or even that disappointing when you do. I told myself that things were good enough, or as good as I could expect. I thought that I was happy enough, or even if I wasn’t that I could get there if I just worked a little harder at fixing things.
When I finally realized that it WASN’T good enough, I WASN’T happy, I DIDN’T have to settle, and I SHOULD think about my needs, it was a revolutionary shift in perspective. It changed the way I carried myself. It changed the way I interacted with people. It changed the way I thought about dating and men.
During my Librarian Bob phase, I went out with eight men, if I recall correctly. Two got to date #2. None got past that point. I went on dates with a loser, an asshole, and a liar. I went on a date with a fireman who posed for a smoking hot calendar picture, which I saved to drool over even after I declined a second date (for several reasons). I went on dates with men who were nice enough, seemed to have a lot going for them, and were into me. Any of those men might have been someone I ended up in a relationship with before, when my self-esteem was virtually non-existent. My realization left me asking if any of them were what I wanted. The answer was no.
Those “no’s” helped me define what a “yes” would look like. I actually sat down and contemplated my needs. I also began to realize the things that I had to bring to the table. The eight men I went on dates with were a small portion of the number of interested candidates. While that was surprising at first, I began to step back and look at myself through other people’s eyes. I was selling myself short and limiting my own happiness.
I’m not doing that anymore, and happiness is fantastic. So is attracting the kind of person who is really worthy of me.