I’m writing to you because I’m stuck in this rut of self-doubt. I’m usually confident, capable, and competent but whenever I date someone new, the vulnerability comes out of nowhere and I never know how to handle it properly. I know I’m not terrible. I’m not wildly attractive but I’m not necessarily unfortunate looking either. I’m no prodigy but I am reliable and doing okay at my job for someone my age. All things considered, I have a lot I’ve yet to achieve and do and be but at the same time, I acknowledge that where I am is the right path and I am on the right track.
The problem usually starts when I date someone new. When things get serious I get anxious about being the right person for them. I begin to put myself down, wondering if I’m attractive enough, good enough, or cool enough. I worry about small things like “What if I’m not his type? What if he finds someone he likes better?” I know it sounds insane but I really don’t know how to handle it when people come into my life and find me worth their time. I constantly second guess myself and their affection and attention because I don’t think I deserve it. I think it’s a fluke and it will only be a matter of time before they leave.
I don’t like feeling this way anymore. I just want to allow myself to be happy but I can’t because I end up pushing them away. I push them away because I doubt my capacity to be someone worth their time. I’m afraid of disappointing them. I’m scared. I’m scared I’ll wake up one day alone but sometimes I think it’s for the best too. Maybe I’m really meant to be alone. Help?
You’re displaying a lot of self-awareness. In one of my last Twitter rants, I talked about how a lack of self-awareness is one of the most repulsive things in the world. When you have a proper understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, in theory, you should be able to behave accordingly.
Then your anxiety kicks in. I already understood why from the first time I skimmed through your letter. The trouble lies in the fact that you don’t demand this sort of self-awareness from your partners. If you did, you’ll also be asking yourself if your dates were attractive enough, good enough, or cool enough. If you also started wondering if these people were worth your time, you also affirm the worth you affix to yourself.
I know it sounds so straightforward but I just had a conversation with my husband Mr. Izzy about something like this a few days ago. We just started watching Louis CK’s latest comedy special on Netflix and it got me thinking about my sense of humor.
You see, it was my husband who turned me to stand up comedy. He’s a true disciple of comedy and I got into Louis CK when he kept raving about his technique. Louis CK never recycles his material. Every single show is different. He creates new material according to the seasons in his life and what’s going in with the world. It’s similar to his other hero, George Carlin–a pioneer comedian who injected social criticism and revolutionary thought into his sketches.
Comedians are prophets, the modern court jesters. They’re able to serve uncomfortable, ridiculous truths because they’re able to disarm us with laughter first. When Mr. Izzy starts taking apart the complexities of a perfectly timed, perfectly executed joke, I see artistry.
So I’m really into Louis CK. I nearly got into trouble on a long haul flight when I was watching “Oh My God” and couldn’t contain myself during the bit about the old lady and the dog. I was hugging myself and using every single muscle to keep myself from screaming with laughter. I didn’t succeed. I looked like I was going through a mild seizure.
Anyway, humor has been a huge cornerstone in my relationship with Mr. Izzy. I’m not funny, but he is. I live with depression and if it weren’t for my husband’s impersonations of white American backpackers and corny Filipino titos, my life would be a lot less bearable. We’re been together for seven years and I laugh the hardest with him.
What’s interesting though is the realization that before Mr. Izzy, none of the other guys I dated were funny. Most of them were one-trick ponies and sure, there was a stoner guy I dated I found hilarious–but it was me mostly laughing at him and not with him.
I don’t understand how I was able to put with guys who weren’t that funny. My husband knew some of them and we got around to talking about it.
This was the conclusion I arrived at: Growing up, I was so insecure about my self-worth, that I hardly asked anything out of the boys I went out with. I set the bar pretty low because in my mind, I felt like I had no right to ask for anything more. Like you, I was always afraid of not being attractive enough, good enough, cool enough.
I went through phases where I made myself listened to what my boyfriends listened to and for a time I even tried to dress the way one of them did. All of those relationships fell apart for many reasons, but I’m certain my lack of confidence in who I was drove the wedges even further.
I didn’t even realize how badly I needed laughter in my life.
Scared, what you bring to the table is good enough. The only way to find out if it can sustain a relationship is when you allow yourself to pile all what you can offer alongside your partner’s. See what the both of you can bring together. See if it’s enough to build a life on.
And hey, if there’s no one, that’s not bad, too. There is no shame in facing a life alone. Society gives enough shit about how we should live our lives, don’t let your relationship status fall prey to it. There are many amazing people in the world who don’t marry and have found meaning in their professions, family members, and causes. You are enough. Keep telling that to yourself until you reach a point where a life shared with just you gives you delight.
Learn how to date yourself. You know you’re doing it right when eating alone at a restaurant or watching a movie by yourself feels like a well-deserved break. Treat yourself in a way that future dates cannot hold a candle to.
While you’re at it, learn to laugh more.
Got perplexing life problems? Email Izzy at firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE SENSIBLE PIECES OF ADVICE FROM IZZY
- Dear Izzy: My friends’ idea of a meet-up is sucking my wallet dry
- Dear Izzy: I feel guilty for moving out of my single mother’s place to start a family
- Dear Izzy: How do I deal with failure?
- Dear Izzy: My boss is the devil incarnate. Help!
- Dear Izzy: How do I erase this feeling of guilt after being harrassed?