Pre-Will, I had a history of poor decision-making skills when it came to suitors.
Like the chick-lit character you love to hate, I was always drawn to the guys who didn’t want girlfriends. These guys weren’t shy or subtle in expressing this disinterest in relationships, but I was unable to hear or absorb it. Besides, I was the exception. I was going to make the unloving love.
Men (or anyone, for that matter) don’t regularly dissuade others from idolizing them, so I was rarely turned away. I mistook this acceptance for emotional closeness and convinced myself that I was loved.
I put up with all manner of poor behavior largely because I was scared that I couldn’t do any better. We all have dating war stories, I know. Saying I was cheated on, called fat, ignored, and belittled shouldn’t really inspire pity, however, as I accepted such treatment without question.
Case Study: Grad School Boyfriend [name redacted].
How it started: I wore flip-flops to a local bar in the town where I went to college. Grad School Boyfriend approached to tell me that he hated flip-flops. I immediately began a campaign to garner his attention and secure his affections.
How it ended: At a close friend’s wedding where I was too busy bridesmaiding to absorb what was going on. I made him leave to avoid causing a scene and we ended up hashing out our feelings (or lack thereof) in the car much later that night. Yes, I was dumped at a wedding. Nothing short of a housecoat and a herd of cats tops that on the “you will probably die alone”-scale.
When I first saw him clearly: When he made fun of my sister’s shoes. We ran into Grad School Boyfriend at the mall several months post-breakup. Kerry was wearing leg warmers and flip-flops as was the trend that winter. In fact, I think she’d just gotten the leg warmers for Christmas (and Kerry, if you are reading this, I’m sorry! You know that guy was a jerk!). My own flip-flops were fair game, but I’m the only one allowed to mock my sister.
Why the double standard? Shouldn’t the guy I love treat me in a way I’d expect people to treat my sister? While the no-teasing-my-sister rule holds fast, I am, in a sense, glad that the leg warmer incident happened. Something clicked.
I’d love to say that I immediately put this knowledge into action and held out until Will came into my life, but then my memoirs would be devoid of delicious heartbreak and drama. Awareness was, apparently, only part of the key to breaking patterns. Will came along years later – after I’d gathered enough experience to really appreciate him.
Dear Person Who Found my Blog by Googling “I’m Dorky and I Want to Stop,”
First, congratulations on having one of the most-unique search terms ever to show up in my site statistics. Most people Google sends my way are looking for those damn Anthropologie Cork Balls.
But back to you. Who exactly is calling you dorky? If it’s someone else, rest assured that their opinion doesn’t matter. If it’s you, you need to knock it off.
Your search probably led you to this post wherein I vow to never again describe myself as a dork for having unique interests. I’ll no longer apologize for being who I am, and I’d encourage you to do the same.
Now, you’ll notice that some people in the comments to that post argued that being a “dork” is not necessarily a bad thing. For the sake of argument, however, we’ll assume that you think it is, as you were looking to stop being it. Joking about being a “dork” is only funny when you have the self confidence to know that it makes you more, not less, interesting and is a part of your personality you should never look to shed.
Are other people fueling this self-doubt? Other people’s opinions of you just don’t matter. Trust me on this. The sooner you fully accept that, the happier I believe you will be.
I don’t know you, obviously, but I imagine you as a Junior High-aged girl unsure of herself and her place among her peers. Basically, me circa 1995. Junior High can be incredibly hard. I’ve been there. I know how it feels to think no one knows how you feel. I remember the frustration at being told to ignore the cruel remarks of my classmates. The very suggestion sounds like something that could only be issued from the mouth of an adult who’d completely lost touch with how overwhelming it is to be thirteen.
But I remember. I remember that being told not to worry about what people thought was like being told not to breathe. Other people’s opinions were omnipresent. I’d sit in dressing rooms in the mall and cry because I was unsure if the clothes I was selecting were “right.” I sat through math class one day unable to take notes because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by getting up to use the pencil sharpener. I wanted – more than anything – to be completely invisible.
Slowly – and over the course of many years – I realized that the only opinions that mattered were my own and those of the people who loved me. The most clear manifestation of this epiphany is that now I’m able to dance in public.
By no means am I implying that I’m now the perfect role model for high self-esteem. I have my hang-ups. The thing that’s changed is my reaction to these hang ups. Now that I’m better able to weed out the noise of other people’s opinions, I feel more empowered to change the things that I don’t like about myself and ignore the things that other people don’t like. In short, I’m so much happier.
As for the name-callers, I don’t have any witty retorts for you because honestly, the greatest comeback is to move forward and be the best possible you – to find hobbies and people who truly interest you and to let go of anyone or anything that holds you down. Are you rolling your eyes at me? That’s fine. I know how eye-rolling that comment sounds. Plus, I was a champion eye-roller back in the day.
Surround yourself with people who love you for being a “dork” and would never see such a label as a bad thing. Try your best to ignore the haters and never let yourself sink to their level. And finally, don’t ever, ever, change yourself for someone else.
Now that my sister lives right around the corner, we have a little ritual. One day a week, we meet at one another’s place to eat dinner, drink beer, and watch The Bachelorette. For the uninitiated, The Bachelorette is a dating show wherein the contestants go on over-the-top dates and amazing trips to see if the current ABC-selected Bachelor or Bachelorette is their one true love. It’s heavily orchestrated. It’s unrealistic. It’s fantastic.
Our current Bachelorette is Ashley. Oh, were you hoping it would be Emily? Yeah, Ashley was worried about that. In fact, there is little that escapes Ashley’s self-doubt and perpetual worry. She’s gorgeous, tiny, has amazing abs, and is being paid a quarter of a million dollars to live in an amazing house in LA/travel through southeast Asia while being pursued by some pretty-decent looking men. I know that true happiness is much deeper than that, but it seems Ashley would be getting a healthy dose of that external validation she so craves.
So, Bentley. No story of Ashley’s lack of self-confidence would be complete without a mention of our favorite villan, Bentley.
Those of you who are caught up on your episodes know that Ashley is mad-crazy pining for Bentley, a guy who, in a bit of dramatic irony, has stated that he’d rather be “like, swimming in pee” than thinking of a future with our fair Bachelorette. Ashley, of course, does not know this and continues to think that Bentley is the best thing ever. Two weeks ago, Bentley left the show to go take his douche circus on the road, but it tonight’s episode, he’s back.
Now, pause. You’re expecting me to say I want Ashley to tell Bentley to take a hike. Well yes, I do. But not for any “Rah, rah! You go girl!” kind of reasons. Sure, it would be nice to see Ashley get it together and stand up for herself, but, personally, I want Bentley off the show because he’s freaking boring. He chose to play the pompous jerk. Clever, Bentley. I’d rather spend time with that weirdo who wore a mask for three weeks.
That said, my official advice for our lovelorn Bachelorette:
- No further mentions of “letting the guys down” by either A) not being Emily, B) not being attentive enough because you are too caught up on Bentley, or C) any other reason you concoct. The guys just got a free trip to Thailand. Even if they are “in it for the wrong reasons,” they are “in it for the wrong reasons” in Thailand.
- Bentley. Ok, Ashley, don’t freak out, but you are kind of letting me down with your continued pursuit of that idiot. Seriously. I mean, hello, J.P.
- On a serious note (despite the un-serious premise of looking for love on a reality TV show), if you don’t think you’re pretty enough, it will never matter how pretty other people think you are. It may be time for some self-help books.
The other day, I had a mild meltdown. It was one of those moments where I felt like nothing I do is “right.” I’m very good at this kind of thinking, and it generally doesn’t take much to get me to parade around listing my faults. It can quickly spiral out of control and often ends in a brief amount of tears.
I’m not thin enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not successful enough… the list goes from the standard to the insane.
(We’ve all been there, right? …Right?)
After listening until I’d calmed down, the ever-patient Will had me list my priorities – not my priorities for the upcoming week or month, but my overall priorities for life. They are as follows:
- My relationships with the people in my life (parents, sister, boyfriend).
- My relationships with my kitties (yes, for real. I want to be a good cat-mama).
- Having the resources (time, money) to pursue the things I love; namely reading good books, eating good food, and taking good vacations. How I define “good” is subject to change.
It appears that I’m not so much of a failure after all.
(Warning: I’m about to get cheesier than a nacho cheese Dorito.)
Let’s take item #1, subset c – relationship with my boyfriend. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I’m dating the greatest guy on earth. Sorry, ladies. Will is … perfect. He’s unbelievably kind and thoughtful. I won’t get all Jerry Maguire on you and say he completes me, but living without him would be like living without air. Unthinkable.
Yet somehow, I’ve got him thinking he’s the lucky one in our relationship. I’m clearly doing something right.
The metrics I was using to measure myself (pounds, dollars) have no real relevance vis-à-vis my priorities. I currently have solid, loving relationships with both parents, my sister, and my boyfriend (also, both kitties are relatively fond of me). While some relationships fall into place, most take some amount of work, and I rarely give myself credit for that.
If all I do from this point forward is maintain the relationships I currently have, I’m doing quite well.
I have a subscription to Elle Decor. I regularly read House Beautiful. I save West Elm catalogs to read as though they were magazines. I follow several home-decorating blogs and Twitter accounts. Basically, I’m a lover of all things interior design. It wasn’t always this way. It started last summer, shortly after purchasing my condo. I’ve lived in apartments for years, but now I can paint the walls! I’ve discussed moving a wall! I’m planning on completely re-doing the bathroom! It’s mine, and I want it to be beautiful.
First, I’m hoping someone else remembers those little “broken heart” friendship necklaces that were all the rage at White Oaks Elementary circa 1989*. Anyone?
Anyway, as you know, I’ve dedicated myself to evaluating my mindset, especially when it comes to things that make me happy (or not so happy). In so doing, it’s become quite evident that I’m rather self-critical. I think a lot of people are. It’s an easy trap to fall into. When you call yourself “stupid,” you generally don’t have to worry about a counter argument. I know I’m guilty of saying things to myself that, frankly, I wouldn’t tolerate coming from a friend.
But… what if I treated MYSELF like a friend? What if I was my own best friend?
From time to time, I want to share articles I come across pertaining to happiness and/or the obstacles one encounters in its pursuit. I’ve been doing a lot of “happy research” lately, so hopefully “Happiness in the News” will become a regular feature.
Last Friday, I did something scary. I went to a class at my gym called “Tri Tread” – forty-five minutes of various running drills on a treadmill to help participants prepare for a triathlon. From across the gym, I’ve gazed in wonder at the group of lithe ectomorphs who populate this class. I’ve wanted to join their ranks for awhile now, but, frankly, I’d been scared that I can’t keep up.
Plus, treadmills are terrifying. Seriously. No other piece of workout equipment physically ejects you if you fail to make pace.
Fear aside, I decided to go for it.