Hump Day Crush: Confidence Game

All of my self-confidence when it came to dating was crushed out of me by the time I was 14 years old.

By that time, I had spent more than a year pining away after a girl who wouldn’t even breathe in my direction if she didn’t have to. I had firmly settled myself right near the bottom of the social pecking order and had almost totally bought into the popular idea that I was highly unpopular. At best, the girls around me tolerated me. At worst, they actively avoided me. Mostly, they just ignored me.

For a very long time, I let that “It’ll never work because I’m not good enough” attitude monopolize what passed for my relationship life. Every now and then I’d have a burst of masochistic desire and try to ask someone out. Inevitably, I’d work myself up about it, stumble over my intended approach and then either chicken out or never follow through.

While that made for some funny stories (in retrospect), it did not make me all that happy at the time.

But during that time I spent a whole lot of energy watching what other people did. I did everything but take actual notes on their escapades, successes and failures. I vowed to never make those same, easily avoidable mistakes–like lying to or cheating on your significant other. I got so good at reading people that I could tell in a few minutes if one person liked another or if the relationship was going well.

The one place I remained oblivious was if someone liked me. Why? Because I didn’t believe it could be true. If I even got an inkling that someone liked me, I immediately chalked it up to wishful thinking or some vile plot to humiliate me later on.

Years after the fact, I’d discover that I missed out on a whole lot of opportunities because of that blind spot.

All of that, in a way, brought me to where I am now and helped me form the Crush Theory I talk about here. I had a need to understand myself and others. Why? Because I needed to know what was wrong with me.

Eventually, I’d find out that there really wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was no more or less screwed up when it came to relationships than most other people out there. Sure there were amazingly smooth operators and total psycho hose beasts, but the vast majority of people fell into the middle group of partially blind and sometimes lucky. I was just a little more blind a a lot more scared.

That all started to change by the end of high school. By then I was passing through the tail end of the darkest time in my life and discovering that, lo and behold, I was an OK person who actually deserved to be happy. Just a few kind words and a few good responses from members of the opposite sex went a long way in making that happen.

College rolled in and, just for fun, I’d get up the courage to ask people out on a regular basis. Sure I was flatly rejected most of the time, but I was OK with that. I’d learned to be OK with it. I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone by actually dating. The challenge was in the asking.

The challenge was in finding the confidence to put myself out there.

That confidence–perhaps the most valuable gem was all have hiding within ourselves–is the key to many things. Confidence that, yes, we are good enough. That, yes, we’re just fine being who we are. That, yes, having someone else around would be nice, but it’s not necessary to be a complete person.

When I mention that I’ve been single for more than eight and a half years, I get a lot of different reactions. Most of them are of the “My god! I could never do that!” variety of disbelief. They ask me how I’ve managed.

Truth be told, I don’t often think about it. I hit a comfort zone years ago. I got to the point where I knew what I needed (mostly through looking at my crushes and past relationships) and realized that I had it. I knew what I wanted and realized that most of it wasn’t really that important or was a product of external forces (there is a great deal of pressure out there to be in a relationship of some sort).

I simply chose to do without romantic attachments. And I found enough confidence within myself to do just that.

But every now and then I start to feel the need for a new challenge. A need to disrupt the comfortable pattern I’ve fallen in to. A desire to once again put that confidence to the test by putting myself out there to be flatly rejected and laughed at–or to still be surprised that other people think I’m just as worthwhile as I know I am. Comfort needs to be periodically disrupted in order to be fully appreciated. Old knowledge needs to be tested to be sure it’s still true.

The greatest confidence game we ever play is with ourselves–and it has nothing at all in common with the cajoling and misdirection of underhanded con-men. Your personal con game is all about finding yourself and not being afraid to let others find you, too.

Some things never change… the thrill of the question “Hey, you wanna go out sometime?” is one of them.

And once you discover it, the deep knowledge that even if the answer is “No” that things will be just fine is another.

Together, those two constants can make for some very good stories, especially when the answer is “No.”

Maybe it’s time to start gathering stories like that again.

  • fiferjanis

    Do you think one of the attractions of crushes (vs. successful relationships) is the “thrill of the chase?” I often wonder if I’m just an adrenaline junky who likes the chase. :-/

    I’m the type of person who’s always trying something new and pushes new boundaries. Once something levels off, I seem to feel the need to move on to something new. This could be what you were referring to earlier as “personal growth” and whatnot, but how healthy is it to be in a state of flux your entire life in terms of relationships?

    I often wonder about this myself, as on the one hand I’ve had several long-lasting and successful relationships and friendships, successful goal completions, etc… but I inevitably feel like I get itchy feet. It’s not even that I dislike where I am… it’s just that I want to experience something new.

    I can understand personal growth and curiosity and living life to the fullest can be all these “great things,” but how much is too much? My personal philosophy is “An it harm none, do what you will.” This gives me the freedom to live my life how I’d like… but it’s that whole ‘An it harm none’ part that gives me guilt trips. I don’t want to bring down other people with me (much less those whom I love), because they had certain expectations that something was a perceived way, and I flaked on them.

    Certainly, when you’re single, you can see the world as centrally-focused on what you make of it. But at some point in a relationship where you’ve shared your life with someone to a certain extent, you assume responsibility over someone else’s feelings, well-being and world as well. Then the path isn’t quite so clear.

    • The “thrill of the chase” is, indeed, one of the big deals in both crushes and early-stage relationships. We all have that tendency to drift toward wandering when things become more familiar, when that initial blazing fire of newness wears down a bit. It’s part of being human and something that everyone I know has gone through.

      Sometimes, moving on is the right thing to do. Other times, it is a question of “sticking it out” for a little while longer. The trick, of course, is telling the difference between those two sets of circumstances. That can only be done on a case by case basis.

      As far as the “harm none” idea (which I fully subscribe to in most situations), you have to remember that you have to include yourself in that. If not hurting someone else is hurting you, then you’re breaking your own rule. In fact, you’re breaking a more important rule that I’ve learned over the years: “If I am dead or horribly broken, I cannot be any good to anyone else.”

      Hurting others in inevitable. As long as it is done without malice and only when absolutely necessary, there is no real problem with it happening. It’s just an unfortunate part of being human.

  • fiferjanis

    Do you think one of the attractions of crushes (vs. successful relationships) is the “thrill of the chase?” I often wonder if I’m just an adrenaline junky who likes the chase. :-/

    I’m the type of person who’s always trying something new and pushes new boundaries. Once something levels off, I seem to feel the need to move on to something new. This could be what you were referring to earlier as “personal growth” and whatnot, but how healthy is it to be in a state of flux your entire life in terms of relationships?

    I often wonder about this myself, as on the one hand I’ve had several long-lasting and successful relationships and friendships, successful goal completions, etc… but I inevitably feel like I get itchy feet. It’s not even that I dislike where I am… it’s just that I want to experience something new.

    I can understand personal growth and curiosity and living life to the fullest can be all these “great things,” but how much is too much? My personal philosophy is “An it harm none, do what you will.” This gives me the freedom to live my life how I’d like… but it’s that whole ‘An it harm none’ part that gives me guilt trips. I don’t want to bring down other people with me (much less those whom I love), because they had certain expectations that something was a perceived way, and I flaked on them.

    Certainly, when you’re single, you can see the world as centrally-focused on what you make of it. But at some point in a relationship where you’ve shared your life with someone to a certain extent, you assume responsibility over someone else’s feelings, well-being and world as well. Then the path isn’t quite so clear.

    • The “thrill of the chase” is, indeed, one of the big deals in both crushes and early-stage relationships. We all have that tendency to drift toward wandering when things become more familiar, when that initial blazing fire of newness wears down a bit. It’s part of being human and something that everyone I know has gone through.

      Sometimes, moving on is the right thing to do. Other times, it is a question of “sticking it out” for a little while longer. The trick, of course, is telling the difference between those two sets of circumstances. That can only be done on a case by case basis.

      As far as the “harm none” idea (which I fully subscribe to in most situations), you have to remember that you have to include yourself in that. If not hurting someone else is hurting you, then you’re breaking your own rule. In fact, you’re breaking a more important rule that I’ve learned over the years: “If I am dead or horribly broken, I cannot be any good to anyone else.”

      Hurting others in inevitable. As long as it is done without malice and only when absolutely necessary, there is no real problem with it happening. It’s just an unfortunate part of being human.

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