When I first started seriously thinking about dating again, I confided in a friend about my brilliant plan. I would look at someone and say, “This is it. This is who I am. This is what you are going to get. It’s not great and maybe it will get better but maybe it won’t. But this is what you get with me.” My friend shook her head and said, “That is a terrible plan.”
What I thought was me being honest and open was really a defense mechanism to protect myself. If I was able to lower a woman’s expectations then I wouldn’t have to worry about disappointing her later. In fact, she would be pleasantly surprised when things turned out to be better than promised.
It was indeed a terrible plan.
Who wants to be told all the negative things about someone before they date them? Nobody. Not any more than we want our server to say, “Well, the fish is overcooked and very dry. It’s served on a bed of bland rice and garnished with mushy flavorless vegetables.” I don’t care if it turns out to be the best meal I’ve ever been served, the expectations are already there and no amount of reality can erase that feeling.
Another friend gave me this excellent piece of advice when it comes to meeting someone for the first time. He said, “Don’t lead with insecurities.” So simple but something many of us have done many many times.
There is an old saying in stand-up that goes, “Don’t ever tell the audience that something you are about to say IS funny. They won’t believe you. Don’t ever tell the audience that something you are about to say is NOT funny. They will believe you.”
Plan B then! Go the other direction! Tell her how awesome I am and all the positive things about me! I tried this once and the woman I was with said, “You know who says all those things about themselves? Someone that doesn’t believe them. Are you trying to convince me or yourself?”
So Plan A and Plan B were a bust.
That leaves Plan C…for confidence!
When I teach children’s improv classes, I always talk about being brave and not “playing it safe”. We talk about people we admire and I ask them why we look up to these people. The answer usually comes back to the fact that these individuals are confident. But what is confidence? It’s so easy to see and yet so hard to describe in words. To me it means, someone that is comfortable just being themselves. They have nothing to prove and therefore, nothing to fear.
It is tempting to mimic these people in the hopes that we can “fake it until we make it”. But while false confidence may fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, you can’t fool yourself.
While I don’t know what the answer is yet, maybe it’s to stop trying so hard and just relax. Be funny, if I feel funny. Be quiet, if I don’t have anything to say. Listen, when others talk. React honestly and without an agenda.
In the end we spend more time with ourselves than with anyone else. So if we don’t like who we are when we are alone, how can we expect others to want to spend time with us? Often we look for someone to make us feel better by giving us affirmation or we hope that they can see “the real us”, what makes us special. But that is an unfair weight to place on another and it always ends badly.
I wish I could say that I have reached some enlightened place where I can see everything so clearly. Alas, that is not the case. I still occasionally blurt out some self-deprecating remark, apologize too much or brag too loudly. But I am getting stronger each day. Not because I want to be more desirable to another person, but because I want to reach a place where I love myself completely and accept myself for who I am and what I feel.
The best part is that when I do reach that place, I won’t have to yell it from the highest mountain…I can just whisper it to myself, “I love you.”