I have always held this deep belief that there was something fundamentally unlovable in me. Low and behold multiple experiences with guys who were not all that smitten with me did not help with it. I translated these experiences with these guys always in one way – yet another proof that I could never be loved.
There were multiple reasons why these guys were not smitten by me, but I always gave them one interpretation. Some guys I did not even like that much, but in the moment of break-up it all became down to me thinking I was unlovable and trying to hold on to the relationship as strong as I could. It was not rational and on several occasions my former partners indeed saw that there was no point in attaching oneself to the bad relationship.
But then there was another thing. I subconsciously sought out guys that had problems with vulnerability and intimacy. You know the group of people – for them feeling their feelings seems either threatening or promises to bring about many negative feelings from the past. So they have decided not to feel.
Normal people do not date people that are blocking their capacity to feel. Normal people don’t think that if they just put in enough effort, somehow their unemotional dates become loving partners. I dated these guys and spent enormous energy in trying to convince them that I in fact was worth loving (not that I actually believed it myself).
So what did I do? Well, people pleasing is the most common pattern…but then there is also achieving and proving your value through being good in everything…but then there is also the kind of power dynamic where both sides know that you are the one that needs this relationship more….And whoever needs something more, has to make sacrifices, right? I mean, if you are dependent on getting their love, you better make it worthwhile for them to be with you. And then of course you have these awkward moments where they have again showed you their lack of emotional involvement…be it then by telling you that they are not sure if they love you….be it by suddenly disappearing and reappearing…where your natural instinct should be to walk away….albeit people that do not think they are lovable instead try to fight harder to get the love of a person that has shown them that they don’t love them.
This is a highly tumulus circle and let me tell you…if you feel unlovable inside, you are not going to choose a loving partner. I mean – there has to be something wrong with a club that accepts me as a member. You choose someone who is ambiguous at best, but at worst looks down on you for trying to win their love.
In the past, I seem to have had fundamental differences with several of my partner’s on how much effort is enough in the relationship – as in when are the problems too big to solve. I always thought that these guys never worked hard enough, never wanted to look at their problems and instead hoped that the next relationship will be less problematic.
It is probably not that all men are like this, but it is more that the men that I have been attracted to have been like this. There is probably a reason for that.
I think some of my efforts have been motivated by my deeper level of dissatisfaction with myself and my thoughts around there never being anyone who finds me acceptable as I am. So there has been a dysfunctional part in my patterns with these guys.
Being aware of this dysfunction has made me question my ideas on how much work or effort one should invest before giving up. It has also made me understand things on a new level.
I think there can be basic incompatibility between people. This is definitely not something where I would encourage effort. I have been together with guys who obviously wanted to be together with another person with a different personality. The fact that I somehow wanted to mold myself into a different person shows quite well my deeper issues.
But then there are certain dysfunctions that people have. For instance my ex was deeply insecure about his attractiveness. In my opinion it was his personal issue which he should have worked with. I was willing to help him with that, but I always thought that he somehow secretly hoped that this would not be an issue in another relationship. He sure blamed me for not being more sexually active and all the other things. Well, guess what? – my ex is feeling even more insecure now that he is single and can spend hours complaining to me about his insecurity.
The latter case, if you have such issues and dysfunctions in relationships I think it is quite obvious that you should work on them. Not even for the sake of relationship – but for yourself. You walk away hoping it will be all different with a different person, but it probably will not be. Surely, I also made some critical comments to my ex after he put on some weight and did other things that probably contributed to his insecurity, but I was never the reason why he felt insecure. For him it was just easier to ignore the work that he needed to put in to address this issue of his and blame me.
So for me when you have some bigger dysfunctional patterns you definitely should work on them. I think it is also reasonable to be willing as a partner to support and encourage this work. Naturally there are certain boundaries as in if your partner is a drug addict and spends all your salary on drugs you might want to question your choice to be together with this person. However, otherwise I think it is reasonable put in efforts from both side to work with such issues.
Lately I have been pushed to think more about what the idea of caring means to us. When do you say that someone cares about you? And I have come out with an idea that caring means that the other person does everything to alleviate your pain. See this pain can be both emotional or physical…but they care, they want to be there for you when you are hurting.
It is easy to be with someone when they are on the roll. When they have achieved some success and feeling that they are going upwards with their life. They will be happy and confident and will not present any issues for you as their partner or friend. There is a reason why they say that you will find out who your true friends are during your troubles, but it is not only about some people escaping out of selfishness when you need help. It is also about some people genuinely not being able to be there for you because of their own struggles.
I have been the latter person. I have been so overwhelmed by my own emotional issues that I have failed to be there for my friends. So obviously defining caring based on people being there at your crucial moments might not be enough.
It is difficult to dedicate your care and attention towards other people while you are hurting yourself, badly. I have had periods in my life where I was absolutely incapable of caring for someone else. But events in other people’s lives do not ask if you are in a place to be there for them. So hence we run into a trouble – how do we actually determine if someone cares for us?
I guess to me it boils down to guilt. But this is a rather difficult one, because people might not always express their guilt. I know that I still feel guilty about certain moments when I have not been there for someone who I thought needed me. But guilt is a very internal feeling…you might never find out if the other person feels guilty or not. However, what usually happens when someone feels guilty is that over the years, when they are in a better place, they try to make amends. They might not say much, but they will try to be good towards you. However admitting that you have not been there for someone that needed you requires maturity that a lot of people don’t have. No one wants to see themselves as a bad guy…So here comes the real punchline…if someone is willing to admit to themselves that they have not been there for you..they have not been the best friends…whatnot…and is willing to make amends..this is when you know that they care for you.
Neediness was thrown around a lot in my previous relationship, to the point where I now feel that whenever I wanted something my ex was unwilling to give to me, he just categorized me as needy. The situation is a bit more complicated though, because I do feel that my abandonment and loneliness issues made me cling too much. The fact that I could see myself as needy made it so much more difficult to actually understand when my ex had a point and when not.
The way I see it – needy – is an empty vessel word. The only point I see with the word is to assign guilt for a certain issue to someone. We had a fight about me being out late….lets not explore the fact that perhaps I could have called, but instead repeat the statement that you are needy. Few fights ever get solved if you just call your partner needy.
But the reason why I find neediness such a pointless word is – needy about what? Is it fair to for instance say that when my partner wants more sex than me they are needy? Or when they want me to cook for them, but I am unwilling to do this – are they needy? The word neediness takes an issue which should be about the mutual discussion and interaction and somehow frames one person as solely responsible for it.
In my case, my ex achieved with his constant comments on my neediness the state where I was afraid to need and want anything from him. When I needed something from the store, in the end I would never call my ex, because I could as well have received a lecture on all the things he constantly needed to do for me. His criticism on my neediness made me look at relationships in a rather unhealthy way – namely as a union where the purpose was to not need the other one at all.
Today I think it completely healthy to need one another. The whole purpose of the relationship is to be stronger together than apart. I admit, that there are unhealthy dynamics, such as for instance co-dependency, where there is obviously unhealthy need for the partner. However, I still would not call even co-dependent partners needy, I mean what does this term really give for describing the complex situation. Instead I would focus on particular needs which might be deemed appropriate or inappropriate. My fear for my ex whenever he was being out late and inability to fall asleep was what I would call an overreaction.
In the last post I wrote about the development talk that I had with my boss and how upset I was. I have slowly began to work through the experience and have to say that it has made me explore further several vulnerabilities which I was not very acutely aware of. Namely, I have discovered that I am sensitive to exclusion and upon feeling excluded tend to just close in to my own world. There are several other realizations I had after this talk. However, exploring my issues is not really the point of this post.
What I want to say is that when you react very strongly to something…to anything, there are thing to explore. What is the point of this exploration? Well…hopefully better adjustment and ability to deal not only with similar situations in the future, but maybe even change in terms of how you deal with people on a regular basis.
For instance as I said, when I experience someone excluding me, I tend to cut myself off. I was not really very aware of this pattern. However, as the years go by and you continuously exclude yourself, you are not even aware if things have changed. It becomes a reinforcing pattern. I was so used to feeling excluded at my work place that even the coming in of new people did not make me give them a chance. I had already started to think about myself as excluded.
Furthermore, even if one is excluded, as I mentioned in earlier post, one can take a more active role by seeking employment elsewhere. However, I was so used to feeling excluded that the experience did not strike me as weird.
So what I want to say is, when you feel strongly triggered explore it. You might end up feeling grateful to the person that triggered this negative experience. Not because your opinion of them has changed, but rather that quite contrary to their plans, they have actually made life better for you as you are given the opportunity to grow outside of your constraints. So my point is that the negative experiences are only negative if you decide to learn nothing from them. If you find a lesson or two from those, they become positive.
So over the course of recent year I have seen several people being promoted who I thought never really deserved a promotion. Furthermore, I still have my temporary working contract and I have been assured that they have no intention whatsoever to prelongen it. I will not really go into the details of this whole situation, but suffice to say that as I had a development talk with my boss with him pointing out some of the reasons as to why they cannot keep me (some of it was really actually straight up wrong and others parts felt more fetched up) I did end up feeling the injustice. Moreover, as my boss went over the long list of blaming me for not being able to get any prolongation, I actually felt more upset than I have felt for a long time. Mostly, because I felt that I had worked really hard all these years.
I spent several days feeling like a victim and feeling that I had been unjustly overlooked. I was really upset….Until it dawned on me that no one cares that I am upset. This might at first feel like it should make me even more upset, but it actually had an opposite effect. I thought – the only person who ends up feeling bad if I constantly keep focusing on the perceived injustices is….ME. My boss does not feel bad, my colleagues who thought got their positions through nepotism do not feel bad. It is only me that feels bad. So essentially in addition to perhaps having being treated unfairly, I am making it way worse for myself with focusing all my energy on their negative treatment of me. I am giving them way too much power.
So the thinking process went on in a way – who cares if my soon to be former boss does not appreciate me. It is one person. He should really not been given such a big role in my life. Not only is this one person, but furthermore, it is someone who obviously had a lot at stake in defending his choices. Should I feel bad about it? Should I see myself as a victim? Should I continue to focus on the experience of being violated?
So instead I decided that I don’t want to see myself as a victim. I observe his behaviour, I analyse his negative opinions and I make decisions accordingly. In this particular instance I will take an active role in seeking employment elsewhere. Lets face it – you probably don’t want to in a long run work anyways in the place where you feel unvalued. So, in a way they have done me a favour by forcing me to change the environment. Otherwise I might have probably just continued there, feeling invisible and unvalued, but not really up for any changes either.
So my suggestion on a situation where you feel treated unjustly is to give this emotion back to the person who caused this reaction. Don’t give them the power to make you miserable. They probably will not feel like they did anything wrong anyways and hence will not really see any responsibility in you feeling miserable.
So I have had multiple cases with people who never really communicate that they are either annoyed or feel violated by some behaviour of mine until it is too late. At this point they either lash out and have gathered months and months of resentment or just decide to disappear. I guess behind this behaviour is a fear of rejection and abandonment – they think that when they actually establish a border they will be abandoned.
Boy do I know quite a lot about fear of abandonment and rejection as well as willingness to please everyone. I also do know about this sense of violation and silent anger that starts to build in you as you think that people are exploiting you and do not notice what you are doing for them. However, unfortunately this was my problem and not the problem of people that I thought were exploiting me.
People behave with you they way you let them behave with you. Although this statement sounds like the world is full of other people just waiting to exploit someone, the situation is usually much simpler. Most people simply do not desire to spend hours and months figuring out where your borders lie. Surely there are some people who deliberately exploit other people or do outrageous things, but most people truly are not like this.
I have now been on the other side of the coin and as I mentioned, had various experiences with people that did not communicate their borders with me. I find these people truly iffy and unreliable. Namely, because they put the responsibility for their feelings on me. They assume me to take a close look at how they are feeling and what behaviours are acceptable in their eyes and whatnot. To be honest sometimes this seems like a full time job. Furthermore, usually these people tend to also run from one extreme to another – on one hand they follow their fear of rejection by being overly accommodating and then they lash out following their feeling that they were used. This kind of pending between two extremes is just very confusing.
So in general these days I find it much easier to hang around with people who are able to communicate their wishes and exert their borders if need be. Furthermore, I find this kind of lashing out or disappearing to be increasingly emotionally exploitative itself, even if it is not meant to be like this. But it does take a lot of toll on people who are at the receiving end of this behaviour.
The biggest obstacles towards the way to your happiness are the ones that lie inside you. Sure you can have some real outside hinders such as lack of money, resources, support, but I have never seen anything as powerful as our belief system – even class binds are not as strong.
That is not to say that your happiness lies in the hands of yourself nor to shame people for not achieving great success. Quite the contrary, I think emotional obstacles are even more difficult to overcome than our material and social limitations. Furthermore, lets face it, overcoming them is usually not a cheap hobby either as it will quite often require outside help. The kind of outside help which is among other things also frequently stigmatized.
I have had many emotional obstacles in my life. For instance, I spent years with my ex being mortified of break-up and being alone in a foreign country. I still have emotional obstacles – I am still really scared of not finding a new job…scared to the degree that I almost forget that maybe with my CV and talents I could instead try to choose a job that I enjoy and where I feel appreciated.
It is surprising how much these emotional obstacles colour the way you see the world. Take the two personal examples I gave. I was completely sure that I would spend my life in loneliness after breaking up with my ex. I was also completely sure that everyone in my acquaintance circle will want to disown me or will just say – this is what we really expected from her….she can never really keep her relationships…must be something wrong with her.
Whereas I think my example is extreme, I do believe that most people have such emotional limitations which keep them from fulfilling their potential. We have fears, we have negative beliefs…and sometimes we don’t even know we have them. For the most part of my life I was completely convinced that everyone would celebrate upon my failures, simply because this was something I had experienced when young. This belief naturally also influenced the kind of people I hanged around with….you know the kind to whom you never dare to say you failed because they will just tell you that they told you so and that you should not have tried anyways.
Overcoming these emotional obstacles is a damn difficult job. In my experience it takes years. And lets face it, no one in the current world wants to be in repair for years. It is an immediate gratification society. All I can say is that if you do find it within yourself to work through some of these emotional obstacles, your life can change in unexpected and mostly positive ways.
Years of rather questionable relationships and well, lets face it, also my mother’s continuing negative feedback made me feel like a failure. Several of my exes were always rather quick to point out what was wrong with me, some of them probably not completely understanding how hurtful it was. The thing is, I still believe it is important to be able to receive criticism in a relationship. So throughout receiving negative comments from my exes I always pushed myself to change and probably also gave them more credit than they were worth.
From the other side….I have criticized my exes as well. I have suggested some helpful and not so helpful changes. I have been selfish in my advice to my exes as well as more helpful….But how do you distinguish this?
For me it seems that there are two aspects about negative feedback or attempts to change your partner. The first question one needs to ask is – is it something minor I am trying to change or is it a vital part of the other person. From my side, several guys have tried to make me earthlier and more practical and this has never been who I was. Trying to change this aspect of me is like saying that they reject me from the core. Mind me, I do think I still relatively practical in my usual crowds but this is beyond the point. The other question one needs to ask is – is this change that I am suggesting for the benefit of my partner or for the benefit of me. I once suggested my partner to change his hair colour. Mind me I was 17, but I still feel bad and embarrassed about it. On the other hand, I suggested one other partner to work with his perfectionism, also bringing forth some strategies….I don’t feel bad about the second one, because I could see how his perfectionism led him to miss deadlines and to spend hours just obsessing about something which, in my opinion, for most people would have been fine anyways.
These two points apply both for the criticism and feedback that is given to you as well as the feedback that you give to others. Ultimately it is also quite clear that for instance in the case where I suggested my ex to change his haircolor…haircolor was not really a problem. Rather it was something superficial that was easy to point out without any deeper analysis. Most likely when you come up with all these things which your partner should change that are rather superficial – they are not really the real problem. In my particular case at seventeen my problem was the lack of spark between us. We were really good friends and still are, but there was never a real spark or chemistry between us. But instead of putting it on him, I should have just analysed my own feelings.
I grew up thinking that I was untalented. I mean I was mediocre in most fields that I could get my hands on. There were few sports where I really did not do well, but besides that, I was always at least mediocre if not above. But….I never had a feeling that I was extra talented in any field.
Welcome to the experience that most people have…..Lets face it, most of the humanity is not extra talented in one particular area nor are born geniuses. Not possessing extra-ordinary talents is normal. Our current problem is that we can pretty much compare ourselves with the whole world. Before it was enough if you were the best sportsman in your valley – you would already feel like superstar. Under these conditions almost everyone could find something they excelled in…not today.
A lot of people feel that this kind of mediocrity turns their existence into pointless ordeal. I mean if I am not super talented, why to bother? I will never make any splash in the world. I will never change anything. At times it might result in things like midlife crisis where you question the whole meaning of your life and get closer to your mortality all the while sensing that you still have not made relevant impact.
So from one mediocre person to another….I think there is a need for more systemic approach. I think looking at your mediocrity in a more wholesome manner might create openings and make you feel less insignificant. Let me give you an example…
As I said, I am not a superstar in anything…however I have discovered that I might have some skills and abilities which are rather uncommon to be found in the same person. I tend to be rather good presenter, plus I can keep everybody entertained at the party if I feel like it, I am not an elegant writer nor am I super good in languages, but I seem to have the ability to make a point and follow the logical structure in my texts, furthermore, I also dare to make points and create waves instead of producing texts which are very modest; in addition to that I was always rather good in math; I also seem to have knack on understanding people……etc etc…… Now find me an average math-oriented person that is also super entertaining. I bet it would take a while…. Or find me a person that is equally good in making their point in writing as well as in presentations. Again…people tend to be good in either or…
This post is not about me bathing in self-glory. It has taken me years of trying to make sense of my abilities and feeling okay about them. So, it is rather me using myself as tool for showing that if you feel you have no extraordinary talents, it is okay. You need to look at the combination of things in which you might be above average. This is your real roadmap. Analyze your different skills and see what you can make out of those combined. In my experience when you combine the uncommon skills – this is where real innovation lies. This is where you can make a splash.