“Do you think that you intimidate people?”
That was the question posed by my counselor. I went to see a counselor during the last quarter of law school. I had been feeling pretty crummy and wanted some professional help. I had told him that sometimes, I felt disconnected from people.
“What do you mean?”
“When I see you, I see an articulate, handsome, intelligent, well-dressed, and confident person. I can imagine some people feeling intimidated by that and feeling like they can’t get close to you.”
“Well, I guess so. I never really thought of it that way.”
This conversation came to mind because a friend recently asked me if I was dating anyone. When I said no, he said “That’s surprising, because you’re a catch, although I don’t think you realize that.”
You know, I spent a large part of my life believing the exact opposite thing about myself. I felt incredibly insecure and unhappy with myself. I treated everyone with kindness and treated myself with contempt.
Confession time: I once wrote a “Better than me” list. It was a list of all the guys I knew who were better than me in this or that category. This guy is smarter. This other guy has more money. This friend is more handsome. This dude has much more interesting things to see. I imagine that many of us do this exercise in our heads, but I wrote it down.
Why did I do this? Because sometimes it’s easier to give in to the lie than fight for the truth. You get so tired of fighting, that it’s tempting to say “OK, you win.” It’s tempting to stop hoping for happiness if you believe that you will never be happy. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but at least a hope that is dead can’t be crushed, right?
To be sure, I am much healthier now. I attribute my healing to God, family, community, and simple maturity. Here’s a couple things that I learned:
1) My identity is not centered on my relationship status. I am single, and have been for pretty much my entire life. Yet my sense of who I am does not center on my singleness. I have a full and satisfying life. While I do desire companionship, that desire is centered on a pursuit of a fuller experience of life. To put it another way: Life is awesome, and if I pursue a relationship, it’s to help make life even more awesome.
2) Objectively speaking, I have many positive qualities to offer. I think it’s appropriate to describe me as a thoughtful, kind, intelligent, understanding, and mature person. I possess a certain degree of physical attractiveness, and try to keep physically fit. Sure, I can be a bit formal sometimes (I’m not all that spontaneous and fun), and I have a lot of student loan debt (which I’m managing). But overall, I’m a good choice.
3) I don’t need to be ashamed of my history. Some people may mock me for my minimal relationship experience. That’s fine; if people believe that denigrating me for my personal life is a good use of their time, I would advise them to reexamine their own life choices. Certainly, I have experienced a great deal of loneliness and regret, and I still do from time to time, because old habits die hard. But as someone who believes in redemption, I believe that my story isn’t over yet. I believe that God can take the sadness that I have experienced and turn it into joy. In fact, it’s already happening.