How can a person be TOO awesome? Ask my boyfriend.
January 10, 2010 9:25 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop feeling inadequate compared to my boyfriend?

My partner is a terrific person. He's a wonderful artist and musician. I am awkward and talentless. He has a wide social circle and we can't go out without him running into at least three people he knows. Also, due to being a recent transplant to this city (not because of BF. We met after I moved here), a lot of my social relations are BF's friends. Though I'm making friends of my own, they aren't as bountiful as the friends shared between BF and I. He's a patient, come-what-may kind of guy whereas I am prone to bouts of frustration and don't like things to not go as planned. (I guess you could call me a little bit neurotic.) Obviously, the patient, spontaneous guy is more fun to be around than the "nagging girlfriend" who clams up when she meets even more of his friends or wants to get to the train station 5 minutes early so as not to miss the train.

In summary, I feel like a horrible, unworthy, uptight, talentless loser tagging along with a person waaaay out of my league. I'm starting to resent my partner, obviously irrationally, for being awesome.

Please, Metafilter, help me regain my sanity.

throwaway email:
posted by apophenia to Human Relations (25 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Hmm, I meant to post this anonymously. Ignore the throwaway email!
posted by apophenia at 9:27 AM on January 10, 2010

I hate to pull this out, but it sounds like you have classic self esteem issues and could greatly benefit from... wait for it... therapy.
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:27 AM on January 10, 2010

Response by poster: youcancallmeal: Okay, so maybe calling myself "talentless" and "horrible" was hyperbole. I have my own interests outside of relationship (e.g. journalism, ballet, etc) but they just seem so dull when I'm around the BF's bohemian, musician friends.

And yes, it was supposed to be, but it's no big deal that it isn't.
posted by apophenia at 9:30 AM on January 10, 2010

Remind yourself that he's dating you for a reason. The characteristics you describe might be exactly what he's looking for.
posted by purephase at 9:32 AM on January 10, 2010

Best answer: Would it help to see your boyfriend not as competition, but as an opportunity? He's someone who can introduce you to a whole new circle of people and hobbies, and he can help you explore your new city from an insider's perspective. I know the feeling of being lame-and-stodgy compared to a bunch of bohemian types, but if you can just make yourself let go of those thoughts, you have so much to gain from this situation.

(And of course, he obviously feels that he has much to gain from your company, as that's why he's dating you.)
posted by Fifi Firefox at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Just realize that everyone has their positives, and their negatives. While your partner may be awesome, I think we can be certain that he doesn't fart rose petals and shit potpourri. Acknowledge your positives, and bring him off of the pedestal that you put him on in your head. If you don't like being neurotic, change it. I'm sure therapy will be mentioned, but when it boils down to it, you are the one who has to make any changes that you want to make within yourself. Accept yourself for who you are, and like that person.
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:38 AM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There have been many AskMe threads about similar questions.

One point that's often been made on AskMe is circumstances like the ones you're presenting to us are incoherent. This overall picture can't be entirely accurate. Either he is so amazingly awesome in every way, or he has a girlfriend who is "a horrible, unworthy, uptight, talentless loser." But you cannot be right that these are BOTH true. If he's so great, he should be both (1) capable of getting an equally great girlfriend and (2) perceptive and motivated enough to put this into practice. If you're as mediocre as you suggest, then he must be pretty mediocre too. If he's as great as you suggest, you must be pretty great too in order to be his girlfriend. I make no judgment as to which (if any) of these is the case since I haven't met either of you.

My guess is that neither of these extremes is the case, and that you both have a mix of positive and negative qualities. Maybe not the exact same mix of positive and negative qualities. Maybe he's more social than you, but you exceed him in other areas, for which you don't give yourself enough credit. There's not enough info in this question for us to know which areas those are, and that's fine, but I recommend reminding yourself about what you're great at. Maybe try putting aside the modesty for a minute and give yourself a few compliments.

Also, I can relate to you in that I have friends where, if I walk around town with them, I'm constantly running into their friends (with whom they inevitably strike up charming conversations); meanwhile, I'm a lot less likely to run into my friends. What I've realized is: who cares? Quantity =/= quality. It doesn't matter to me that I know people who have a greater number of friends than I do. One can only have so many close friends in life -- hence the stock joke about the celebrity who's constantly name-dropping their "close personal friend." Often I've found that those more extroverted types have lots of friends because they don't have much of a filter or much self-consciousness about making instant connections with almost anyone they meet. I'm more introverted and take longer to warm up to people. That doesn't even mean my extroverted friends have better social skills than me or a more rewarding social life, and it certainly doesn't make me an inferior human being.

(I don't understand the problem with "want[ing] to get to the train station 5 minutes early so as not to miss the train.")
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:41 AM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]

How much do you focus on your own interests (ballet, journalism, etc.)? You say they're dull, but that's not actually the case since they hold your interest. As an artist and musician, I can assure you that art and music are also dull to the non-artist/non-musician, when you get down to the details.

If you don't focus on your own interests, start now! If you don't, you will lose an important part of yourself, and the resentment you feel now will only grow. Plus, focusing on your interests will help you meet people, and not have to "rely" on your bf for social outlets. Give your interests the respect they deserve!
posted by baxter_ilion at 9:44 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

One more thought that I've found useful, related to Fifi Firefox's answer... No matter what you do in your life, the rest of the people in the world are still going to exist. Your boyfriend and his friends and everyone you've ever met are going to have the same talents and successes and failures and strengths and weaknesses no matter what you do or what your connection is to them (with the exception of situations where you play a role in those successes/failures/whatever). So, once we've taken note of this point, why would you think you'd be better off not having these people in your life?

For instance, I have a friend who went to Yale Law School, widely considered the best law school in the US. I went to law school but could never have gotten into Yale. Is that worth me spending one second of my life feeling jealous about? Of course not, because after all, no matter who my friends are, Yale Law School is going to have a a couple hundred new law students, year after year after year. Why does it matter that one of them is this friend of mine? I should only feel good about the fact that I know the outstanding people I know.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:49 AM on January 10, 2010 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You're doing the negative, faulty thinking thing. You've got to interrupt those thoughts, they lead to despair. You're telling yourself, "I'm not (spontaneous, laid back, bohemian, insert adjective) and so therefore I suck." It's just not true. It's a cognitive distortion. I can relate because I do it too. I think everybody does it to some extent. Probably even your boyfriend.

The first step in correcting faulty thinking is merely to acknowledge that it's happening. Get yourself in the habit of recognizing and acknowledging the thought immediately when it creeps up. Teach yourself to say, without judgement towards yourself, "Oh hey. I'm doing that thing again. When I do this thing/think these thoughts, it makes me feel bad about myself and just isn't true."

Step two is to learn to evaluate what's untrue about the thought. This is harder than step one. If you've just told yourself that you are unworthy because you are not spontaneous (for instance), tell yourself (or even better write it down), "I may not be spontaneous but that's doesn't make me a bad person. I just like to plan things and that's okay. Lots of people like to plan things and being a good planner is a quality many people admire."

Step three is to replace the thought with something more positive. For instance, "Planning things makes me better prepared and allows me to get more done with my time. Today I prepared well for (insert well planned for task), and it was a success."

Comparing ourselves to others is a common distortion. Remember that just because someone is laid back, freewheeling, artistic, etc . . . does not make them a good person. Your boyfriend is a good person, not because of these qualities but just because he is a good person. You are a good person too. You're just a good person with a different set of qualities. He obviously likes you and thinks you're awesome or he wouldn't be with you.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:03 AM on January 10, 2010 [8 favorites]

I'm not entirely clear on whether these feelings are just bubbling up or whether your boyfriend is calling you these things: "nagging girlfriend," horrible, unworthy, uptight, talentless loser.

Because that makes a big difference.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:04 AM on January 10, 2010

Best answer: apophenia, have you and your partner thought about sharing with each other why you're with each other? It's actually kind of fun to do and eye-opening, particularly if and when you realize that your partner is with you for reasons and highlights qualities that you don't always find particularly exceptional yourself.

For example, Mr. Anitanita has shared with me that what he likes about me is that I try to be thoughtful, am a planner, and am good in emergencies. So this morning when he called to tell me that his car broke down last night on his way to work (at a hospital), we came up with a plan of what we're going to do. In about 25 minutes I found a towing company, booked a citycarshare, and did not tweak him for not having AAA on a car over 25 years old, but signed him up with a gift membership instead. I'll also be bringing his favorite eclair to cheer him up when I pick him up, because he's worked about 80 hours this week, is functioning on little sleep, and also got his wallet stolen. In short, he's has had a rough week).

Now, he's entirely capable of doing this himself. And like your guy, he's so easy going about most things that he just rolls with the flow, and the broken down car thing on top of everything else barely even phases him. (But here, no wallet means no credit card, and you can't get a tow truck without a credit card. Okay, too much information.) Also, my 'planner' qualities are not sexy/fun/exciting. It'd be an oddish thing to 'brag' about to friends. But I'm proud of this 'early planner & problem solver' quality in myself, and I know that professionally it's why I am successful at work. (It helps when you're in a job where your slightly neurotic "I-must-have-a-plan-and-I-will-check-it-5-times" behavior is rewarded.) And it's a warm fuzzy feeling to know that Mr. Anitanita values them as well, though he doesn't share them.

In return, I get a super social guy with too many friends to count, to rousts me out bed at the last minute to invite me to go dancing, or see a movie, yet is totally fine if my super introverted tendency kicks and I say, "No really. You have a great time. Bring me back cake!" And when he brings me back something, and tells me about his time dancing, and I tell him about the book I'm reading, and we both have a lovely time.

My point is, if dating someone with 300 friends was what was important to him, he'd be doing that right now. If being with a person who is 'a little bit neurotic' was a dealbreaker for him, he'd have broken up with you by now. But you bring something else into his life that he likes, and as long as you let him do his thing, and be yourself, and work on mostly self soothing when a well planned plan doesn't turn out as expected - rather than making him do it all the time -, then you have a lovely complementary relationship. And that's a good thing.
posted by anitanita at 10:22 AM on January 10, 2010 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I would caution you that, however "wonderful" your boyfriend and his friends may seem, the qualities in them that you are admiring may have corresponding bad qualities that you are not seeing.

My experience with these "circles of brilliant friends" is that they often involve a lot more substance abuse, parental financial support into late twenties and early thirties, depression, irresponsibility, artistic talents that go nowhere, and dead end career paths than immediately meets the eye.

You, by the evidence of your question, may be the type who is not flashy and brilliant-seeming, but in your own plodding way, destined to a more solid, successful life than these people.

Just a thought. In my experience of life, there's a lot of truth in the allegory of the tortoise and the hare.
posted by jayder at 10:25 AM on January 10, 2010 [6 favorites]

I struggle with this myself. I have a bad habit of trying to change my mold a bit for the person I like. I think all sorts of ways I could change myself to make the other person see I'm just as cool as they are BUT it's the lamest thing I can be. Being myself is what attracts certain types of people to me and I tend to lose sight of that when I hold a romantic interest in others. The stuff you named is actually quite interesting and are considered strong disciplines. Focus on those talents and insert a cool factor in there. Those are the things that give you your mojo and make you feel good about yourself so work on seeing that mojo in what you do. Also, I love to plan things out too. In NYC, everything is spontaneous. Very hard to get people together on the same page. It frustrates me to no end but I'm learning to deal with it and finding a balance so that my friends ultimately do respect my time. (I'm an entertainer, who's also a journalist and producer. Ballet is the shit by-the-way and I live in a Hip-Hop culture with my Bohemian friends.)
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 10:29 AM on January 10, 2010

Best answer: If these are new issues that you've never had before, it could have more to do with being a recent transplant in a new city. Moving brings a lot of growing pains with it, and it's really easy to feel at odds and almost unworthy of your new environment until you settle in and really feel at home. This takes time, and the discomfort you are feeling could be manifesting itself in resentment towards your boyfriend who is obviously at ease in this world.

I'd suggest striking out on your own a bit, doing activities that you like, but don't interest your boyfriend. This way you can start carving out your own place, separate from him, which eliminates the comparing and contrasting that can quickly transform into competition. Also, you might find some people who are more like you, which will ease your feelings of awkwardly sticking out.

Lastly, keep in mind that opposites attract for a reason. We balance each other out, help expand each other's horizons, and find different ways to connect to people and the world. The very qualities you are feeling anxious about are a big part of what attracted your boyfriend in the first place, and if your positions were reversed, I could easily see him feeling something like flaky, awkward, and not nearly as capable or together as you and your friends are. Our strengths can easily feel like weaknesses when we are in unfamiliar territory. Truth is they are still our strengths, and are what make us as awesome no matter who we are with and where we are.
posted by katemcd at 10:34 AM on January 10, 2010

"Bohemian, musician friends" probably aren't only interested in bohemian, musical things. They probably think your journalism and ballet interests are pretty cool and interesting, something they don't see every day. It takes all kinds, and in that group, maybe you're an interesting/responsible/reserved one they secretly wish they were more like. Hell, to them, every second person it seems plays bongos and "takes life as it comes, man." (exaggeration intentional.) Boring.

Point is, your boyfriend likes you for some reason the way you are. Certainly, if there are things about yourself you'd like to improve, by all means go for it. Otherwise: keep being the person he likes.
posted by ctmf at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2010

Response by poster: Jaltcoh: My tendency to want to be punctual makes things less spontaneous.

peanut_mcgillicuty: Oh, no, he's never called me these things.
posted by apophenia at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2010

peanut_mcgillicuty: Oh, no, he's never called me these things.

Well, there you go then. He loves you, and it's time to follow anitanita's advice and find out why. In the process you'll start liking yourself a lot more.
posted by DreamerFi at 11:15 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lots of good thoughts here already, although I'd like to especially emphasize anitanita's answer.

So your boyfriend is social and spontaneous and a lot of fun. That's fantastic. But he's dating you because he presumably values you, and values the skills you bring to the table.

My boyfriend is very much like yours, and I'm very much like you. I'm much better with time, money, and some of the more practical things than he is; yes, sometimes when we're going out and we're late I get flail-y and stressed out, but I am also the one that gives him gentle reminders on "Hey, aren't we supposed to be there at 5?" and keep him from being late by 2 or so hours. Saying "Damn, my girlfriend is awesome, she keeps me from missing my train and wasting my money on train tickets!" perhaps doesn't quite have the impact of "My boyfriend is awesome, he helps me meet all these cool people!", but it's just as valuable, and if your boyfriend is dating you, I'd bet dollars to doughnuts he finds it pretty awesome too.

Also, are you considering that maybe you're a different kind of spontaneous? My boyfriend certainly appreciates it when I stop by his place with a box of his favourite sticky rice after he donated blood (and was too lazy to make any food for himself, thus rendering him tired and lethargic all day. He just doesn't think of these things). That's a different kind of spontaneity than his type ("Let's go out in two hours to [random awesome place]!"), but it's still spontaneous and it's still aiding the other in something they're not-quite-as-good-at. Besides, you say that you make things less spontaneous (and implying less awesome), but your boyfriend very well may value that about you, and value that you can keep him from running off to flights-of-fancy every two minutes ("No, hon, going off to [random awesome place] probably isn't a good idea since it closes half an hour after we'd get there, and we have to make it to your best friend's dinner party somewhat on time and it's an hour later").

Assuming your boyfriend is a healthy, happy, self-aware adult, if he finds any of your tendencies to be dealbreaking you'd not have a boyfriend right now. The fact that you do--and that he's never brought up you being neurotic and what-have-you--says that he doesn't have any issues with you. You balance each other out and expand each other's horizons, and are complementary in ways where you improve on each other's weaknesses. I can't see anything wrong about that.
posted by Hakaisha at 11:18 AM on January 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Jaltcoh: My tendency to want to be punctual makes things less spontaneous.

Oh, I see. In that case, my advice is to not let your life be ruled by adjectives. "Spontaneous" is the stuff on online dating profiles, not real relationships.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:23 AM on January 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

the stuff on --> the stuff of

(Moderators, an edit function please!)
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2010

Why not simply count it as a great thing about you that you have a wonderful boyfriend? You already think so well of him, that it's weird that you seem to want to be absorbed with yourself. What good does it do here to think about yourself? You're doing fine! You have a wonderful boyfriend.

If he's so great, honor him by being impressed by his choice of partner. He seems hypercompetent, so presumably he knew what he was doing when he picked you. Now, go, be free, and enjoy life.

Also, recognize that it's the norm to think/say things like that about your partner. Men often compliment their wives this way, using the cliché term "my better half" and saying "I married up." So another reason to stop going on in the way that you are doing here is that it's conventional. It's trite.
posted by Alizaria at 3:29 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

And yet, the world is not full of fascinating hot perfect great people who are with loser schlubs.

Good point. The concept of "assortive mating" sort of counsels that nobody should be concerned that their partner is too good for them.
posted by jayder at 3:47 PM on January 10, 2010

I feel like a horrible, unworthy, uptight, talentless loser tagging along with a person waaaay out of my league.

This does not mean you are a horrible, unworthy, uptight, talentless loser tagging along with a person waaaay out of my league. As mentioned above, therapy can help you close the gap between self-perception and reality.
posted by davejay at 6:43 PM on January 10, 2010

I don't know if this will help but I think that the great thing about a relationship is that you complement each other and help make up for each other's weaknesses. My husband is great at math. I suck at math, but I really appreciate his ability to help with math problems when they arise.
posted by bananafish at 12:23 PM on January 11, 2010

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