Only a loser would settle for me
January 24, 2015 7:19 AM   Subscribe

I can't imagine someone choosing to date me when there are people out there who are so much more successful, competent, fit, daring, worldly, and self-assured. So if someone likes me, I assume they can't do better than me, and that's a turnoff, because I'm not so great, so THEY must not be so great either. How can I get out of this mental trap?

I found out that the person I had a crush on is dating a much more beautiful, fit, and outgoing girl than I am. This is fairly typical.

It's been a long time since I was attracted to someone who was also attracted to me. Typically, when people are into me I don't like them much. They text me and I put off answering them because their interest in me seems like a mockery when I have no interest in them. It's everything I want, from someone I don't want it from.

They say "you just have to love yourself!" Well, I think I do, but I don't LIKE myself, because I am a lazy, self-indulgent, chubby, directionless middle class mid-20s white chick. I am a dime a dozen. There is no reason I can think of why someone truly amazing would pick me to date, because I am not amazing. But I don't want to settle for someone like me.

"You seem depressed! Go to therapy!" I am in therapy and take Prozac. Neither of these things has made me start writing my novel or dressing well or eating right. I am still a schlub.

I just don't know what to do in order to actually start thinking of myself as a person worth dating, because I know that until I think of myself that way, it won't happen. But I've tried and tried, and I just don't know what else I can try. I just get so sad, realizing that I'm not living up to the image of the person I'd like to be, and knowing that this might keep me from ever finding someone to love again. So what do I actually do? How do I change into a person who is worth the time of someone amazing?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
"I don't want to settle for someone like me."

There are two ways to go with this: self-acceptance, or self-improvement. I actually don't think the latter is such a bad thing. Stop trying to date the person you want to be — start BECOMING the person you'd want to date. And I'm not talking just about physical appearance here.

Instead of being "lazy, self-indulgent, directionless," maybe try some rigorous work on yourself to try to become active, selfless and filled with purpose. I can assure you, no matter what you look like, a person who exhibits those qualities will draw the world toward them.
posted by amoeba at 7:27 AM on January 24, 2015 [53 favorites]

I was once like you. I was a victim. I had no discipline. You want to feel better? Get off your ass right now. Go to yoga this afternoon. Do an hour of writing this evening. Go eat a big-ass luxurious dinner tonight. Don't deprive and punish yourself. You need the "grab life by the balls" celebration and getting revenge routine, not the ascetic punishment shtick. Shake it up and shake it off. Better living through embracing competition and your grosser instincts is totally possible and is, strangely enough, great for your self-esteem. You still get 30 minutes a day to pout and feel sorry for yourself too but then it's back to work. Email me if you want someone to yell at about how unfair it all is. :)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:34 AM on January 24, 2015 [33 favorites]

I'm pretty lazy in some ways, but I'm personally OK with it. If you don't want to be (with) someone who is lazy, self-indulgent, and directionless, then you should change those aspects of yourself. Why settle for the mediocre you, when there is a better version of you possible?

Also, I don't necessarily think those traits interfere with being in a relationship. Maybe the person you end up dating already has a vision for what they want their life to be. Or maybe you have some other trait that is really good, like being organized, or being reliable, or being good with people, or doing well under pressure... There are so many useful traits out there, that if the ones you listed were literally the only negative traits you have, I'd be surprised you're not drowning in date requests.
posted by ethidda at 7:38 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Even if you were "more successful, competent, fit, daring, worldly, and self-assured" that is no guarantee you'd get a date. People generally want to date those they find attractive and lack of self esteem is one of the bigger turn-offs. Another big turn-off is not noticing, or responding to, interest in you by others.

I spent much of my youth trying to attract those who were not interested in me and probably not even noticing those who were interested. It isn't about "settling" but it is about being open to people who might want to be friends.
posted by epo at 7:44 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jesus H!
Maybe they don't want to date you not because of the above reasons, but because you're too busy throwing yourself a pity party to do anything else with your life.

I realize that some of this comes with being in your twenties, but I think that it can never be too early (or too late) to get off your ass and do something. Quit with the navel gazing and get with the Doing Shit.

You want to become someone amazing?
Do you really want to be that girl?
That fucking awesome chick who's got her shit together?
Then guess what?
It's going to take work; hard, hard work.

It's going to take discipline.
It's going to take will power.
It's going to take getting up early and staying up late.
It's going to take saying "Yes" to some things and "No" to others.

Life is not about self-discovery.
Life is about self-creation.

Now is the time for you to create that life, create that woman, bring into your orbit that man, that relationship.

You know exactly what you fuckin' need to do.
Now do it.
Every day.
Write that shit down, set those goals, make it happen.
Dream big and dream often.

Even when you hate it.
Even when you love it.
Even when you think it's not working.
Even when you are amazed that it is working.

Time has come for you to fall in love with yourself and become that woman that any man would be crazy not to want to get to know. You can't beat them off with a stick if you're too busy using that stick on yourself.

Your life can be a masterpiece, and all masterpieces were created by a great artist.
You are that artist.
Create that life.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 7:58 AM on January 24, 2015 [27 favorites]

I think this question is not really who you are. I think you are at a low point right now, but you have not always been at this low point and will not always be there. You're calling yourself "lazy" because you are beating yourself up. So you're going to get a lot of answers about how you you can fix being lazy, and you're quite possibly going to realize "but I already do a lot that" and then you'll realize that because you let your self-hating mean side right this question, you may not get completely useful answers.

I'm projecting here, because your question reminds me of me, but this is what I wish I had done when I was your age and felt similarly: Find your voice. This can take time and patience and you will need support. Start telling the truth and standing up for yourself. If you're not paid well enough at work, negotiate a raise or look for a new job. If you are taken for granted by your family, set boundaries. If people say things that make you feel uncomfortable, speak up. If your friends aren't nice to you, find new friends. Stop accepting bullshit. Write angry poems. Say No to things you don't want, and Yes to things you do want. It will be messy. Let it be messy.

If I'm wrong about this, just skip to the next answer. Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 7:58 AM on January 24, 2015 [24 favorites]

RJ Reynolds is right. You're unwilling to credit yourself right now. So start doing things that would cause you to credit yourself. First start with yoga or something similar and start doing cardio--in other words do the things that would make you credit yourself like you credit her. Also start eating better by working on improving one of your meals at a time.

Second give yourself a wardrobe upgrade. If you wear make up, upgrade that. Get a better haircut. Work on being more outgoing--smile at men you like and make eye contact. Compliment these men and do light touching on the arms and shoulders.

In terms of crushes, learn to target these men quickly, and not wait around. Hover a bit--get a drink at the bar at the same time. Get noticed. Also work at becoming outcome independent by rapidly working to get that date and then if it doesn't work out move on to the next. That way if it doesn't work out you didn't wait 6 months and have this big build up.

I'd also suggest buying and doing all of the exercises in Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:14 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

There are a lot of cognitive distortions in what you're saying here.

How do I change into a person who is worth the time of someone amazing?

Someone amazing? What are you talking about? People are im/perfect human beings. Stop putting people on pedestals labeled "amazing". And that woman you think is "much more beautiful and fit and outgoing" than you? Someone else would find you more attractive than she is. She's more outgoing and fit? Okay but do you know anything about what kind of person she is? Do you know her values? Do you know how she loves? Do you know what kind of relationships she has with her family, friends, partner? No? Then stop putting her on a pedestal. And even if you think you know the answers to these questions.. stop putting her on a pedestal. It's just your mind creating some fantastical reasons to feel bad about yourself.

They say "you just have to love yourself!" Well, I think I do, but I don't LIKE myself, because I am a lazy, self-indulgent, chubby, directionless middle class mid-20s white chick. I am a dime a dozen.

The cognitive distortion here is that you're reducing your self worth to these qualities.. as if your being deserving of love (and LIKE) depend on your being active, slim, direction-ed .. What you want to do realize that there's something valuable and worthy about you that does not depend on anything. If your therapist isn't helping you figure this out, then you need to either ask them to do this or find another therapist if they are incapable of doing so..

You're also creating a distorted picture of yourself as if these qualities are ALL THAT EXIST about you. And this just isn't true. You picked a few qualities that make you feel bad about yourself. I'm sure if pressed, you could come up with a list of other qualities that aren't so horrible. You could:

1. Make a list of things you enjoy doing.
2. Make a list of nice things you've done for other people in the last 5 years (big or small things, it doesn't matter).
3. Make a list of your positive qualities. Has anyone ever said that you're really good at something? Write it down.
4. Ask your therapist, friends and family to help you brainstorm your positive qualities.

I just don't know what to do in order to actually start thinking of myself as a person worth dating

Probably the easiest and quickest thing you can do would be to go help somebody. Get involved in some volunteer work, ask people around you if they need help with anything, see what you can do in your community. Go to a soup kitchen and help out. Go find out about other people in need .. this will help take you out of your self pity and low thoughts and give you concrete ways to feel better and useful and active..
posted by Gray Skies at 8:23 AM on January 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

I can't imagine someone choosing to date me when there are people out there who are so much more successful, competent, fit, daring, worldly, and self-assured. So if someone likes me, I assume they can't do better than me, and that's a turnoff, because I'm not so great, so THEY must not be so great either.

Or ... maybe they're someone who doesn't subscribe to the common but frankly rather creepy idea of a dating 'marketplace' in which we are each trying to maximize some kind of socially recognized utility?

Would you be turned off by someone who instead of buying a pedigreed pet, goes to an animal shelter and winds up sparking a connection with some scruffy issue-laden mongrel? Would you assume that someone who wears comfortable jeans is low-status? Would you want to date someone who edits and posts to Instagram, not a glamorous-looking selfie, but an oddly pretty photograph of a cloud, or of rain pouring out of a drainpipe and spattering on concrete?

You are not a pet or a cloud or a sidewalk or a photograph. You are a person, and compared to pets and clouds and sidewalks and photographs, people are even more complex and interesting and resistant to quantitative evaluation.
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:24 AM on January 24, 2015 [31 favorites]

Well YEAH! Of course. Because you know you could do better and every minute you're making a choice not to do so.

Let's get one thing straight. Beautiful, wealthy, intelligent women may date amazing men, and then, we read all about how those relationships crash and burn.

Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Anniston
Halle Barry
Britney Spears

Know what they say about a beautiful, amazing woman, somewhere, there's some guy who's sick of her bullshit.

It's the same with those men you seem to desire. Attractive, wealthy, successful and some beautiful woman is wondering what she ever saw in the asshole.

So, what to do?

Well, get your shit together. When your shit is together, you can start being very selective about who you date and what your standards are. Hell, you can be selective now, with no shit together. You don't HAVE to settle. I advise against settling, you get what you settle for.

I'm fat, I wasn't always great with money, my jobs haven't always been glamorous. But I worked at everything I could work on. I took advantage of an offer of further education. I dress well, have a cute hair cut and put on makeup. I went out with my friends, not to look for dudes, but because I like going out with my friends.

When I met Husbunny I owned a house, had a decent job and money and his job status didn't really matter to me. I was free to love him for his gorgeous brain. Did it help that he was handsome? Sure! But that wasn't the most important thing to me. We clicked, we have similar values, we enjoy similar hobbies.

Only when you're where YOU want to be, can you appreciate others for what they bring to the table.

So just go out and live the life you want to live. Accept no substitutes. Make no excuses. Once you become awesome in your eyes, can you see the awesome in other people.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:27 AM on January 24, 2015 [14 favorites]

Note of caution: of course, if someone wants to date you BECAUSE you seem somehow lower-status than them, that's a red flag for potential abuse. Shelters have to screen for people who might want to take that sickly kitten and use it to train dogs to fight. And there are pretentious idiots on Instagram who post photos of concrete and then talk about how they're so much more creative than other Instagrammers. Blech. RESPECT the concrete!
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:37 AM on January 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

I don't LIKE myself, because I am a lazy, self-indulgent, chubby, directionless middle class mid-20s white chick.

Alternate perspective: what's so great about productivity? what's so great about skinniness? what's so great about ambition? If you're kind, healthy, loving, emotionally present... I'd take that over a driven, self-denying workaholic any day. Are you sure there isn't a battle going on here between what you think you should value ("I'm gonna be #1!!!!") and what you actually value ("achievement seems hollow compared to making time for meaningful friendships")? As a workaholic myself, I find people who have different values to bring a much needed perspective that I enjoy being around.

Or, even if we agreed that ambition and productivity were important, are you sure that you aren't ambitious and productive enough? Nobody never rests. There's a spectrum. What makes you so sure that the amount you rest puts you above a threshold where you're lazy?

I agree with others that you should work to be someone you respect, someone you want to be. But that work will go best once you're sure that those are actually your values (not, say, your parents) and once you've developed the ability to say "I've worked enough for today" and rest without feeling this makes you guilty.
posted by salvia at 8:42 AM on January 24, 2015 [10 favorites]

Rather than get myself depressed comparing myself to girls I've been dumped for, I've done two helpful things at different times.

The first one was learn from them. It is tricky, because you run the risk of trying to imitate the girl you think you should be in order to have that one guy like you but, more often than not, girls you get dumped for have qualities you have admired yourself. I also think that deep within you have the potential to be what you admire, otherwise you wouldn't admire it. The fact that you are able to recognize good qualities in others means you know what it takes to be a good/interesting person. That is more than half the work, some people are incapable of seeing that and cannot be taught. Changing your behavior is difficult but it's possible, with a lot of hard work, which I'm sure you are also capable of!

I realize the second one doesn't apply to you, and it's probably a huge fallacy but it has been helpful. I realized people who dated me and other great girls, even if I got dumped for them, actually have great taste. Being dumped for great people feels bad, but it can also make you feel good by association, if you choose to spin it that way!
posted by ipsative at 8:55 AM on January 24, 2015

Yeah, seriously, get off your ass and do something interesting. Volunteer somewhere, take an art class, go to the theater, read the paper in a coffee shop - it sounds like you're cold tofu, heat it up.
posted by Toddles at 9:31 AM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Getting serious about what you already like helps too. When I was in my twenties, I had all these ideas about how to be a real intellectual - I needed to read Lacan and Derrida, for instance, even though I was not especially interested in them. So I felt stupid and useless all the time. Eventually I decided that I would study science fiction, which has always interested me, and read theory about it, and I found that I made much more headway with the smart-people-stuff. Is there something you really like that you can pursue seriously even if it doesn't seem like a "worthwhile" interest?

Do you like to make cookies, for example? Why not focus on learning different types of cookie techniques or developing new recipes? In terms of your clothes - maybe you don't need to dress super fancily, maybe you can concentrate on color and pattern - so you can focus on picking out interesting colors and patters of t-shirts (or whatever). Or maybe you like trainers instead of dressy shoes - why not get serious about finding interesting sneakers and reading up on all that sneakerhead stuff?

I think it's easy to assume that you should be passionate about, like, volunteering at the homeless shelter and running marathons and doing yoga and learning to code while also developing paleo recipes and perfecting your skin, and that those are the Very Worthwhile Pursuits which will make you awesome. But no, that will just make you generic, like you've stepped out of some creepy Ted-Talk universe. Focus on becoming more yourself.
posted by Frowner at 9:32 AM on January 24, 2015 [18 favorites]

"You seem depressed! Go to therapy!" I am in therapy and take Prozac. Neither of these things has made me start writing my novel or dressing well or eating right. I am still a schlub.

Before you can write a novel, dress well, eat right, or feel good in a relationship, you need to love yourself.

If therapy and Prozac have not acted as a stepping stone (which is what they are - stepping stones) to loving and respecting yourself for who you are, then I would be willing to bet you're either a) Partially mis-diagnosed (meaning, you may be depressed, but your depression could be co-morbid with other mood disorders) and/or b) Prozac is not the best antidepressant/psychiatric medication for you.

I am speaking from personal experience. My first venture into therapy was in college, with an on-campus counselor who was useless. The on-campus doctor gave me Prozac, which helped after about three weeks but quickly turned me into a stoic zombie bot. I learned very little about myself during this time.

Fast forward to two years post college. I finally broke up with my abusive boyfriend and was living alone. I was living life and trying to have fun as a single gal, but also smoking a lot of pot and spending every other night crying myself to sleep. I hated my job and wasn't performing well. I felt like a massive slob failure and wasted a lot of time hating on myself (sound familiar?). Someone managed to convince me that one abysmal experience with a so-so counselor was not reflective of the therapy community as a whole, and to give therapy another try. I did a little Googling and found a mental health provider who made me an appointment with the woman who changed my life.

It took at least three months of weekly sessions to even make a breakthrough, but my therapist was incredibly patient with me as I worked out my self-hatred and struggles with productivity. She told me that while it was evident I had symptoms of major depressive disorder, I was also hyperactive, and had I ever considered that I may have ADHD? At first, this pissed me off so much, because I didn't appreciate being told I was hyper (she told me that her observation came initially from the fact that I spoke fast, and that my thoughts darted from one to the next very quickly). I was in denial that I was anything other than depressed; or that there might be any other obstacles to my happiness other than what I had deemed my own patheticness.

I am not saying that you have ADHD, or anxiety, or anything else. IANAD/IANYD. But I'm sharing my story because it speaks to the importance of shopping around for therapists; as well as the fact that if something isn't working for you, it's time to try something else. You can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Prozac isn't working? Try a different dosage or a different medication, or combine it with exercise and/or meditation, or give up medication and just try exercise/meditation instead. Tell your therapist and your psychiatrist when things aren't working. Keep a journal of what is bothering you, what's triggering your emotions and behaviors, and bring it with you to your next appointment.

I did a lot of reading on ADHD, including books about ADHD in women and how underdiagnosed it is for our gender, only to realize "That's me! And this isn't a curse, it's just a way of thinking that can be wonderful if I understand it, forgive it, and learn how to play to my strengths!" I continue to struggle with my ADHD, anxiety and depression to this day, but since being diagnosed and learning how to identify and work with my symptoms and behaviors, I've gone from a pothead on the verge of losing her job to a healthy food enthusiast who's since been promoted at work, has written a regular film review column on the side, entered a graduate program and now has a Masters degree, is a devout cyclist and runner, an adventurous cook, a traveler, a gardener, and a lover of good style who finally figured out how to dress herself. It's been almost five years and while I sometimes beat myself up that I didn't 'figure out I had ADHD earlier' (like, in high school), I am so thrilled that I stepped outside of my comfort zone and pushed myself to reckon with who I am. I'll always be the girl with ADHD, but now I'm the girl with ADHD who embraces my stimulation-seeking behavior as a positive trait. I have a million different interests: and rather than see this as a nuisance or an indication of non-commitment, I see it as reason to explore and experience many different things so that I can keep my life exciting and full of change.

Once I made these big leaps toward understanding myself, I was in a better place to have meaningful relationships built on mutual respect.

All of the "get off of your ass right now and go do something" comments are easier said than done. I also think that in your situation, what you need at this very moment isn't necessarily tough love; rather, as I've already said several times, you need self love. This is a process. And I don't think I'm coddling you by saying that. One step at a time, one day at a time. Be patient and accept that it will take weeks, months, maybe even years, but if you take that first step to hit your depression head on - by accepting that your current course of therapy and Prozac just aren't working for you - you'll get there, and the journey will be just as meaningful as the realization that you've finally become the person you want to be.

Feel free to memail me if you ever want to talk.
posted by nightrecordings at 9:44 AM on January 24, 2015 [13 favorites]

One thing I'd suggest is to put dating and relationships on the back burner for a while. In order to like yourself you have to figure out who you want to be. At the same time, you need to be able accept yourself as you are right now while keeping the fact that you are always learning and changing in mind. Who do you hope to be? What changes do you hope for in yourself? What do you want to learn in life?

Defining what aspects of 'you' that are currently not up to your own standards is something that requires compassion and forgiveness. The way you speak about yourself in your question, even if you are totally disappointed in yourself, is not kind nor compassionate. You can't get anywhere beating yourself up. Ask yourself if what you are using as a measuring stick for your life right now is genuinely coming from you/your 'voice', or is something left over from the past (or something you are assuming/projecting onto others).

I think there's very good advice in this thread. I also think that liking yourself is way more important than the dating aspect of your question. I don't know if anyone can necessarily begin really liking (loving, accepting, respecting) themselves while also looking for a life partner. You aren't really certain of who you are yet. Dating distracts negatively from you figuring out 'you' (the situation triggers you to not like yourself). And the lack of 'figuring out you' (working on yourself, learning to love yourself) makes dating impossible because as long as you don't like yourself, no one who does will ever be attractive to you.

I'd suggest taking a break from dating for a while. Just take it off the table completely. It won't be forever. Instead use your energy and time to actively figure out what works for you in terms of healing (finding a new therapist, journaling, meditation, yoga, hiking, art, volunteering, traveling - etc) and adjust the things that haven't been working (you mentioned medication and therapy). There is no rush. Your number one responsibility in this life is to take care of yourself. Spending time to focus on liking yourself will ultimately improve every aspect of your life, not just dating.

I hope this helps and wish you luck.
posted by marimeko at 9:48 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

"They say "you just have to love yourself!" Well, I think I do...."

I am here to tell that you don't. Not yet. But you will. Keep working on your self-esteem and you will. I could write a fucking book on getting your self esteem back to a decent place.

When you do finally get to the point where you DO love yourself, you won't be using these types of descriptors dime a dozen, not amazing, not worth their time . You need to do a self-esteem boot camp on yourself. Check back in 6 months of hard work on your self-esteem, working on your physical presentation, since you mentioned it. (and how we present ourselves says a lot to other people, non-verbally) Torch and burn that aspect of your personality that says you're not good enough. That girl needs to sit down and shut up. She needs to be put right in the past, where she belongs. In the box labeled "Not True/Negative thoughts".

Work on yourself like it's your job for the rest of your life. Good self esteem shines like a beacon to the right people and it deters all the assholes who would take advantage of someone with poor self-esteem. When you go around thinking you're a loser, it oozes out of your pores. All the wrong people can see it. That shit goes in the box labeled "Not True".

Every Day, Every Time.

Sometimes we need pep talks, there is nothing wrong with that. Take your pep talks here and wash your face, do a couple of things towards self care and baby step your way to somewhere better mentally.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 10:51 AM on January 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Personally if I was feeling shit, a lot of 'pull your socks up talk' would make me feel ten times worse. Just sayin'

Try to start with small goals that push you a lot but don't overwhelm. My own experience with creativity is that for the most part, it can't me forced. I had a one woman show brewing inside me. I knew the embers were there for like 3 years. Last month I wrote it. So far it's half shit, but it's my template and was ready to be born. I wrote it in a day.

Re; what class and/or ethnicity we are born into and with - that is actually nothing to do with us. For this reason I don't attach pride or shame to it. I am what I am.
posted by tanktop at 11:07 AM on January 24, 2015 [9 favorites]

I am a lazy, self-indulgent, chubby, directionless middle class mid-20s white chick. I am a dime a dozen.

I just want to address this line, because as a recently mid 20s white chick, I can tell you that this feeling will not go away. EVERYTHING you do will make you feel like a cliche. If you take yoga classes, you'll feel like a cliche. If you travel to Europe--cliche. If you travel to Asia--cliche. If you are thin or chubby--the same. There's a lot of weird cultural garbage that makes women feel bad about themselves no matter what they do, and I remember feeling just paralyzed by the idea of no matter what I did, it was going to be obvious and cliche and totally uninteresting to someone. And that's fine. I'm not totally over this feeling, and it caused/causes me to overthink decisions, especially these kind of big deal ones. But you just have to accept that someone will find you a dime a dozen no matter what, but most people will be happy for you.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 11:16 AM on January 24, 2015 [28 favorites]

There is no reason I can think of why someone truly amazing would pick me to date, because I am not amazing. But I don't want to settle for someone like me.

You get two choices:
(1) Lower your standards
(2) Raise your status

"Raise your status" means anything from developing self-confidence and acceptance to working out to becoming the sort of person that grabs life by the horns.

There isn't really a middle ground unless you enjoy pity parties, as another poster said. If there were secrets for dating people significantly more awesome than you then believe me, we'd all be after them.

And honestly--there isn't anything wrong with lowering one's standards, if one is still expecting one's partner to be respectful and considerate. There are plenty of out-of-shape, sort of slobby dudes online who are living in their mom's basement who complain they can't find hotties-with-a-body who want to date them--and they're universally smacked down and told they haven't given the women they're attracted to a reason to date them. Generally I hate pulling the gender-switch card, but I think it applies in this case. If you were a dude who posted this question the responses would be significantly more harsh.
posted by schroedinger at 11:56 AM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Start by forgiving yourself.

I can be those things; we can all be those things. Doesn't make you lesser. Ambition is a human construction, and so is vanity, and pride, and a bunch of other things, like achievement. They're constructs, and only make you feel bad if you let them.

Would you still feel worthless if you lived in the woods and set up a hermit cabin and painted all day, and lived off the land? Would you feel bad if you had no prying eyes, and no one to compare yourself to? (Absolutely stop comparing yourself to others, by the way! It's the single worst thing you can do to to setback your therapy).

I'm sure you're a bunch of other things you're neglecting to mention, too. I mean, I'm kind and helpful and sweet and cute and, I mean, I'm funny. Like really funny, and I actually have people tell me this, almost every day, but if you asked me? I'd sit there and say, "I'm not very funny," which is ridiculous, because I have proof to the contrary.

Yet, I still do it. We're designed to focus on our flaws; In your case, it's preventing you from moving forward. So stop it and please forgive yourself for your flaws. You're not loveable despite them, you're kinda loveable because of them in some way.

Nthing the 'pull up your socks!' talk never, ever worked on me. If anything, it pushed me down. "You too can achieve greatness if you [insert mainstream societal milestones everyone is supposed to take very seriously here]!"

Look, what do you want to do?

The key word in your question is this: ...directionless...

So shift your rudder and look at the horizon. Where do you want to go? What looks appealing? Really think about where you want to go. Rethink your definition of 'great' -- that island in the distance may look perfect, but happiness isn't long legs and smooth skin and a skinny waist.

So really think about one thing you want to do. If you feel like all the islands look awesome! and you want to go to all of them, you wind up sitting in the water, staring longingly and going to none of them.

Then pick one direction and just... just go.
posted by Dimes at 12:07 PM on January 24, 2015 [4 favorites]

One way to get out of your own head is to mentor teenage girls. Get to know them, listen to their problems and learn how they perceive the world, help them to feel empowered and become strong women.

When you're helping young women succeed, it will make a difference in how you feel about yourself.
posted by kinetic at 12:44 PM on January 24, 2015

I just want to underscore the suggestion above to consider an alternative anti-depressant than Prozac (assuming you have been on this at least long enough to know for sure what it is and is not doing for you). I am not a doctor or therapist, but other drugs may work better for you (e.g. Wellbutrin is known for giving people some energy). Again: bring this topic up with your therapist. Explain that your current regime is not working and you need to consider alternatives. And also consider changing therapists if this one isn't really hearing what you are telling them.

One thing you can do immediately to begin feeling better about life in general (and this suggestion is based on research findings) is to write down things (3-5) you are grateful for every single day. Some days may be easier ("I am grateful to have got out of jury duty") and some days may be harder ("I am grateful that I have enough to eat"), but there is something to be grateful for every day. It is a way to begin practicing seeing the positive side of things. Hopefully you can then start considering that you yourself have positive attributes as well.

All the best.
posted by Halo in reverse at 1:47 PM on January 24, 2015

When you start heaping opprobrium on yourself, ask yourself 'is that the truth?' If you continue to do that, eventually you will realize it is not the truth. Think of it as a tool you can use to dispute the mind when your mental voice is attacking your well being. Now count up to 20 things you are grateful for, one by one. How do you feel? If you have enough tools to deflect your energy into a better state of being, eventually you start to be there more and more. Instead of thinking of people as being your drug of choice, the thing that is going to turn your life around, start collecting tools and techniques for feeling better and better. It might be a drug that helps you, or a technique like CBT, or exercise and vitamin D (works for me!).
If you keep chipping away at the monolithic bloc of your sloth and anomie, you will eventually make progress and see it reflected in your life. No person is going to change that for you, you have to do the work yourself, there's no easy road, just doing one small thing at a time and watching the result add up over time to a new result.
And some of those cool people you envy and think of as really special.....a lot of them were just like you at some point in their lives. And keep in mind, just because you feel like this now doesn't mean you will always feel this way. Some day your life could be really great, if you just hang in there and keep making small adjustments and finding new ways to improve.
posted by diode at 3:50 PM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wonder how much the issue of not having a partner is reinforcing your dislike of yourself? Do you feel that having a partner would prove that you are actually an okay person? And if you don't have a partner, that's evidence that you're a loser, regardless of what else you're doing?

If so, try to disconnect those things. Lots of awesome people don't have partners; lots of less-awesome people do. That might make it easier for you to figure out whether, right now, your biggest issue is not having a partner or not liking yourself.
posted by metasarah at 4:12 PM on January 24, 2015

We're all schlubs. Even the pretty, successful, exciting people. They have issues we may not see, but I assure you, they have issues too. Many people aren't looking for drama in a relationship, they're looking for someone pleasant (this is a term with various interpretations) to share a peaceful existence with, so you being "normal" is attractive to them. Also, as you come to appreciate a person, they come to seem more amazing to you.
posted by AliceBlue at 4:17 PM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

How do I change into a person who is worth the time of someone amazing?

Or do you mean to ask - How do I change into a person who is worth my own effort? Because the reason why you don't try is because you don't think you can become someone amazing. Or at least, amazing enough.

Forget about the dating element for a bit. You want love and acceptance, but you are really just giving any outside stranger with a dating profile the tremendous power to lift you up or utterly crush your spirit. You need to not do that. You don't like yourself - why would you imagine anyone else liking you? You are fighting these battles in your mind, where you've already stacked the deck painfully against yourself. Gotta win that battle first before you worry about real life.

You know what really helped me with this? Getting out of my 20s and into my 30s. I don't think you could pay me to relive my 20s, because then I would have to slog through this bullshit again. Seriously, 30s are awesome. Don't be afraid of the big three oh. It's not a finish line where someone tallies up your accomplishments and looks at you down their nose and hands you a consolation prize. You realize that you were never running a race to begin with, and you start to see all the beautiful scenery around you that you never saw because you were suffering trying to play catch up. Ha! I say to my younger self. You're so goddamn cute when you have no idea what the hell you are doing and are convinced everyone else does and is also better at it than you.

There is a (slow, really boring) process where you learn to worry less about who you were or ought to be or should have been, and become more interested in who you are right now, and who you'll be in the next five or ten minutes. I think eventually a person just gets really tired of feeling crappy. Really, really tired, to the point where feeling anything else would be more interesting. And you figure out how to be happy about something small. And then you get so determined to keep that happiness that you actively throw off the bad moods and the things that lead to the bad moods, and you start actively investing in and cultivating the things that keep you happy. And suddenly, life isn't so bad.

So we've all made little boo-boos that lead to a disappointing outcome in life. We're not the model or the astronaut or signing the cover of our award winning novel for a fan. Okay. So we like cookies better than running or we choose to take a nap instead of teaching ourselves French. That's who we are. That's where we are. We serve ourselves better by spending our effort finding the beauty in it, instead of the faults. And maybe if we really want to be the runner or speak French, we will make the effort to do it because it's genuinely important, and not just an accessory for a made up "best" version of ourselves which we will trot out to impress potential love interests.

Everything in our life has culminated in who we are, right this moment. As your present self, can you forgive your past self for her missteps - her love of cookies and naps? Can you choose to do nice things for your future self, to set her up for the success you daydream about? Can you write for a bit each day, so your future self has the satisfaction of knowing she finished her novel? Do you like your future self enough to do that work for her?

That's basically as much as I have figured out in regards to your question. I am sorry if it is not as helpful as we both would like. But it is important that you do know that with time, things will get better. You'll figure it out. Not nearly as quickly as you would like, but it will happen.
posted by griselda at 6:14 PM on January 24, 2015 [11 favorites]

Every up has its down.

There's something to be said for dating someone who isn't always busy working, cleaning, or writing the Great American Novel. I would say it's even my preference. This is not because I want someone with low self-esteem, though.

People that know exactly what they want and are pursuing it to the utmost are pretty obnoxious. They never care as much about your plans and dreams, your date nights frequently don't pan out because they have to work, and they have little sympathy for indecisiveness in others. If their goal takes them somewhere you can't follow, they're not that bothered.

Not being second fiddle to their passions is great, actually.
posted by Trifling at 7:50 PM on January 24, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm so sorry that you are feeling this way. I can emphasize, because I used to feel exactly as you do. If anyone ever expressed an interest in me, I rejected them straight-away, because they must have something wrong with them to be interested in me. This was unfair to them, not to mention myself, but that was how it was. Now looking back, I can see that I genuinely wasn't attracted to many of them. We just didn't click but I blamed myself anyway. You need to try to stop doing that. You're not unloveable. You have value. You have potential.

The way I got out of my slump was to try to be an active participant in the kind of life I wanted. I wanted to see my friends more-- I started organising get-togethers. I wanted to be more creative-- I committed to a crochet class (by paying money! So I couldn't back out!). I wanted to stop being schlubby-- I found a form of exercise that I liked and could commit to (social indoor beach volleyball, and a weightlifting program). I went easy on myself and tried to make changes in my life that I enjoyed for their own sake. The other benefits-- stronger friendships, better fitness, new skills-- were bonuses! If the changes you are trying to make in your life are actively enjoyable, you are more likely to stick with them.

It took another year to meet my boyfriend, but it was a good year for me in so many ways. By the time I met him, I felt more competent, daring and self-assured than I had been a year before, and that was enough to get me over the barrier.
posted by roshy at 8:27 PM on January 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

People are inherently, uniquely, and genuinely worthy of love, even when imperfect. Also, being a "dime a dozen" isn't true, as you are uniquely you, and inherently lovable by virtue of that uniqueness.

Additionally, love for many people is not always motivated by purely selfish ends, like "getting the best possible catch." If this was the primary drive, then no one would ever choose anyone, as someone better could always be around the corner. Relationships built on love also take into account life situation, circumstance, and the simple need to love and be loved.

Some would suggest that love also seeks (in part) to give itself unselfishly to someone else, to the extent possible, simply because other people need it. Do you feel that being loved is something that you need? Then love is the kind of thing that should be there for you, as a unique individual worthy of this thing, by virtue of being a part of the human race. We should of course think also about our contributions to life and whether we need to make improvements, but it's always secondary to our inherent worthiness of being loved.

There's an ancient and familiar text that describes love, which I think is kind of beautiful:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Note here that love does not say, "I'll do these things only if I find the best catch possible and the person has no issues." Love, in part, seeks out those who need love, because love by its very nature is outward looking and transformative for people who need it. It seeks to see you for who you are and who you can be when love has invested fully in you.

I will say that there is some selfishness to love, but it's not in the way we often think. It's a reciprocal giving and receiving that somehow meets the needs of both sides by thinking of the needs of the other first. What this means, then, is that there are people who want to give unselfishly to you, hoping that you might return the favor. It's a win-win.

So, self-improvement is always a good course of action, but it's the cart before the horse, in the sense that our inherent value of being worthy of love always comes before our contributions that sometimes seek to "win people over" because we are now worthy of it. But the beauty of it is that when we are secure in our inherent value of being worthy of love, it then also has a transformative effect on our character and our relationships.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:19 PM on January 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

I just don't know what to do in order to actually start thinking of myself as a person worth dating, because I know that until I think of myself that way, it won't happen. But I've tried and tried, and I just don't know what else I can try. I just get so sad, realizing that I'm not living up to the image of the person I'd like to be, and knowing that this might keep me from ever finding someone to love again. So what do I actually do? How do I change into a person who is worth the time of someone amazing?
To be completely brutally honest: the way you phrase this question suggestions that you are a desperately validation-seeking person, and that this quality, more than anything, is the reason you have a hard time getting motivated to make any of the changes you seem to want to make in your life. Because your motivation is coming from some external source – like a boyfriend. Dating with this mindset is an absolutely 100% guaranteed recipe for misery.

Taking your question at face value, the answer is: you turn into a badass who can take a punch. You develop inner strength through concerted self-development. You stop caring about what other people think of you and just do something for the joy of doing it and because life is short and you gotta do something. Get over whatever scars you have that are holding you back by focusing and developing patience and discipline. Travel. Read. Meet new people. You sound like one of us overthinking types, eager to analyze problems with laser precision, but when you turn that laser scope on yourself it can eat you alive. Stop spending that energy on self-flagellation; find some more worthy project. Work hard at it. You'll feel good at the end of the day. Keep at it for months, years; look up one day and feel proud.

Also some good news for you: almost everyone in their mid 20s is boring as hell; so are most people in their 30s, 40s, and beyond. It takes guts to be interesting; guts and a willingness to fail at something long enough to get good at it.
posted by deathpanels at 10:13 PM on January 24, 2015 [8 favorites]

High school and even college can really do a number on a person's self esteem because of the competition to be the best of the best and the related fear that not being sensational equals failure. On top of that, especially in high school, is that peers can be judgmental, critical, intolerant and merciless.

It sounds like you may still be reeling from your exposure to this world, which is not the real world. Give some of the people who seem to be interested in you a chance. They may see something about you that you haven't yet come to appreciate.
posted by ADave at 10:44 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am in therapy and take Prozac. Neither of these things has made me start writing my novel or dressing well or eating right. I am still a schlub.

Maybe you have ADD in addition to your depression? Adderall and other ADD medications are great for motivation.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:19 AM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm also sorry you are feeling this way. You should be proud that you have taken some steps to work on your depression issues: therapy, medication. Many people suffer in silence, sometimes for years. Remember that you are being proactive--maybe not as proactive as you would like right now, but still you are doing something. Thinking about that may help boost your self-regard.

Also, are you sure that you have the right therapist and meds combo? Not all therapists are helpful, or let's say a good fit for every person. Maybe think about whether your therapist meets your needs. Additionally, it would be good to discuss your meds with your doctor. It's possible you need a higher dose. This is a particularly grim time of year, weather-wise, particularly if you live in the Midwest or on the East Coast in the U.S. Sometimes the bleak days can have an effect on mood.

My final advice involves self-care. Look at the things in your life that you're good at. Obviously, you are good at recognizing a problem and fixing it. Also, it takes a lot of bravery to post a personal question in a public forum. That also means you are willing to be vulnerable. Not everyone is capable of that. Think of those things, and then do something for yourself. It might be something like a massage, depending on your budget, or a bubble bath, or some nice moisturizer or organic fruit. You deserve a little reward for coming as far as you have. Hang in there. Being in a twenties funk sucks, especially these days. But you can get through it--you're tougher than you think!
posted by dovesandstones at 12:35 PM on January 25, 2015

griselda nailed it, especially this stuff:

You know what really helped me with this? Getting out of my 20s and into my 30s. I don't think you could pay me to relive my 20s, because then I would have to slog through this bullshit again. Seriously, 30s are awesome. Don't be afraid of the big three oh.... There is a (slow, really boring) process where you learn to worry less about who you were or ought to be or should have been, and become more interested in who you are right now, and who you'll be in the next five or ten minutes.
posted by salvia at 10:48 PM on January 26, 2015

Why would someone like you?
Because you're a weirdo, and they like that kind of weird.

And by that, I mean that everyone is a weirdo in some way. Be unafraid of that! Be that weirdo!
You have nothing to lose.
It is also great to be unashamed of the 'too common' things you like, because, duh, you like them. Be unafraid of expressing your likes.

Have you ever liked a book, movie, TV show or piece of art even though it wasn't very popular? Or even wasn't very good, but it was endearing to you anyway, and the specific flaws it has don't bother you as much as they do other people?
That is you, and that is the person you are looking for.

But honestly, don't look for a partner yet, look for good friends, love them with their flaws and have them love you, get hugs, and tide yourself over by buying a really good vibrator (or not? *shrug*).
If it is easier to believe you could be loveable as a friend, start there until you are confident that you can be loved by people that you respect.

Figure out your weird. Figure out your favourite bad or tacky or lame things that you love. Figure out what you'd like to dress up as in the costume party of life. Figure out what sort of weirdos you like to hang out with.

(And side note : This isn't an excuse to tolerate bad behaviour, bad boundaries and creeps, with the explanation that they are 'a bit weird'. Nice weirdos only!)
posted by Elysum at 1:14 AM on January 27, 2015

The saddest, most miserable people I have met are people who are usually trying to cram themselves into some kind of box that has objective "value," but often that they do not in fact value themselves. By this I mean that they constantly comparing themselves to some kind of "perfect" standard that their true selves have zero relationship with. For example, there is a very outwardly successful guy at my school who is good-looking, fit, and outgoing, which you imply are "high value" traits. I know simply through a confidence, however, that he is closeted, anxious, and a total mess, who has desperately tried to fit himself into some kind of persona that has "high worth" so he can feel a bit better about himself. But he doesn't, let me tell you. I feel he would be much happier living as a gay dude, being goofy and letting himself gain like 10 pounds, rather than being a corporate drone.

Do you really care about being beautiful, fit and outgoing? Are these the kind of traits that attract you to a person? Do you automatically think, wow, look at these "high value" traits that this person is displaying? I want to be with this "high value" person. I don't know, but these are questions you should ask. What are the traits that you value in a person? What about kindness or generosity? Or perceptiveness or curiosity?

Maybe you are just experiencing symptoms of depression, I don't know, but I detect in your question a huge insecurity with the fact that you don't fit the conventional mode of attractiveness and success. I think it might be a good idea for you to consider whether this is really what you want. Maybe these traits you mention are actually traits you value and you are just depressed. But I suspect that you might be dealing with an issue that is so common in your twenties: how to reconcile the fact that your true self might not have conventional "high value" in society.

Why not travel a bit? Seriously. I feel that travelling is the best way to get out of this way of thinking of trying to fit yourself into a "high value" box. There are so many aspects of yourself that you likely have not tapped into. There is so much hidden value in you that might not be appreciated by yourself and by others where you are currently.
posted by thelivingsea at 1:32 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also want to point out that in many cases, opposite attract. By that, I mean, just because you want somebody with X trait, doesn't mean you need to have X trait. I am a more-ambitious-than-average person, but my husband is not very ambitious. (He told me himself, and I have also observed this.) This works great for us as a couple, because I can go out an plan all these crazy projects and goals, and he can be fully supportive, which I find awesome. I have also briefly dated people who had a ton of their own projects, but then it ended up feeling like we never did anything together.

Obviously, you should be a kind, caring, and generous person, and be the best version of you. But it's totally okay to want someone with different traits than you, as a partner. In fact, I think that's what most people do.
posted by ethidda at 3:42 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

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