How can I learn to love and respect myself as I CURRENTLY am?
July 20, 2015 2:56 PM   Subscribe

I’m constantly trying to improve myself. I often ponder areas that are wrong in my life, such as bad habits and behavior patterns. I've become great at pinpointing areas that I believe are holding me back from the life I want. It's become an obsession. Self improvement, breaking old habits, and forming new ones is extremely hard though, and I often fail. This all leads to a relationship with myself that is very critical. I am often disappointed in my shortcomings, and my motto might as well be "I won't love and respect myself (or be worthy of love) until..."

When I see my current self, I feel indifference to my good qualities. As a whole, I fluctuate from indifference about myself to disappointment and frustration, even shades of disgust and hate.

Some backstory explaining how I got this way... this will likely be lengthy (it's hard for me to summarize a lifetime in a few sentences). If you feel that this information is unnecessary for your advice, you can skip to the bolded "end of backstory".

I grew up diagnosed with Asperger's. Whether or not the diagnosis was accurate, as I'm much more "normal" than I used to be, is something I'll never know. Anyway, my parents were very overprotective and overnuturing, and put me through very small private schools. My high school experience was pretty similar to how I imagine homeschool would be like in terms of, well, not the high school experience. I never engaged in any extracuricular activities such as sports, camp, even jobs. I had basically no way of meeting anyone throughout my whole K-12 years other than the small amounts of students in my special schools.

That goes double for girls. There was literally only one girl in my high school, and so from the time that I was a freshman to the time that I was a senior, all of my sexual attention went towards her... she was really the only girl in my life. But she had a boyfriend, and I was not good with women. I basically had four years of rejection during which time most other guys in "normal" schools used this time to experiment with talking to women, dating, and exploring their sexuality.

When I graduated from high school, not much changed. I got my first job, but I never got a car, and I went to a community college, driven to and fro by my mom. I eventually dropped out for about three years because I had no idea what I was doing, and during this time, I worked here and there, but still lived at home and was highly dependent on my parents.

Eventually, we all (my parents and I) moved to San Marcos so I could go back to college at Texas State University. For my first two semesters, I still lived with them in their new home, but a year ago, I moved away into an apartment. I still don't have a car (I use the bus and friends to get around), but I have a summer job, and for the first time ever, I want to and plan to continue working during the semester.

Over the past decade, I've grown out of my old Asperger's ways. I'm more social, I have moderate to good social skills, and I have a burgeoning desire to be completely independent from my parents. This is my own desire, as I know my parents would be completely okay with nurturing me and having me live with them for the rest of their lives.


As of today, I'm 26, I'm a senior in college with three semesters left to go, and here comes the big one...

I've still never had a girlfriend or had any sexual experiences outside of porn (which is one of the habits I'm trying really hard to finally eliminate).

I observe other guys in relationships, and I think to myself why I can't attract a woman. I'm shy, but I try to engage and ask questions, and I'm a good listener. I'm not nearly as introverted as I used to be... in fact, I'm somewhat extroverted. I'm tall, of medium build (not athletic but not overweight), I'm good looking, and I dress well.

Over the years, this question of why I'm a virgin and why I've never had a girlfriend or so much as held the hand or kissed the lips of a girl... that one question has haunted me and defined how I see myself. And the only answer I can come up with is


I used to think it was a lost cause, and that drove me to the hospital one night when I was in a particularly suicidal mood.

I have since added a word to that mantra... yet. I'm not good enough yet. This adds a sense of hope that if I try hard enough, I can change enough and get rid of all my bad qualities holding me back. Then and only then will I love myself, and then and only then will someone love me.

Only once I get rid of my "nice guy" personality, turn down my sensitivity, and become more dominant and masculine will I be sexy and lovable. So I'm reading a book called No More Mr. Nice Guy

Only once I stop my pornography addiction will I earn the respect of myself and women. So I'm working with a coach to help me stop.

Only once I start to look like a model will women notice me. So I got a job at American Eagle so I could get a discount and makeover my wardrobe. I try to get outside and exercise either by running or biking a couple times a week.

Only once I learn a skill that makes me interesting will I appreciate myself and be admired by women. So I'm teaching myself how to play the guitar and how to cook.

That's how my mind works. I'm not good enough right now, as I currently am. I don't know how to love myself and how to see myself worthy of love. As a result, I give women more value than I give myself, and it backfires.

I know that this critical mindset will not be satiated by accomplishments. Once I learn a skill or kill a bad habit, I'll shrug my shoulders and say, "whatever... I still have this other part of myself that I need to fix." I'll continuously obsess over my imperfections until I die.

I want to be able to stop, look at myself, and feel confidence, self esteem, and self respect for the amount that I have grown over the past year. I think about my improvements over the years, and I feel nothing except for how much further I have to go. I want to feel worthy of love. I want to feel worthy of respect and not feel like some damaged boy who never made it to manhood. I just want to love myself as I am right now.
posted by ggp88 to Human Relations (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It. Is. A. Numbers. Game.

Sooooooo many people think the universe is punishing them or rewarding them. The universe doesn't give a fuck. It is cold and vastly indifferent. It assigns no value to your being a virgin. It assigns no value to your not being a virgin. It just is.

Random chance accounts for like at least 80% more than most people think it does, especially neurotic people.
posted by quincunx at 3:07 PM on July 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

"There Is Nothing Wrong With You" changed my life. It helped me see that that the inside voice that's always telling me I'm not OK the way I am, and I have to be better or no one will love me, is full of shit and not my friend—even though it pretends like it's saying it for my own good.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:10 PM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

I realize it's almost a stock answer on AskMe, but have you had therapy or counseling? I think it would help both with the practical questions you ask about social skills and with the emotional/self-esteem questions that are holding you back in your social life.
posted by decathecting at 3:18 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is exactly the sort of thing that therapy was invented for: you're stuck and mistaking a situation that you can't control for one that you can.

Another thing you can do, since you're apparently very action-oriented and overly trapped inside your own head, is start working to improve other peoples' lives instead of just working endlessly to improve your shallow physical trappings. Volunteer at a retirement community--or, actually, the first thing that occurred to me was that you could start a project to record oral histories from older people. It's an incredibly valuable service, and as a bonus you would hear about the vast diversity in peoples' experiences. (And probably notice, very quickly, how little anyone in their 70s or 80s cares about when they lost their virginity.)

Only once I get rid of my "nice guy" personality, turn down my sensitivity, and become more dominant and masculine will I be sexy and lovable. So I'm reading a book called No More Mr. Nice Guy

This is like trying to put out a grease fire by adding more grease, btw. Don't do this bullshit macho sexist thing, it's insulting to women and men alike.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:26 PM on July 20, 2015 [30 favorites]

The universe, the world, life, existence, whatever term of art you want to use for "being here, now" is not an equation. You can't stack self-improvement -- dressing better, developing skills and interests, etc. -- on one side and expect "girlfriend" to pop up on the other. You say that's how your mind works, in which case you can make "not thinking like this anymore" another self-improvement goal. Otherwise you will always assume rejection of whatever sort is 100% a reflection of your worth, which as well you know is incredibly demoralizing. How do you stop thinking a certain way that is making your life harder? Therapy helps. Switching out your copy of No More Mr. Nice Guy for a copy of Feeling Good can help. And, at the end of the day, realizing that seeking self-improvement is in itself a remarkably rare and worthwhile part of you that only you can take away by not trying anymore.

Personally I find the "you have to love yourself to find love" aphorism to be imprecise at best and harmful at worst. It doesn't reflect reality, which is that imperfect people find one another and, hopefully, help each other improve in a healthy, productive way (e.g. not expecting the other person to 'fix' you or depending on them for your self esteem.) Not completely loving yourself as you are doesn't make you unlovable, it makes just like many, many other people out there who love and are loved.

Also I would really, really, really avoid any sort of self-help stuff that tells you how to be more dominant and masculine. There's a lot of genuinely awful advice in that field that will turn you into an asshole at best and a criminal at worst. If you feel you absolutely must work on being more masculine, don't let other people define what that means because you'll take on their faults and add them to your own. Read up on the concept of "toxic masculinity" and avoid that particular brand at all costs. And if you have to read stuff about dating and sex, read stuff written by women who tell you what they want, not men who tell you what women want. It's by no means a panacea but the former will at least give you personal insight into one particular woman. The latter will lock you in a mental cage built by someone who may not know any more than you do, and will encourage you in thinking that women who are not being responsive to your whatever are somehow flawed because of that.
posted by griphus at 3:29 PM on July 20, 2015 [14 favorites]

What do YOU want to do with your spare time? What hobbies interest you personally? What personal benefits do you get out of getting buff? What other things will you find more enjoyable once you kick your porn habit?

The problem I see with your approach is that you are basing EVERYTHING you do on "will this get me a girl?" Which makes me think you assume you will only have personal satisfaction with your life once you have a girl. The problem is, you can't rely on another person to make you happy and satisfied with your life - you can only rely on yourself for that. You need to do things that make you happy, that make your life fun and meaningful for yourself.

This is what lots of people look for in a mate. They want someone who is independently happy, who has their own hobbies and passions and opinions. It's REALLY obvious and fake to come across someone who has adopted a habit or point of view just because they think it will attract other people. It's obvious because your interest is too shallow. You don't own it.

Another reason I would caution you against this "will this get me a girl?" mindset is that it's a very slippery slope to the Red Pill/ MRA mindset. In fact, I'm a little worried that the No More Mr Nice Guy book you are reading will lean in that direction (haven't read it, but just what you say about it makes me concerned). Women don't want to be with a man who is playing a game with them. They don't want to be treated as a prize that was earned.

I would really encourage you to take a lot of time (like weeks, if not months) to really meditate deeply on what you want your lot in life to be, aside from "be a guy who gets a girl." I think you'll find that you will love yourself a lot more once you begin to feel personally satisfied by the way you spend your free time. Like:"fuck yeah, I just did a really hard 20 mile hike! My legs are stronger than ever! I can't wait to do another and see more nature!" That's the kind of mindset you should foster in yourself.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:33 PM on July 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

YMMV, however:

I am a short, somewhat socially awkward, not especially athletic, average-to-below-average looking guy. I'm in my early 40s, have a longterm partner that I have kids with, and had a two serious relationships before I met the person I'm with now. It is, emphatically, a numbers game, and one that rewards getting out there and sweating out some bad, sometimes awkward dates.

Most of us aren't going to click with most people, and the odds are, bluntly, worse if you aren't neurotypical. That said, if you're willing to put in the effort to date online, go on a bunch of dates, and learn from your interactions with the people you date, it can happen for you. No guarantees, of course, but IT CAN HAPPEN.

I highly recommend reading the ongoing emotional labor thread RE: masculine dominance being your ticket to relationship happiness, BTW. The less you think of this as a set game with rigid hoops that you have to jump through to be a "hot man" and the more you focus on this as an attempt to make an emotional connection with someone, the better it will go, I swear.

I will also say that things went FAR better for me when I was focusing on self-development and following my interests as ends in themselves, vs. lures for women. People can tell, readily, when you're happy and doing well on your own, vs. when you're trying desperately to convince them that you're worthy of their time. I wish you luck and happiness.
posted by ryanshepard at 3:33 PM on July 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

And hey, just maybe by way of shaking your perspective up a little bit: a lot of women your age feel the exact same way you do. We don't all grow up perfect and superhot with willing men throwing themselves constantly at our feet, gliding along on a cloud of perfect self-love and fulfillment, you know. And the world is just as mean to a girl who can't get a date than a guy--maybe meaner, actually, since people tend to feed a delusion that "girls can get whatever they want."

A lot of us go through a phase where the search for a partner starts to get a little crazy-making and single-minded and completely self-defeating. A lot of us didn't have sex for years after we would have liked to; a lot of us still can't find partners; a smaller number of us never will. This isn't like, some secret shame that only you experience.

So a thought experiment: If you met a shy, smart girl who didn't look like a model but who really put a lot of effort into herself, and later you found out she was a virgin at 26, what would you think about her? I hope you'd hesitate to be as cruel to her as you are to yourself. You'd probably think something like, "really? wow, I guess dudes have really been missing out." Or even "man, I guess dating is just so hard, you know?" So maybe try applying some of that compassion to yourself.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:56 PM on July 20, 2015 [23 favorites]

i think you can do this.

you're doing all these other things. why not treat loving yourself in the same way?

just decide what loving yourself means, to you. make a list or something. and then work on them. maybe it means not doing so much. put that on the damn list. and then next time you are about to jump off somewhere, don't.

seriously. i'm not trying to be a prick here. you sound like you have doing things nailed. why should this one be any different? play to your strengths!

another way of saying the same thing is that often, identifying something like this can be 90% of solving it.

and another way of saying the same thing is don't get too hung up on the metaphysics. fake it til you make it. you may not be the most relaxed person in the world, but if you force yourself to slow down, it'll grow on you.

(on the other hand, if you want to meet women, doing some stuff is pretty useful. so try angle the remaining "doing stuff" energy towards collective things. can you learn guitar in a group, for example? )
posted by andrewcooke at 3:56 PM on July 20, 2015

Response by poster: quincunx
Trust me, I know that the universe is indifferent. I'm a big picture type of guy who ponders space, human evolution, and our place in existence.

That being said, I'm sensitive and honestly pretty self focused, one of the traits I hate most about myself. I obsess over perfecting myself so that I can have better odds at this numbers game.

I like the title of that book. I'll look it up and maybe order it on Amazon. Thanks for the recommendation!

I've had a string of therapists through the years. They never helped. I never had any real breakthroughs. We only ever got into the routine where I'm talking about surface problems such as "so and so won't talk to me" or "this happened with so and so and I don't know how to respond". I feel that I can pinpoint my own underlying issues if I think long and hard enough. Fixing them is another thing all together.

We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese
That's a good idea! I feel trapped thinking about myself, and it gets to the point where I question how good of a guy I really am if I'm so damn self-absorbed. I just got a new job (so I don't have a lot of time to volunteer) and I don't have a car to get me around to other people's residences, but I really like the idea of collecting stories from older people's lives.

When I say "nice guy", I'm saying my way of basing my actions off of what other people might think, the constant fear of confrontation, of doing things differently and stepping up for my own wants and desires, etc. Basically, I'm saying I want to stop putting what I want on the back burner so I can please others, which is just a passive aggressive, manipulative way of trying to get my desires met in the first place.

I'll check out Feeling Good. I already have a book by Dr. Burns about self-esteem, and I really like him.

Could you clarify what you mean by "at the end of the day, realizing that seeking self-improvement is in itself a remarkably rare and worthwhile part of you that only you can take away by not trying anymore"? I may just be having a mental block, but I don't understand what that really means.

I only came to the idea that I have to be more masculine out of desperation. It's a common notion that bad boys are sexy. Look at James Dean, James Bond, any rapper, the jock in your high school, etc. Then look at Mr. Flanders from the Simpsons, Fred Rogers, and that one guy who is always there for his female friends but who always sleeps alone at night. I know that this is a gross generalization, and you will point out I am using pop culture references which are distorted from how the world really works, but I am personally a nice guy who always tries to be patient, warm, approachable, giving, and caring, and I personally know that it has only helped me to finish last.

I don't want to change who I am, I just want to become more assertive and proactive in what I want. This strategy of sitting back, helping people, and trusting that good will come into my life is ineffective.

I'm trying to read and respond to every post, but they are coming in too fast!
posted by ggp88 at 4:01 PM on July 20, 2015

Mod note: Hi ggp88, moderator here. Please don't respond to every comment, that's not how things work on AskMetafilter. If something specific needs clarification, ok, but otherwise you've asked your question, now you can read the responses and mark the ones that are most helpful for you. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:04 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The biggest thing both of the guys I knew and dated with Asperger's struggled with was having a clear understanding of boundaries. Social boundaries are vitally important to winning people over. One of the guys I dated had the same mindset as yours, that he was 'too nice' and should learn a few tricks from some bad boys and players. It took him from obsessive and feminine (sharing all his feelings all the time) to acting like an obsessive A-hole. It did not work in the least in helping him become more appealing. It made his personality much worse. What you need is therapy, with a practitioner who is familiar with Asperger's. They will call you out if you're being intellectually dishonest, and they will help you to see yourself as others see you. Learning how to see yourself in the way that you present to others is the most important thing for an Aspie. Having a clear understanding of how people see you, not how you think they see you, is vital. That is the only way you will be able to develop a clear understanding of your tendencies and how they may effect how women respond to you. Once you know what isn't working and when it's happening, you can start to catch yourself and rework things so they do work for you. As for self-image and developing a solid sense of self-esteem, all of us are insecure, to varying degrees. No one really thinks they've got it all figured out, and the people who claim they do are the most insecure of all. You are worth-while. And even if you aren't dressed in trendy clothes, some women will still be attracted to you. Some women don't like preppy looking guys. Some women like grungy guys who look like they listen to Cobain all evening and write in their feels journals. You need to be comfortable with your flaws, and your tendancies that some people find unappleaing. What makes certain people charismatic and appleaing is that they don't give a F about what anyone thinks, they just enjoy their lifestyles. Forget molding yourself into something that you think will be desirable, and start doing and living whatever makes you happy. You like dressing like a 90's emo kid? Fine. Own it. You want to wear Ralph Lauren and join a lacrosse league? Do it. Volunteer, save animals. Join a cooking class. Do whatever interests you and do it well and people will find it attractive. People are attracted to people who own their realities and rock them whatever they may be. You can't get stuck in a place where you convince yourself that you'll never find love, or that it's all impossible. Both of the Aspie guys I dated had the same mindset and it is that mindset that ultimately pushed me away. They had already made up their minds that dating was hard, and that women were difficult, and that they were losers with issues that would never be loved and it was all so unfair. There are plenty of men with Asperger's who have great relationships, but they've learned how to adapt and deal with someone who doesn't think quite like they do. All you need is an 'instruction manual' of sorts and the will to follow it and you can have a healthy relationship with a woman who will adore you. A therapist who understands Asperger's can provide that for you.
posted by Avosunspin at 4:08 PM on July 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

Part of it is that you simply haven't had opportunity. You only knew one girl in high school and she had a boyfriend. Your parents drive you everywhere. You have had no privacy or independence.

There is some validity to the idea of making yourself attractive, but it has its limits. A relationship is based on relating. Intimacy develops over time by gradually getting to know someone.

Do you have any hobbies that you put you in contact with girls? No? Then get some. Talk to them like human beings -- whole human beings. Do not treat them as just a piece of ass, but also do not treat them like they do not have a sexuality.

My ex is socially awkward. I strongly suspect he qualifies for some kind of ASD diagnosis. He was my best friend in high school and we were both role playing gamers. We were married for more than two decades.

You first have to make contact of some sort under circumstasnces where it can lead to more. That more is not going to happen under the watchful eye of mom and dad driving you everywhere like you are five years old.

For now, your easy out is to blame your parents for this situation. It sounds like to a large degree they engineered it. Then get out and meet and greet and get some experience and work it out.

Also, a lot of people are virgins until their mid twenties. You aren't as weird as you think you are.
posted by Michele in California at 4:10 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

ggp88: You can't ever have perfect odds. You could do everything 100% correctly and still not get a girlfriend. It's not likely, but it's possible. Life does not guarantee you a girlfriend. Part of the acceptable risk of being alive is being single. This is just truth, facts, hard reality. Accept it. Accept that you may not be able to "game the odds" and that's okay.

Life can't ever be won, by anyone. We all die alone. We all suffer. Yeah, I know, I know you're thinking "but I just want that sweet social validation and sense of success that comes with Girlfriend (tm)! That's it, just that one thing!!! Before the dying alone!" I know.

Buddhism might be helpful to you. That or reading the Stoics. I recommend "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius" to start.

I dated a guy who lost his virginity at 26 by the way. I could in no way guess that until he told me. He played in a band and was "legitimately cool."
posted by quincunx at 4:14 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Could you clarify what you mean by "at the end of the day, realizing that seeking self-improvement is in itself a remarkably rare and worthwhile part of you that only you can take away by not trying anymore"? I may just be having a mental block, but I don't understand what that really means.

You have a quality within you that drives you to actively improve yourself and that is a commendable aspect to your personality and something that I've found to be rare in people. Lots of people say they want to do better or be better, but a much, much smaller percentage actually do it like you are doing it.

And this virtuous quality of yours is not dependent on your success in self-improvement, only your continued effort. No one can take away your ability to try to make yourself better. But you can decide to stop trying, and if you do, you risk both losing this good thing about you and the potential to succeed in self-improvement and become a better person in whichever way you choose.

You see your drive to improve as a sort of curse causing you to never be happy with yourself, but you have the ability to reframe that into a virtue from which you can derive well-deserved self-worth.
posted by griphus at 4:32 PM on July 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

Wow, you sound like me when I was younger, and I'm still working on some of the things you're talking about. I was never diagnosed with Aspergers or autism, and would probably be in seriously bad shape if I did have it. So YMMV with my thoughts here.

Here's what I know: trying to mold yourself into someone you think others will want is destined for failure. Why?

1) You can't perfectly predict what every single person out there wants. Each individual has their own individual tastes, desires, wants, needs, and circumstances, and these things change over time, hence why most relationships don't last forever. In fact, no relationship lasts forever because we all die, as I'm sure you know. Also a relationship is an on-going, living thing so to speak, so standing there looking like James Dean isn't going to do shit for you.

2) If you stray too far outside your own values, principles, tastes, opinions, temperament, biology, etc., then you'll end up with people who you aren't compatible with. And what's the point of that? You lose yourself, and you're surrounding yourself with people you don't really want in your life. It's a lose-lose situation for everyone, not to mention the stress you create in trying to keep up the illusion, and the disappointment the other person experiences when they realize it isn't real. It's a break-up waiting to happen. You're better off playing videogames all day and going to a massage parlor if this is the road you want to take.

3) Not to mention you want to do that macho "no more Mr. Nice Guy" thing -- trust me, you don't want date women who are attracted to socially violent, domineering, regressive douchebags; they're just as bad with being abusive, or they have other serious demons they struggle with. The friends you'll make acting this way are even worse. When I was growing up I took after my abusive, power-obsessed, dickhead family, and I ended up with a life filled with abusive, amoral, viciously negative assholes who ended up abusing me because I couldn't keep up playing the role I learned from my family. It's a two-sided dynamic that you're lucky you have to read books to discover.

4) If you do have autism, then you might lack the necessary social game theory needed to survive like an abusive d-bag. You'll make a lot of enemies living like that, and alienate most other people, and you need superior "relationship" skills to not be exiled from society completely. And even then it rarely works out too well. By this I mean you'll need to create a charming, "real person" persona and know how to play politics very well, pick the right people to take in or destroy, and have some knack for creating and living in weird alternate social realities. Even then you'll barely just survive in a life filled with abused people and other abusive people. Doesn't look like the best life to me.


So you're in a good moment here. You want to improve your life, and you have a choice over a few directions you can take. That's awesome! There's a ton of good advice in this thread, some that I'm going to try out myself. Good luck.
posted by gehenna_lion at 4:42 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a common notion that bad boys are sexy. Look at James Dean, James Bond, any rapper, the jock in your high school, etc.

...and, what? I never have and never would date any one of them, because they're a bunch of narcissistic fuckheads. Well, fine, I have met one or two jocks who were actually okay people, but still, I didn't want to date them. And lo, I am the owner of a vagina! But all owners of vaginas are not the same, and do not want the same thing.

Then look at Mr. Flanders from the Simpsons, Fred Rogers, and that one guy who is always there for his female friends but who always sleeps alone at night.

Um...did you actually watch the Simpsons? Ned Flanders gets all kinds of action. First, he's married, and second, he dates a freaking movie star after his wife dies. Fred Rogers was married. See where I'm going with this? The tropes you're mad at don't even say what you think they say--you're reading them through your own cognitive distortions.

I am personally a nice guy who always tries to be patient, warm, approachable, giving, and caring, and I personally know that it has only helped me to finish last.

This might apply if life and sex were a race you have to win. Since they aren't, it's just a nonsense statement that only serves to hurt you. So why hang on to it? Therapy will help you sort out these cognitive distortions from reality and manage your very real disappointment in a non-resentful, non-distorted way.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 5:21 PM on July 20, 2015 [12 favorites]

To love yourself as you currently are, stop trying to do things you don't love. Don't try to fit yourself into a mold created by other people. I've been in that position, and it's just hollow and empty and a recipe for constant disappointment in yourself.

So, just be you. Do what comes naturally. Maybe that won't impress everyone, but you've made it this far, and wouldn't it be better if the girl you finally met was attracted to the real you? If you try to turn yourself into some manufactured "ideal" person, you might attract a similar sort of person, but it won't be satisfying. I promise there is more to you than you're probably seeing right now, more of you to explore outside of the realm of self-doubt and comparison to society's standards. Just drop out of that whole game and go with what feels right.
posted by cosmicbeast at 5:25 PM on July 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Working hard to change things you don't like is good. Self-respect is cumulative. People who respect themselves look out for their health, their well-being, their own happiness, and usually this entails working hard at specific goals. Maybe it would help you to remember that if you don't respect yourself, you probably won't achieve these goals. If your self-talk is all about how you have these negative qualities, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you consistently tell yourself you really are capable of better things, you will be more likely to make the changes you want in your life.
posted by deathpanels at 5:38 PM on July 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

this question of why I'm a virgin and why I've never had a girlfriend or so much as held the hand or kissed the lips of a girl..

A girl isn't a thing to win or have, or another species. A girl is exactly like a not-girl in most respects. If you haven't had the chance to get to know - I mean, just know, talk to, engage with in a non-sexual way - many women (or girls, growing up - no sisters or cousins, for example), I think aiming to make friends who are women would be a very good idea. Perhaps it would be an idea to get to know other people who are on the spectrum (while also being women), maybe in a structured group setting, if that's an option that comes up in addition to individual therapy, if you decide to pursue that. That might give you more insight on how similar we all really are.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:35 PM on July 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was going to suggest working with someone to develop an "instruction manual" of some kind to help develop some strategies for developing successful interpersonal relationships.

This could be a "therapist," although I am frequently irritated by the vague suggestion that somehow therapy is the solution for every problem.

Speaking from experience, the challenge of course is that it can be very difficult to find just the right "therapist."

One idea would be to see if the counselling services at your college can point you in the right direction. Some of the challenges you are experiencing are actually pretty common. Just because someone has a girlfriend or a boyfriend, or even "friends" does not mean the relationships are particularly healthy or long-lasting.

Intimacy among friends or with a lover can be for many people a skill that must be learned. So an "algorithmic" approach may work the best for you.

A lot of people study how to "present" themselves better. This means how to make eye contact, where to stand, what questions to ask in that first meeting, body language, everything. This could be people in business situations and so on. Toastmasters (maybe something you should check out) is sort of like what you're going after.

Changing your interior dialogue is tougher, so perhaps "therapy" will help. But if you want to meet people, try to do it in situations where you're going to enjoy yourself. Maybe it's geocaching or playing Ultimate, or going hiking or going painting or something. Maybe ballroom dancing. Join a club at your college.

Most of all, just try to figure out the "algorithm" of human behavior.

I say this as a former teacher who has observed kids who are popular, kids who are not popular, and why which is which.

I also lived in a completely foreign culture for many years and had to "learn the algorithm" of how to present well and not irritate people with unusual body language and so on. But it is something that can be learned.
posted by Nevin at 6:36 PM on July 20, 2015

What you're feeling isn't that abnormal, especially for someone in his 20s.

I don't know that chanting "I love myself" is going to help much. But you should give yourself some credit for genuine accomplishments. Compare your current self to your former self. You've made a lot of accomplishments. Getting out of your parents house being the biggest one. Carry on. Keep in shape, give up porn, get a car, get a better job, things will fall into place. Focus more on what you're doing than how you're feeling.

Are you talking to women on a regular basis? If not, you should look for ways to do this more. See quincunx's comment. There's a lot of luck in dating, but it needs some surface area to work with. Also, more interactions will make you more comfortable around women in general. Changing social things isn't easy, so be patient and credit yourself when you make small improvements.

Generally, get out of the apartment. A lot of what you talk about is solitary. Put some social activity on your self improvement list.

Don't turn yourself into a swaggering asshole to try to impress women. On the other hand, don't be a wimp, a doormat, or desperately seeking approval, either. There's room between these extremes.

Sorry you're feeling angry and frustrated. But it sounds like you're channeling that frustration into action, which is the main thing that's needed. I think you will find a girlfriend and a greater sense of self worth in due course. Hang in there.
posted by mattu at 6:55 PM on July 20, 2015

Look at James Dean, James Bond, any rapper, the jock in your high school, etc. Then look at Mr. Flanders from the Simpsons, Fred Rogers, and that one guy who is always there for his female friends but who always sleeps alone at night. I know that this is a gross generalization, and you will point out I am using pop culture references which are distorted from how the world really works, but I am personally a nice guy who always tries to be patient, warm, approachable, giving, and caring, and I personally know that it has only helped me to finish last.

I am going to gently suggest that it is not your niceness that has anything to do with finishing last, but it is instead your belief that women, in the aggregate, are more interested in James Bond than Fred Rogers. (Also, being "nice", patient, warm, approachable, giving, and caring in order to "finish" anywhere means you were not really embodying those things. Someone who is those things can't just turn them off.)

Women can sense "I need a woman, any woman" desperation. You know who saw each individual woman as inherently valuable and human and filled with endless potential? Fred Rogers.

Dating advice to take from Fred Rogers, dreamboat, person who made a career out of trying to teach children the value of learning, emotional labor, and affirmations of self-worth:

-Be a neighbor. This means loving people for who they are, and actively fostering community.
-The land of make-believe is fun to visit, but it is not a place to live full-time.
-Welcoming people into your intimate spaces/mindset (changing shoes for slippers, putting on a cardigan your mother knitted for you and who cares if it looks uncool) does not make you weak or vulnerable. It makes you stronger.
-Learning about what people love is a great way to learn about people. Mr. Rogers went to factories and he learned about cooking and he even gave breakdancing a try when a friend who loved it gave him a lesson. Mr. Rogers was never afraid of looking silly, because he knew that engaging with people was actually sacred. (Also, silliness is okay!)
-Being gentle and kind is difficult because we live in a world that tries to make us hard and self-serving. Remaining gentle and kind is an act of radical transgression.
-Art is important in and of itself. (So is music.)
-The opposite of being lonely is not being in romantic love. Fred Rogers the real man was married, but Fred Rogers the character lived the life of a single man while being engaged with his wider community, reaching out to people who themselves might have been otherwise isolated, and modeling incredibly diverse forms of friendship. (And Fred Rogers the real man was married AND engaged with his wider community, reaching out to people who themselves might have been otherwise isolated, and modeling incredibly diverse forms of friendship.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:56 AM on July 21, 2015 [64 favorites]

Go Bobcats!

Improving yourself for your own sake will contribute to your confidence much more than if you're doing it for someone else.
It sounds like (at least temporarily) letting go of the goal of getting attention from women may help you grow your own confidence. You can learn to cook for yourself because it's a good life skill to know. You can work out because it makes you feel good to get those endorphins pumping and to see the results of your hard work. You can dress well because you enjoy looking sharp. Are those things totally worthless if they don't lead directly to finding a girlfriend? Probably not.

I agree with what some others have said, basically that molding yourself into someone you're not is a recipe for disappointment. Especially when it's based on what society thinks women want - since that doesn't necessarily line up with what actual women actually want. There are soooo many guys in their 20's that have adopted the hyper-masculine "anti-nice guy" attitude thinking it'll help with dating, it's really very typical and boring. Women who don't want to play games probably won't want to date someone who acts like that.

It sounds like you're trying to appeal to a broad demographic of women, but have you thought much about what sort of woman you would specifically be interested in dating? As others have said, having an "any woman will do" attitude is detectable and off-putting.
What qualities and personality characteristics do you look for, ideally? I don't mean physical appearance or income level or what things she owns (car, house, whatever)...some examples might be things like: strong communication skills, compassionate, patient, analytical, kind to animals, health-and-wellness-oriented, motivated.

My therapist recommended Mindsight by Daniel J. Siegel, you may find it useful as well.
posted by kristicat at 9:28 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a common notion that bad boys are sexy. Look at James Dean, James Bond, any rapper, the jock in your high school, etc. Then look at Mr. Flanders from the Simpsons, Fred Rogers, and that one guy who is always there for his female friends but who always sleeps alone at night.

You acknowledged that these are pop culture references, but given that you're even citing these as examples means you don't really believe they're that irrelevant.

James Bond and "rappers" are imaginary characters. That is, the fact that James Bond gets lots of women reflects the fact that Ian Fleming imagined his fantasy character of James Bond gets lots of women. The job of the Generic Rapper you're thinking of is to project an image of power and control, and they advertise a world where they are Getting All The Women to reinforce it, along with Having All The Money and Look At This Car. It is exactly the same as Generic Rock Star: the world you are seeing is a calculated one meant to appeal to their fans, not necessarily a reflection of how things actually work.

What I'm trying to emphasize here is that your examples of fantasy aren't necessarily the fantasies of women--they're the fantasies of men, and what men think are the fantasies of women. They're men thinking "A man like this gets lots of women" and they construct their fantasy world accordingly. It is worth reflecting on the idea that the closest approximation of the Bad Boy trope working in real life outside the bubble of international celebrity is in high school. That is, a 16-year-old boy who appeals to 16-year-old girls. I'm gonna hope that's not your market.

Then there's James Deen. James Deen is the closest thing on your list to a real person who fulfills the sexual fantasies of real, adult women, and who inspired that attraction and desire prior to his celebrity status. Have you read accounts of why women find James Deen attractive? This comic is an abbreviated breakdown. It's not because he's a powerful asshole. There are plenty of men like that in porn and any woman will tell you it's incredibly off-putting. It's because the James Deen character that James Deen plays is intensely into all the female partners he's with and concerned about their needs. The character of James Deen is a guy who is attuned to the desires of his sexual partner and adjusts his performance accordingly (and accounts of doing porn with him indicate the actual James Deen is like this, too).

My point is, James Deen is like, the opposite of what you're saying works.

a fiendish thingy has done a really great job of breaking down Mr. Rogers for you. I'd like to add I'm not even sure what you're getting at by mentioning him because the character of Mr. Rogers existed in a children's show and thus the issue of his sexual desirability was never even up for discussion. Or maybe I missed the episode where Lady Elaine Fairchilde and Barbara Russell judged his bangability, I don't know.
posted by schroedinger at 10:47 AM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Then there's James Deen.

I think the OP meant James Dean of Rebel Without a Cause who lived fast and died young, not the current porn star, but I could be wrong.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:58 AM on July 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

sure wish the edit window extended past 5 minutes and I could delete that whole paragraph yeah
posted by schroedinger at 11:55 AM on July 23, 2015

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