Insecurity in a relationship
April 27, 2006 8:22 AM   Subscribe

How do I learn to overcome (better: eliminate) deep-seated insecurity in a relationship?

Recently, I met a woman who is clearly much better-looking, more talented, more social, more mentally balanced and physically healthier than I am (I'm a guy, we're both in our early 20s). Aside from being model-beautiful, she is literally one of those "good at everything" type people, and truly excels at everything from the intellectual pursuits to sports to the arts to interpersonal relationships to domestic taks to life and career goals and planning.

Somehow, for reasons I don't quite understand, she finds me attractive! Now, while I'm not exactly complaining that we've really hit it off together, I do feel like I'm getting a much better deal than she is! While I certainly have my strengths in select areas, my positive attributes really just don't compare to hers in scope or richness.

We're both old-school, monogamy, relationships-are-sacred kind of people, so I don't worry about straying per se, but more about how to hold up my end of the bargain and keep the girl. We've both been delighted with each other so far, but I've this nagging fear that I won't be "good enough" in the long run. (This despite the fact that she actually initiated contact with me initially.)

To be specific, while we share a decent number of overlapping interests, she's a great deal more athletic than I am. Sports and performing arts are a big part of her life, and she is outstanding at them. While I'm more than willing to take classes and learn, there's a clear gap between passing familiarity with X vs. good-enough-to-teach-X-for-money.

So how do I stop being neurotic? I'm certainly passionate about the things I do, but feel like I need to be better and bridge the gap more between our interests to keep her for the long-run. Little of my worry and insecurity have shown through thus far, but what about the long term? Low confidence and insecurity can be serious turn-offs, and I'd really like not to be afflicted with it for such a promising relationship.

Email throwaway:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I can't tell you how to stop being neurotic, but she fancied you for a reason, and I can tell you that if you keep telling her she's wrong, she'll believe you. Best thing to do: Just act/pretend like you are good enough for her. Soon enough, it'll work and you'll realise you are.

Forget the interests thing -- you don't have to be the same people to be into each other.
posted by bonaldi at 8:37 AM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's obviously too easy to say "stop worrying," but you should. The fact that you're asking how is a good indicator you're aware of that, so it's safe to say you're on the right track already.

I suspect your girl isn't interested in you solely for your skills. That your interests overlap and that you're willing to take classes and learn about things she's into are already hugely in your favor. You're aware you'll likely not excel at some things to the degree she does, and that's perfectly okay! If she's the incredible person you make her out to be, she probably values your willingness to put the effort in to keeping up with her far more so than your success in any endeavors of her areas of expertise.

Keep doing what you're doing, and show an interest in how well she does, and you won't have a basis in reality for insecurity. She likes you. Go with it! Who are you to second guess her?
posted by majick at 8:38 AM on April 27, 2006

I don't think you can eliminate the insecurity as it is not in the relationship, it is in you.

Congratulations on finding this amazing person. Clearly she thinks you're worthy of her interest, affection etc., therefore you are. Worthy.

Try to see it for a moment from her point of view. She met a guy who really interests her, in all the other social scenarios she is involved in, with all the other combinations of personality type she has been exposed to, you're the one. You the MAN!!

Surely over time you can start to respect her choice, which has the added advantge of respecting yourself and what you bring to a relationship. Each time you meet, hug, kiss, touch, make love or just have an amazing conversation, say to yourself, she values me so I need to value myself.

One way of doing this is to fake it (to yourself!) just act like you deserve to have this partner, and maybe over time it will become a habit.

Otherwise I feel you should start to look for a therapist to work on your insecurity issues before it has a chance to derail a wonderful realtionship. I hope other responses can point to a good book on the subject, sorry I don't know one
Very best of luck
posted by Wilder at 8:48 AM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Sounds to me like you value people (including yourself) for their talents. If you're judging people by their resumes, it's not surprising you feel insecure.

Do you care about her because of the person she is or because of the things she can do? Do you think she's evaluating you based on what sports you're good at? In any case, you can try talking to her about what she likes about you.
posted by fuzz at 9:03 AM on April 27, 2006

Enjoy her, take good care of her, relax about the whole thing. I've been with someone like that for 6 months now - she gets more male attention than anyone I've ever seen. Beautiful, smart, funny, etc etc etc. She says digs me because I 'get' her in ways that other people overlook.

Botttom line: most girls have different standards of attractiveness than most guys. She sees something about you that she doesn't see in other people. Just go with it.
posted by milinar at 9:10 AM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

She's awesome in every way, she likes you, therefore you must have tons of qualities she appreciates, of which you're unaware.

In short, if she's that amazing, trust her judgment.
posted by headspace at 9:12 AM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

If this girl is gaga over you, you've got some amazing qualities that she loves. Even if you're not quite sure what -- chances are it's the je ne sais quoi that makes you so attractive to her.

I've been in a relationship that sounds similar to the dynamic you describe -- my partner was constantly in awe of me and always had this "I'm not worthy" thing going on. I was positively crazy about him, but what brought things to an end was his unwillingness to believe that yes, I actually did like him that much, and yes, he really was as impressive a person to me as I was to him. It was so frustrating.

There's nothing more attractive than well-justified self-confidence.
posted by saffron at 9:13 AM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

You appear to be (internally) competing with her. Please stop. This will ruin this relationship for you and all future relationships for you until you do this: Accept her for who she is - and more importantly accept yourself for who you are. Enough with the checklists.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:17 AM on April 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

You clearly think she's an amazing person in nearly every way - it's quite likely that she enjoys feeling like someone thinks she's an amazing person, as most people would. That's pretty huge. It may seem simple, but I'll bet it goes a long way to explaining why she's into you. Don't worry so much.
posted by soplerfo at 9:19 AM on April 27, 2006

Along the lines of what fuzz said: I've never valued a guy for his sports skills or job or social network. I do value men for their enthusiasm, their curiosity, their compassion, their intelligence. These qualities can certainly be demonstrated in their activities, but it's not like they disappear or don't count if a guy's not the absolute best at something.

I love salsa dancing. I've met tons of guys who are great at salsa, and they've almost all been total airheads who are completely full of themselves. I have an ex who was a great dancer, but refused to go out dancing with me *and* didn't want me to go out in case I met someone else who did dance, and that was maddening. My current boyfriend says he's a bad dancer, it's not really his thing, but he signed up for classes with me and we're talking about which clubs we're going to check out. It's the current boyfriend who gets all the alloted "salsa points," regardless of his skill. He's willing to try with an open heart, not just show up and pout and think that qualifies as "supporting me."

There are certain qualities I value highly, intelligence being the top one. But I've never tied "smart" to "successful in X job" or "can recite the literary canon" or "always beats me in arguments." It's a feeling I get from a guy, and it's not tied to any quantifiable thing. I've dated out-of-work writers and bike messengers and now a doctor. These guys have all been highly intelligent, no matter what their paycheck or diploma (or lack thereof) might indicate.

Not to make it a gender war, but in general I think guys are more likely to try to quantify those things than women are. It's really unlikely that she's cataloging your skillset.

Also, make sure you do have other interests that you can get *her* involved in. Then you get to feel like the uber-competant one sometimes, and she gets a boyfriend who challenges her a bit. Not because you feel the need to best her, but because you certainly have a rich life that she's interested in being a part of.
posted by occhiblu at 9:26 AM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Without a lot more information it's impossible to tell whether you are suffering from run-of-the-mill, learn-some-affirmations low self-esteem or pathological, you-need-some-counselling low self-esteem. All I know for sure is that you got some low self-esteem and that is the problem, I'm sure this girl is swell and all but in this she is just a mirror of your intrinsic self-doubt, which fairly shouts out from the wording of your post. I'm just going to point out a few flaws in your reasoning.

Recently, I met a woman who is clearly much better-looking... etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. I'll note most of us have our game faces on early in a relationship. Provided she is a human being she has a wealth of flaws you've not yet discovered. Though its fun to be put on a pedastal sometimes most find it an uncomfortable perch in the end.

I do feel like I'm getting a much better deal than she is! You are not getting "a deal." She is not getting "a deal." This is a relationship, not a transaction. Also, you make her sound like she's sort of dumb. Also, that aw-shucks I don't know why she'd ever take a shine to little old me is genuinely irritating. You need to resist indulging that kind of ideation, start by not writing it down... well, anywhere. You know how it is. Fake it till you make it.

To be specific, while we share a decent number of overlapping interests, she's a great deal more athletic than I am. I may be barking up the wrong tree, but I suspect there may be an element of something more than just a fear of imbalance in this, I get maybe a bit of geek versus jock vibe or something. Do you have some personal issues or history with athletics and people who excel at them, or are you a very competitive person who finds it hard to lose gracefully? This might be an area that needs a bit of separate attention.

Anyway, if you find a general solution to learning to believe in yourself that fits in an online post, drop me a line so I can proceed to make you a millionaire. In the meantime, you will just have to suffer with self-doubt. Hopefully your hot, athletic girlfriend will ease the pain a little.

In summary: lighten up!
posted by nanojath at 9:30 AM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

I also benefit from the Billy Joel Syndrome.

Don't ask yourself, "what's wrong with her?" She really does see something in you. Before I met my wife, I was a complete nervous wreck around girls, couldn't ask them out, didn't know what to do on a date. But when I met her I was completely bowled over at how much she liked me and how easy it was to be with her. And this August we'll celebrate our 25th anniversary. She's still hot and I'm still amazed. She hasn't gotten tired of me yet (although I think she was pretty close yesterday).

Why doubt? Unless you're rich, you have someone that likes you for you.
posted by cptnrandy at 10:50 AM on April 27, 2006

Honey? Is that you?
posted by Packy_1962 at 11:15 AM on April 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

1. Remind yourself that you need to get over these insecurities to keep the relationship - you're right, excessive insecurity is generally not attractive to women.
2. Remind yourself that she clearly wants to be with you - don't screw her by letting your insecurities ruin the relationship.
3. Remind yourself that no one is perfect - all her perfect qualities make me wonder whether she's got some deeply buried insecurities herself - really content people are often less successful. In fact, you're just as perfect as she is - you just underrate your good qualities, and dismiss her bad qualities.

I rarely find myself attracted to men who overachieve all the time. They're too drive for me - I prefer more relaxation, more quality time together. As others have said, I value other qualities - humor, kindness, cuddle potential, intelligence, passion (about something, I don't particularly care what it is, as long as he can make it interesting to me too.)
posted by Amizu at 12:25 PM on April 27, 2006

Yes, please don't obsess about it. You found someone who you think is amazing and brilliant and gorgeous and that's fantastic. But don't get too hung up on it. She likes you, and to "keep" her, you just have to keep being the best you that you can be.

And I don't mean by thinking to yourself "how can I keep up with her?" or "how can I better myself in a way that she'll notice?" - she's likely to pick up on the fact that the things you're doing are not exactly genuine and it will drive the both of you bonkers.

Instead, just try and cultivate your passions. Do things that interest you. Successful people are confident in themselves, curious about their own limits, and follow their passions, and that's very attractive - and probably what you find so attractive about her. You should do the same and she'll continue to think you're awesome, which you clearly are if you've snagged such a great girl. You're going to have bad days, where you feel like a schlub. She has them too, I assure you. Just acknowledge it and move on and keep on doing things that interest you or inspire you.

Others have said it, I will too. Relax. You rule. She knows it, you just have to remember it.
posted by pazazygeek at 3:19 PM on April 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

Honey? Is that you?

No, dear.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:19 PM on April 27, 2006

I don't worry about straying per se, but more about how to hold up my end of the bargain

Are you really an unreliable jerk who can't hold up his end of a relationship? Then stop worrying about it. How do her attributes have any bearing on that?

If anything, you are probably missing something about yourself that is truly amazing and captured this person's fancy.

You should also look at where she comes from, who her crowd is. You might think yourself utterly ordinary, but you might be the first person like you she's ever met.

If all else fails, rent a movie. Damn. Just walk into BlockBuster and you can hardly keep from being buried under stories about average guys who win the hearts of amazing babes.
posted by scarabic at 7:07 PM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

1. It sounds to me like you are putting her on a pedestal, at least just a little bit, and remember that she is, indeed, human. You will get to know her dark side(s) and downfalls eventually, if she sticks around :)

2. If she really is truly "good at everything," then what do you suppose she is looking for? Someone else who is ALSO "good at everything"? That sounds like some kind of Martha-Stewart-esque obsessive disorder, always running around trying to be perfect. Hell, maybe you'll eventually find out that she's driven by deep-seated insecurity and that's why she is the way she is ("good at everything"), cuz she's always seeking external validation and she can't STAND to be a failure at anything. Also, as others said, she may be attracted to your relaxed/not-as-ambitious ways. Partners should complement each other, not compete or try to be the same.

3. You are your own worst critic. Perception is amazing like that. In fact, her perception of you might even be wildly inaccurate. So don't start thinking "if I get dumped or abandoned by this chick then that confirms that I really am not good enough and will never be good enough for someone as good as her" - Please banish these thoughts from your head. They are not real; they're only an illusion.

4. I don't think you are excessively insecure, necessarily. I think this situation would bring about feelings of (at least) doubt in most people. Research has shown that relationships, especially marriage, typically undergo quite a bit of stress when one partner makes major changes for the better, such as losing a ton of weight and becoming more social and getting a promotion - this tends to make the unchanged partner freak out a little. Now if they lose the weight together, different story.

5. Last but not least, I think that communicating these feelings in a very self-accepting (open-hearted) and forward way can produce good results. She will know you are real, and she will most likely reassure you. Now if you ramble on about it daily, and exhibit jealousy and/or begin to withdraw/become depressed and/or play games and yatta yatta -- THEN you will be really repulsive and she will most likely say Buhbye. I like the saying that goes (something like) "You cannot control how you feel, but only what you do about it."
posted by mojabunni at 8:15 PM on April 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

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