Rule #1: Be a Creature Unlike Any Other:
“Being a creature unlike any other is really an attitude, a sense of confidence and radiance that permeates your being from head to toe. It’s the way you smile (you light up the room), pause between sentences (you don’t babble on and on out of nervousness), listen (attentively), look (demurely, never stare), breathe (slowly), stand (straight), and walk (briskly, with your shoulders back).”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re not a beauty queen, that you never finished college, or that you don’t keep up with current events. You still think you’re enough! You have more confidence than women with MBAs or money in the bank. You don’t grovel. You’re not desperate or anxious. You don’t date men who don’t want you. You trust in the abundance and goodness of the universe: if not him, someone better, you say. You don’t settle. You don’t chase anyone. You don’t use sex to make men love you. You believe in love and marriage. You’re not cynical. You don’t go to pieces when a relationship doesn’t work out. Instead, you get a manicure and go out on another date or to a singles dance. You’re an optimist. You brush away a tear so that it doesn’t smudge your makeup and you move on! Of course, that is not how you really feel. This is how you pretend you feel until it feels real. You act as if!”
This is from a controversial self-help book on dating, called ‘The Rules’. How, you wonder, have I even read such despicable, anti-feminist claptrap? Well. We all falter from time to time. I was given a copy by someone, at a time when I was a bit down on myself, a very rare occasion indeed, and to my horror, some of it actually made sense. Most of it is awful, granted – there’s no way in hell I would recommend the thing wholesale. It is full of vile, materialistic nonsense, such as ‘Don’t Meet Him Halfway or Go Dutch on a Date’ (why, what are you a call girl?!) or ‘Stop Dating Him if He Doesn’t Buy You a Romantic Gift for Your Birthday or Valentine’s Day’ (see previous objection). However, save for one or two sentences, Rule #1 seems to me to be pretty much the basis of all healthy relationships, and that is to respect yourself.
I often wonder why it is that I have so many friends who are either single and unhappy or in bad relationships and unhappy. Or who go from being unhappy on their own to unhappy in relationships. What I’m really wondering is why they are so unhappy.
I have some exceptionally wonderful, beautiful friends. They have character. Not just the usual ‘shopping list’ stuff – smarty, funny, talented, but also warm, thoughtful and loyal. And unique. Each one is, exactly, a ‘Creature Unlike Any Other’. Except that, instead of not having to worry about not being a ‘beauty queen’ or not having finished college, they are, and they did. I feel incredibly lucky to call them my friends. And I would switch with any one of them, in a heartbeat. So why can’t they see how amazing they are? Why are they still going to pieces over crappy relationships and using sex to try to make a relationship happen?
It seems that a lack of self esteem is at the heart of this kind of anxiety. It’s the root of this wrong-headed thinking that leads people to conclude that they are worthless unless someone else validates them. This kind of thinking is dangerous and destructive. I can relate to it partially, in a way. I had kind of the same thing with academic achievements; I was miserable at school if I got any less than an A for something, or if there was even a hint of negativity on my school report. I only snapped out of it at University, when my friend’s Dad killed himself and I realised how important it was to be there for someone, and what a difference it can make. Suddenly grades didn’t matter so much as staying up all night with my friend, letting her talk and cry.
Perhaps this is the key point; appreciating your other roles in life, how much you are valued for who you are as a person. Knowing that you’re a good friend, that you’re good at your job, that your family love and value you, is something people tend to overlook. I know I often joke about my Northern background, and the fact that my parents didn’t exactly celebrate my achievements, but I knew that they loved me. Sure, my Dad still points out that my eyebrows are like Groucho Marx in my graduation photo, and constantly reminds me that I was ’14 stone’ (no Dad, I was SIZE 14, and I wasn’t even that, but was still hot anyway), and my Mum constantly says to my husband that she doesn’t know how he puts up with me, but I know that they love me. Let’s call it a hunch. And I think that’s the basis of why I’ve always felt so secure in myself; assured almost to the point of arrogance, some might say. But I have learnt that focussing on one aspect of your life, whether it’s relationships, work or the way you look, is a sure-fire route to self-doubt and depression.
Maybe it’s also because of the jobs I’ve had. I was part of a team that analysed organisational performance; if we just looked at single aspects without looking at what we actually delivered in the grand scheme of things, it would have been easy to assume that we had failed. There is, of course, always a way to improve, but the quickest way to demotivate people and end up in a self-fulfilling cycle of doom is to say ‘hey, you’re not doing your job properly!’. So instead, we would focus on specific aspects and put our energy into encouraging people to come up with solutions.
I know that it’s not the same when it comes to our personal lives. I know that rejection is tough. And yes, maybe sometimes, there are valid reasons, and aspects of your personality you might need to work on. But do it critically. Challenge the negative thoughts. Ask yourself, really, did the last relationship end because you didn’t always shave your legs? Or was it because you were essentially incompatible, in that perhaps they wanted different things and it was nothing to do with you, or what you did or didn’t do; you are still the same great person that you always were.
Only by realising that you are enough, just as you are, and that anyone would be lucky to have you, will you find the strength not to settle; to brush away those tears, and move on.