Loving yourself takes conscious effort and hard work…but most of all, letting go of all fear in love is where true love is born
Early in my career I got to manage a pretty large budget. Many millions of dollars. I didn’t have final say over spending, but I did have to keep track of it all and make recommendations, allocations, that kind of thing. As a result, I was wooed an awful lot by potential suppliers. I got to thinking that being taken to lunch, concerts, outings, etc was just the way things worked.
One particularly big-spending supplier had a sales rep who was my age, but who was one of the most gorgeous women I ever laid eyes on. She was smart, fun to be around, and as she said, “from the wrong side of the tracks.” A mutual friend tongue-in-cheek told me that the “wrong side” for her was the toniest part of town. I liked her. A lot. The first time we met, we were with our respective bosses, our minders, but she threatened to take me out to lunch some time on the company tab. And thus began a whirlwind experience of some of the City’s finest dining establishments.
Indeed, one of our lunches was at such a high-profile place that not only did our bosses come, but our bosses’ bosses did too. This firm got plenty of business from us, and things were hunky dory, so the wining and dining continued. She was as into great food and wine as I was.
One of our clients was sponsoring a show, and I thought I’d ask her to join—it was a big name act, who wouldn’t want to see it? She accepted. It was a bit like a date, not quite, but a bit, and we both knew it.
At one point in the evening, as we were all strolling along, I suggested that she speak to a woman who was walking two paces ahead of us, who suddenly had nobody speaking to her. This was a very senior person in our company, who was responsible for a lot of spending in this area. I thought I was being helpful to suggest it, and was ready to dash off and make the connection. I didn’t see anything wrong in my rational mind with the idea of helping her.
She looked at me, and just said, “you don’t give me any credit do you?” And in that instant, I was crushed. Here was this most glorious woman, one who had been flirting with me and entertaining me, taking me out, and having a good time with me for months…and I didn’t see it for what it was. And what I wanted to say to her was, “I don’t give credit to myself,” but I was silent, because to admit that was too truthful. The idea that this was all “too good to be true” was front and centre.
I had a lot of conflicting feelings in me then, and there is always a trace of them left behind even as we grow. For one, I had a thing and still do about permission. I’ve never approached or touched a woman without asking first. My wife can’t stand it. It’s so submissive! I call it respectful, and when I asked my wife the first time if I could kiss her, she responded by kissing me. No harm no foul. That mindset doesn’t just extend to touch, but to any interaction with a woman that is straying out of professional bounds. What works against me? Some say biology, some say patriarchy, but the fact is, many women like a man to be forceful. I’d be happy to do it, and indeed I can be once boundaries are established, but until then, I just can’t because I think it’s wrong. Strike One.
Strike 2 is self-consciousness. I’ve always been self-conscious. I think this comes from a negative feedback loop that started with ADD-inspired loquacity. People don’t often tell me to shut-up anymore, but I was a chatterbox as a child (ahem, still am), and that engendered some frequent and sometimes barbed put-downs. So as my mouth is running, or as I am existing, my mind is racing on many different angles—all the ways that what I am saying can be interpreted, what they are thinking, plus a million things that are unrelated. It’s like several conversations are going on at once in my head—and indeed, sometimes in my mouth…and the hardest part is that I forget all the time what I said verbally and what was just in my head, so I have to ask, did we already talk about this? It isn’t that I am forgetful, it’s just that we probably have talked about it, only you weren’t a part of the actual conversation. [Woe is me when what I think you said is something different than what you said or meant, as once “said” in my mind the train leaves the station]. So, I spend a lot of time thinking through and rethinking through what I said, or what you said, or what happened.
Strike 3, I am clueless about sexual energy. I have always oblivious to what was going on around me not just with women interested in me, but in the intrigues between other people. It was a language and communication that I tuned out…and I also felt that it was too good to be true. It wasn’t, but when you believe it, the prophesy comes to life. I remember there was this very attractive younger woman in my office in London. I never noticed that she was hanging around me and looking longingly at me. These are cues that just went in one eye and out the other. One day she was standing next to me, and she turned to me and said with real heartache, “you never notice me, do you?” And I had a million things run through my head, about how attractive I thought she was, how fun, smart, witty, really spunky…and what a great sense of style she had. I didn’t say anything. I looked at her, smiled, and she walked away.
Unrequited love. Story of my life. It’s like having a loaded bazooka love gun and not ever knowing when or how to use it. Being a child in a toy shop—the potential fed the fantasy and the fantasy was life. Real life contained rejection, challenge, hard work, fear. Romance does not, and romance can live a long time in your head. Thankfully, there are some really aggressive and forward women out there, and when they came along, thank goodness I was like a juicy peach ready to pluck from the tree. I wouldn’t and couldn’t have it any other way.
But society conditions us differently. Biology may, and perhaps controversially, sets different expectations. She may be everything you dream of, but if she differs in this crucial respect, you might as well forget it.
One of my closest friends marvelled to me over dinner the other day at how beautiful the women I dated over my life were. Every one of them…including her. Their outward beauty was simply a doorway to these vibrant and lively people, women with incredible stories, a sense of dynamism and fun, and not one passive bone in their bodies. Is it wrong of me to have been a man who was happy to be the soil that they were rooted in? Is it wrong of me to wish to feed them, literally, emotionally, figuratively? Is it wrong of me to feel my physical body submit to them while my id grows alongside them, caressing, loving, but never seen?
My mother once told me as I recounted a tale of a deep crush…she said, “the prettiest women are the loneliest women.” She was telling me about herself. She was also telling me that beauty intimidates. She was also telling me that beauty is disarming. Somehow that lesson really stuck. There is nothing I like more than being disarmed by a woman’s beauty–whether that comes from inside or out…and I am relentlessly drawn to people that put out beauty energy.
And as for the woman who this post was about…well, we stopped wining and dining; the calls disappeared. A few years later we met for drinks outside of work, but the thrill was gone. What do I conclude?
If you find that you don’t believe in yourself, you need to slap yourself into line. Nobody else will—or if they do, it will be to your cost. Dare to have the life you want, that you dream of. Go and get it. And don’t think about silly stuff like this. Are you good enough? For what? Just be true, be solid, keep your word, show up on time, care about others, and always be respectful, and life will open up before you like an ocean full of oysters.
Why is it so hard to love yourself? Because much of life’s experience conditions us to be otherwise. And so much of our culture is to covet not just what others have, but also who they are. How awful. Break the cycle, break the spell, and develop your confidence by moving forward.
You have to trust that everything happens for a reason. That is a BS line if you allow yourself to coast. If you don’t push yourself, then nothing happens to you for a reason. Many things that “should” happen to you, may never come to pass. But luck is not an accident, and the person who works on herself is the person who is prepared, and the person who is prepared is ready for love, and ready for the right person.