DEAR AMY: I'm 26 years old, and live in a large city. I have a wide circle of close friends, but I've always struggled with dating. My longest relationship lasted for about two years, and that ended nearly five years ago. My friends and family often tell me, "You can't love someone if you don't love yourself." I know the reason people say this is because I have never loved myself. I was a very anxious child; as a teenager I was diagnosed with body image dysmorphia and depression. I have battled (and have conquered) an eating disorder, as well. I am in therapy and take medication. I have a stable job, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet. Sometimes I receive compliments from people about my appearance, but I feel they are just giving a compliment in order to be nice. Although I lack self-confidence, I believe I appear confident on dates ("confidence is attractive!" right?), but I don't believe I come off as haughty. I'm careful to take things slowly, but also express interest. I sometimes have multiple dates with one person, but eventually the connection fizzles out. Although at this point, I always expect that to happen, I will happily put in the effort. Do you agree with my friends? Do you think that others can see right through someone with low self-esteem?
Not Confident in Nebraska
DEAR NEBRASKA: I agree with your friends and family — and what I think they are trying to tell you is that the most important relationship you will ever have, is the one you have with yourself. In that regard, there is always room for growth!
To some degree, meeting and matching is a confidence-busting experience for anyone. When things don't pan out, you will always ask yourself, "Is it ME? Am I the problem?" No doubt, many of the people you've matched with are also doubting themselves.
I hope you realize that much of what you are doing is SO right! You are dealing with your physical, emotional, and mental health challenges, and it seems that you have come a long way from the anxious child you once were. The best relationship marker for anyone is in the quality of their friendships — and your friends are supportive and kind.
To build on your successes, you will have to practice ways of getting out of your own head. Develop and deepen your platonic friendships. Work on deliberately switching your internal focus to others. Train yourself to trust other people enough that when they compliment you, you actually believe them.
True confidence is not conveyed by acting confident, but by being comfortable enough in your own skin to simply be yourself. The goal is to meet someone who really "sees" you, and who likes and accepts you — just as you are. And that will take time, patience, and the willingness to grow and change.
DEAR AMY: Women today have been empowered to act and speak out against sexual harassment, bullying, rape, etc. This is a major milestone. However, over the past few years I have observed the lack of traditional manners toward women by men. I notice husbands and male partners pushing through doors before their wives and dates (instead of holding doors open). I see them seating themselves in restaurants before their dates and wives have been seated. Along with the gains that women have made, have they also lost the benefit of traditional manners and male deference?
DEAR WONDERING: No woman I know gives a whit about traditional manners and male deference. We DO want to be treated "nicely," however.
For instance, it would be "nice" to make the same wage for the same work. It would also be nice not to be raped, assaulted, harassed, catcalled, bullied, objectified, or fearful.
Kind and loving people (no matter the gender) demonstrate their consideration by being polite, deferential, kind and courteous toward one another. We women can seat ourselves at the table, open the door for ourselves — and are happy to hold it open for anyone else.
DEAR AMY: I just want to make a comment about people who tell you they are bored during quarantine. I remember my dear aunt replying to me when I was a teenager when I stated that I was bored. Without looking up from her crossword puzzle, she said, "only boring people are bored."
She was amazing, interested in everything, and active well into her 90s. I'm trying to follow her example.
DEAR LESS BORING: My mother used to say the same thing!