EXPECTATIONS AND WHY YOU SUCK AT DATING
Palms sweaty, voice trembling, I thought the fear would overwhelm me. The pressure was incredible. This was my last stand. My Alamo. How would I feel when it was done? Would I go through with it, or would I run away?
My friend reminded me I had 20 minutes left.
20 minutes to talk to 20 girls. And 20 minutes to keep or lose the $500 I had given him as an insurance policy to make sure I went through with it.
This was the price of procrastination. This was the price of fear. I had had 2 hours to talk to 25 girls, and I had blown it. Over an hour and a half of hanging around women and only five conversations to show for it? What sort of man was I?
I walked into Urban Outfitters. 19 minutes. Fuck it. Just say something. Say anything. There’s so much random shit here you can talk about. What do you mean you have nothing to say? What’s wrong with you? They’re just girls! Look at that wooden owl. Look at that old-fashioned camera. Look at that bobbly cat. Those earrings look Egyptian. You can’t talk about this? Why not? What’s stopping you? Are you a loser? Are you a pussy? Say something. Say something. SAY SOMETHING!
There’s no real technique to talking to strangers. The biggest hurdle is simply doing it – getting out of your head and making it happen. The hardest conversation is the first one. The next hardest is the second one. By conversation five you barely think about talking, it flows so naturally and pleasantly. By conversation 20 – well, you don’t even remember conversation 20. You’re flowing, you’re present, and all the objectives you had when you went into it simply melt away. When I hit it I didn’t even notice, I just went right on going to 21. My friend had to pull me aside and let me know: somehow or another, I had succeeded.
You can’t even imagine how I felt. It was better than all my past nerd accomplishments put together: better than winning Best Delegate at the Model United Nations, better than winning the High School Video Game Tournament, even better than taking home gold in the 5th Grade Geography Bee.
Loser Pat Stedman was vanquished. Cool Pat Stedman was victorious. I came out of that store feeling invincible. Talking to girls – while still maybe scary – was no longer an insurmountable obstacle. Indeed, once I got it going it had actually felt normal and easy – a first for me. I was one step closer to becoming the friendly, confident guy (who was obviously amazing with girls 😉 ) I had dreamed of being. I felt like I was on top of the world.
But that feeling only lasted for a few more hours.
Later that evening I attended a college party and had a nervous breakdown. It only took 30 minutes of me circling around a keg unable to speak to a single person for me to decide I was, in fact, shit and totally unworthy of attention. I was no longer invincible; I was invisible.
And so I left anxious, alone, and thinking everybody there thought I was a loser, spending the rest of my Saturday night in my room writing manic calm-the-fuck-down letters to myself while I listened to drunk, obviously cool and attractive girls (like my ex-girlfriend, was she there?) party with popular guys who were everything I was not.
Within half a day I had gone from feeling like a champion to feeling absolutely pathetic.
And all because of one stupid thing:
I had expectations of myself I didn’t meet.
In the morning, when I was out trying to talk to those girls I was angry and upset at myself because I didn’t think I was going to meet the goal I had set. I was missing my expectations.
Later in the morning when I reached my goal despite the setbacks I was elated. I had exceeded my expectations.
But my success earlier that day had made me believe I was unstoppable. That I had reached a new level. So when I couldn’t even talk to people at the party I was devastated. I had performed below my expectations.
Clearly, these expectations had a lot of influence over me and my emotions. Based on how I did relative to them, I was either champion or a loser. I had either infinite value or I had none. I either felt great or I felt terrible.
Good thing those expectations weren’t completely made up in my head, right?
(cue nervous laughter)
Yeah. They were. They had to be.
Because expectations aren’t real things. They don’t actually exist. There’s no “truth” to them.
We just make them up to confirm our beliefs about ourselves.
Let me go a bit deeper.
When you were a little kid, your parents had expectations of you. They expected you to behave in a certain way. If you did you were good; if you didn’t, you were bad.
And then you went to school. And the teacher also had expectations of you. Expectations about the grades you would get. About your effort into the assignments. If you put it in you were good; if you didn’t, you were bad.
This continued as you got older. You had social expectations from your friends. You had work expectations from your boss. You had relationship expectations from your girlfriend. And finally, after all those years of conditioning, you had expectations of yourself. And based on how you met those expectations – especially the ones from yourself, since you were reminded of them all the time – you considered yourself to be either good or bad, which, in your mind, determined your value.
Some of these expectations you met. Some you didn’t. But the more you didn’t, the more you started to, ironically, expect that you wouldn’t meet expectations. And so the more you began to sabotage your goals, because, after all, deep down you expected to fail.
(apparently if there’s one thing our mind likes, it’s to be right, especially about us always being wrong)
Phew. What a mess. But bear with me, we’re almost done, my precious – I promise.
If you put everything above together you basically get this:
We set expectations for ourself that we can’t or won’t achieve to validate our belief that we don’t have value.
And you know what?
But really it’s more than that:
They are oppressive. They make us more attached to the outcome than the process. They put tons of pressure on us. And they trigger our egos rather than helping us to transcend them.
Because if you’re a dude, like me, who grew up without much confidence and spent the last couple of years trying to run away from the “loser” he used to be, having ridiculous expectations of yourself feels, well, normal. You’re terrified of mediocrity. You want to be the best out there. The tougher the goal, the better. And you can’t second guess it because everyone in the dating / self-improvement community you’re immersed in considers it the holy grail, the one true path to badassery.
Well, guess what?
All those goo-roos are full of shit.
Because it doesn’t have to be this hard.
I know you want to become better. You won’t settle. You’re a fighter. And I respect that, enormously.
But when you’re holding yourself to all of these expectations, the only thing you’re fighting is yourself. You’re in this war between the “good you” and the “bad you,” and rather than help you it’s draining all of your energy away from being you. You, the natural, awesome, desirable thing you are, not the made up thing you think you’re supposed to be.
If you spent half as much time loving yourself, trusting yourself, and accepting yourself as you did trying to prove to yourself that you can be “better,” do you know what would happen?
You would achieve your goals faster.
You would achieve your goals easier.
You would achieve your goals with more enjoyment.
Because for once in your life you’d be moving fully aligned towards your purpose without half of you trying to stop you.
I know. You’re trying to prove to yourself that you’re not that scared, struggling, sad kid you used to be.
But that scared, struggling, sad kid? He was only ever that way to help protect you. He is you. He will always be a part of you.
And that’s ok. So is the champion. You guys are on the same team. And you both deserve love.
I wish I had known years ago at that Urban Outfitters that I didn’t have to talk to those women to feel like I was worth something. I wish I had known at that party that just because I was scared I wasn’t inherently pathetic.
But most of all, I wish I had known that I didn’t have to do any of this stuff to be perfect.
Because I am. And so are you.
Want to know a secret?
And until you get that, good luck having success in anything, especially dating.
So drop the expectations for yourself. Learn to love yourself – all of you – unconditionally.
And make your goals not about becoming some ideal, imaginary ubermensch everybody is impressed by, but about things that help you to show up more aligned, powerful, and present towards your truth every day.
That, alas, is a separate article. But until then stay perfect.
I know you will, because that’s the one thing about you that will never change.