DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My situation is two-fold, but I’m only really looking for help with the latter part because I know you’ve addressed the first bit to death.
The first part? I suffered a lot, growing up, and while I’ve taken responsibility for my healing and am in therapy, it’s been a real slow journey, and this long road has been very lonesome, but I’m in a much better place than I was years ago. I’ve also been fortunate enough to make great strides in my life, and I consider myself to be a good man with positive qualities.��Nevertheless, as you may expect, I’ve never really had much luck in the realm of dating or making friends. It seems that no matter how much I “put myself out there”, I never connect with anyone, which has always been disappointing considering how often others have sung my praises (seriously, people think I’m a social butterfly and swarming with dates).
Obviously, that situation in itself has been a challenge for me.. However, in more recent years I’ve found myself becoming bitter at the mere prospect of dating, and I know my mindset is not a healthy one, albeit it is “protective”.
You see, I’ve been single and dateless since 22. It didn’t matter how many times I went out for an evening, how many dating apps I used, how much volunteering I did, or what classes I joined for a regular period of time…my experience has been a combination of meeting very few single women in my age range, and all of the women I meet not being interested in me. I watched as other men would take women home after a night out, or how a woman would approach a guy for conversation at a social event.
As I began to approach my thirties, I started to tell myself that I was done with dating (or at least, trying to). I felt like I’d missed out on “youthful” experiences, and I ended up developing the belief that I was the guy who gets settled for – not exciting, not someone that women WANT to be with, but simply the type of man who would make a good husband when all the other options are taken. And honestly, it’s really painful for me to think that way, and I choke up every time these thoughts come into my head. It doesn’t help that social media is basically just softcore porn these days, so I’ve had to distance myself from that, because it felt like a reminder that I could never be a guy that women actually wanted to have sex with.
I realise that sounds like incel rhetoric, but that’s not something I subscribe to. I know you don’t have to be a 6 foot billionaire to get a girlfriend. However, as someone who has been alone for all this time, it’s hard to think of any reason why, one day, someone could ever look at me and be excited at the prospect of being with me, wanting to be sexually adventurous and falling in genuine love. I can’t shake the feeling that any woman who ever does express an interest in me in the future may be “broken”, desperate, or longing for an ex they once had.
I know I’m not doing myself any favours, but as it stands…whenever I envision my future life, I can’t help but feel that I’ll always be on this lonesome road. It’s pretty damn tiring, Doc.
The Lost And Lonely
DEAR THE LOST AND LONELY: So, there’re a few things to tackle in this TLL, and a lot is going to hinge on a couple of important mindsets that you should be able to hold simultaneously.
A lot of this is, quite frankly, a self-inflicted injury, and you’re continuing to metaphorically pick at the scabs. If you’re going to actually heal, you’re going to need to learn to stop doing that.
This is where the first mindset comes in: what you think you’re seeing isn’t the objective truth. This is classic confirmation bias, taking what you already believe and using it to kick yourself in the nuts while you’re already down.
Here’s what’s happening: you have a very limited exposure to what other people are doing and you’re creating narratives about them out of whole cloth. You see people for a brief window of time, have very little actual information about them, their lives and who they’re talking to… but you’re letting your self-limiting beliefs about yourself craft the story about how they’re succeeding where you can’t. Except… you have no idea what they’re doing, how those conversations are going, what sort of relationship these people have had or will have afterwards. You’re seeing just enough that your jerk-brain is filling in the blanks and, confirmation bias being what it is, the blanks are being filled with the sorts of stories that are there just to make you feel more helpless and hopeless.
And the thing is? You should already know that other people aren’t seeing things accurately and are making assumptions based on what they think is going on. You said it yourself: you have people who think you’re absurdly popular and neck-deep in women when you’re feeling like the guy picked last for dodgeball. That alone should tell you that maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t be relying on what you think other people are doing as a marker for comparison or for finding new and inventive ways to make you feel bad about yourself.
So the first mindset is to recognize that confirmation bias is a thing. And if your brain is going to use your beliefs to affect how you see and walk through the world, you may as well choose beliefs that help you instead of hurt.
Is this delusional? Enh… define “delusional” first. What this is is choosing optimism over pessimism and hope over despair. You can say “but there’s no evidence for this, how can I believe” it, but you’re inventing evidence for the opposite side. Not in your lack of dates – we’ll get to that in a minute – but in the fact that you’re defining yourself and your future in ways that emphasize your powerlessness and hopelessness.
If you understand that what you’re seeing can be incorrect, that your beliefs are the filter through which you see the world and that what you think you see isn’t objective reality, then you can also understand that the “evidence” you’re presenting as proof is, in fact, your interpretation of the world around you based entirely on what you already believe. You’re ultimately choosing to reinforce the beliefs that hurt you. Changing how you choose to look at things – looking at things as a challenge, at setbacks as being impersonal and temporary and things that can be overcome – changes how you see the world and how you interact with it.
And part of that is going to require recognizing the places where you’re not just choosing to believe these things but allowing others to reinforce things. You have a very sizeable tell in your letter about where you’re spending your time. Specifically it’s this part:
“I was the guy who gets settled for – not exciting, not someone that women WANT to be with, but simply the type of man who would make a good husband when all the other options are taken.”
This right here is straight up red pill bulls--t. It’s cleaned up – no mention of the almost aphoristic “c--k carousel” �– but it’s very much the same sort of “alpha f--ks/beta bux” mindset that toxic forums and communities talk about all the time. The whole “women go out and have their fun and then they hit the wall and have to settle for whomever is left because the good 20% are still taken with the 80% of women” thing comes up all the goddamn time in those communities.
The idea that the good times end and then the guys left get “settled for” is just the s--tty-men equivalent of the Rapture, where all The Good Christians get to go to Heaven and then look down and laugh at everyone left behind in the Tribulations. To their credit, it’s a nicely efficient way of insulting both men for not being sufficiently ALPHA BRO and snickering at women for thinking that the good times could go on forever and won’t they be sorry when things start to sag and their SMV goes down… but it’s still a toxic mindset and it’s not even true.
The idea that the only good experiences are the “youthful” ones is, likewise, the sort of thing you see among incels. At best, it’s the romanticization of the young that pop-culture does, because the sweet spot for pop culture is the 18-34 demographic. At worst, it’s the idea that the only sex worth having is with young women because they’re young.
But as it turns out, life doesn’t stop when you turn 30 and neither does your capacity for surprise, adventure, love, romance, excitement, novelty and pretty much everything that makes life satisfying. People can and do have astounding adventures and exciting, heart-pounding love affairs at 30, 40, 50… s--t, even into their 70s and beyond. And as an added bonus, being in your 30s can be like your 20s but better – the same drive as your 20s, but with more experience and better credit.
The idea that a woman in her 30s is going to “settle” for you and only because she can’t have the guy she really wants is, quite frankly, ignorant as hell and honestly a little insulting. The idea that a woman can’t possibly fall in love with someone later in life – or that her love isn’t worth the same – just suggests an outlook that women are flighty vapid creatures who don’t know a good thing when they have it and whose “value” diminishes over time. And while you may not be actively thinking about it in those terms, the way that you frame the “only” theoretical woman who could ever have a relationship with you certainly suggests that you see them like this.
And, honestly, this attitude you’re carrying around about yourself is precisely why you’re having issues. It doesn’t matter how often you go out, what classes you take or how often you put yourself on the dating apps when everything about you is saying “It’s ok if you don’t want to date me; I wouldn’t want to date me, either”. It bleeds into everything you do, from the way you stand to the way you talk to people, to the way you interpret what people say and what you think they mean. When you think that nobody could possibly be interested in you, of course, you’re never going to see signs of attraction. You wouldn’t recognize them if you did see them; you’d write them off as being a mistake or clearly meant for someone else or just miss them entirely because you couldn’t believe it in the first place. You’ll read rejection and negativity in every vocal intonation, every tilt of the head and every second that passes between when you text them and when they reply and how.
So if you want to change your future and escape this self-imposed Days of Future Past when you’re just going to be a third-choice option at best? You’re going to have to adopt the mindset that people like you. You’re going to have to decide to think of yourself as someone people actually like and conduct yourself appropriately. And to do that, you’re going to start with you. Because Ru Paul really did have it right: if you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love anyone else? Love has to come from within. If you don’t love yourself and see yourself as the prize that you are, you’re never going to be able to accept love from anyone else. What love you do see will be seen as secondary or conditional or temporary, because you won’t be able to accept that maybe you’re wrong and it’s real, it’s lasting and it’s honest.
This means that instead of gurning about heading into your thirties and missing “youthful” adventures, you start treating yourself as someone who goes out and has those adventures. This means you live like you give a damn, instead of waiting for other people to give you permission to do so. You don’t wait to hit the right benchmarks to start living the life you’d want to live if you were one of those guys who women liked, you start doing it now. You dress like the sexy badass you think you’d be if you were one of those guys. You carry yourself like them, go out and do those things you feel like someone like you “can’t” do. You find the aspects that you hope a relationship would magically give you and you cultivate them within yourself, first. Because hey, funny thing: we are attracted to people who are similar to us. So if you think that a girlfriend would make your life different in X, Y or Z ways? Well, it’s time to start bringing those changes in now, instead of waiting.
Which, I might add, includes, seeing yourself not as one of the “leftovers” – a concept I categorically reject, incidentally – but the person that ex lovers still pine for. Living it now, bringing those qualities into yourself now, is how you “fake it ‘til you make it”. If Vonnegut is right and we become who we pretend to be, then f--kin’ pretend to be the guy you wish were. Because once you see that person in the mirror, so will everyone else.
There is no future but the one we make for ourselves, and right now you seem bound and determined to craft one where you’re miserable. Your imagined future isn’t inevitable unless you make it so. If you want things to be different – both now and in the future – then it’s time to start making those changes. It’s all about the story you’re telling yourself; this isn’t your second act, leading to a depressing dénouement unless you allow it to be so. If you’re not in the place where you want to be, then this is the part of the story where things start to change and you undergo the transformation that leads into your second act.
But that only happens when you choose to stop giving up your agency, stop choosing to believe the worst about yourself and, instead, remember that you are a powerful agent of change, capable of creating new and amazing futures.
And yes, it is a choice. You have chosen, up until this point, to see the world a certain way. You have the ability to choose to see things another way. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, mind you. You’re dealing with the habits of a lifetime, a groove that you’ve carved into your brain and you’re going to have to work to not just get out of that groove but to carve another one. But as I’m always saying: nobody said it would be easy, just that it’d be worth it.
I’m sure you’ve heard “Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life” a million times, and it really is. Tomorrow is just that: another day and another new life… and one that you can shape and craft through your own power and your own will. So decide, here and now, that tomorrow is the first day of your new life, the life where you start living the life that you wish you’d been leading. You take that as a fresh start and start putting in the effort to live that life, to love yourself the way you should’ve been loving yourself all this time and to let that love inspire you to do the other things that you’ve been longing for.
The love of your life should start with the love of your life. Everything flows from there.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com