Friday, January 26, 2007

Question of the Week #23: Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

Dear Andrew, Whenever I start going out with a new boyfriend, I can always find some reason to reject him within the first few dates.

Dear Andrew, I've been dating a guy for several months now that I know is not going to be "the one" (he is way too young for me) but we're having fun so I don't see why I should break up with him.

Dear Andrew, I have tremendous problems letting go and enjoying intimacy with my husband. Whenever he gets close, I tense up and all thoughts of arousal fly out the window.

Can you spot the common theme? The first young woman is afraid men will reject her, so she gets them first. The next woman is afraid she won't be able to make a real relationship work, so she puts herself in a situation that is sure to fail for some external reason ... therefore the failure will have nothing to do any of her own possible inadequacies. The final scenario features a wife who is afraid to let her husband too close lest he see the "real" her, where she lets her guard down completely; she is afraid if he sees the real her, he'll realize she isn't good enough.

In a word, fear ... brought on by longstanding feelings of low self-worth.

Looking back over the many Dismaying Stories on this site, this type of fear is one of the common elements in the questions I receive. It can exhibit itself as a critical inner voice, raging insecurity, or choosing not to take normal chances in your love life. These kinds of feelings seem to be incredibly common.

So how about you? Have you ever had a moment when you wondered if you were good enough? (And who hasn't?) Did this impact how someone perceived you? (Maybe they thought you were uninterested, when you were really feeling insecure or shy.) Are any of your relationships affected by these types of fears? Are the impacts huge, or is this just a minor, every-once-in-a-while thing with you?

Perhaps you've noticed this tendency in the people you know. Can you relate an anonymous story that demonstrates the kind of impact such fear can have on someone's life?

Or maybe you have a different interpretation of what causes the types of behavior I described. Either way, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


  1. My best friend now....we used to hate each other, sort of. she thought I was "stand-offish" and I thought she was a snob. I was just shy, but she really is a snob! ;) It's hard being shy cuz people think you're stuck-up or bored, and don't want to be bothered.

    Propeller head...I like it.

  2. I loved Propeller Head! hahah

    I can totally see the similarities with these 2 women, as I possessed some of the same qualities. I was told that I spent a lot of time 'testing' men, just to see how much it would take for them to leave, and then eventually get bored. I guess after 17 years of marriage, I can easily say that my husband passed the test! hahah

    p.s. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  3. I'm a complete basket case in this area.

    Positive attention from men terrifies me. It comes out as anger--my friends think they'll have to stop me from beating up some poor guy. I don't want them to find out how awkward and homely I am. I'd rather be forgotten quickly as the stranger who didn't want to dance with them than remembered as the dorkiest first date ever so I run them off like a pit bull after the mailman.

    The dumb thing is that I get along great with men as friends, I just cannot handle them as men. The guys who have shown interest haven't had much going for them, but I've never felt smart, accomplished, interesting, sophisticated, or attractive enough to deserve better. In the end, I avoid men my age and don't date, which isn't the solution I want but seems to be the only one I can handle.

    (Now that I write that, it occurs to me that I tend to be most comfortable with, and attracted to, men who are 15-30 years older than I am, probably because they're old enough that they wouldn't think to be interested in me. Well . . . darn.)

  4. Very interesting.



  5. Anonymous5:27 AM

    Thanks for commenting on my blog!
    My son is studying psychology, it is a fascinating subject!
    Sam (Sam's Spot)

  6. Hi Andrew

    I had those moments all the time when I was younger - not when relating to men, strangely enough, but with women. I find that men are less judgmental in general, for some reason I've always felt easier around them.

    I've always thought that feelings of doubt about self-worth spring from something connected with one's appearance as a child. Maybe having to wear spectacles at an early age, or being overweight, very tall or very short....that kind of thing. Even when maturity, experience and improvement of appearance are achieved, that old feeling of "I'm not good enough, or attractive enough" persists.

    This is one area where getting old (or older) does help - you eventually don't give a damn what anybody thinks! ;-)

    Twilight (Ann)
    Learning Curve on the Ecliptic
    (Thanks for the visit)

  7. The literature of a seminal 12-step program states -- in the 7th Step, I believe -- that "fear is the chief activator of our character defects." I believe that is true, in relationships and everything else. Fear of what? Not being liked/loved, fear of losing something, fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fear of solitude, fear of Who I Am. Eh?

  8. Canine Diamond - are we twins separated at birth? You have taken the words right out of my mouth. I always think of myself as the woman most men wouldn't give a second glance to let alone a first one. A man literally has to hit me in the head with a pass (or wave it in my face) for me to catch on. I am 45 and have never dated anyone my own age. I met a wonderful man last year who is 12 years older than me who hates when I make any type of negative or self-deprecating comment about myself. His concern for me and his belief in me as a hot, attractive woman is slowly erasing all the self-doubt. He forces me to believe in myself. I hope someday you find the same.

  9. I always thought, for the longest time, that I was mostly too strong for most of the men I had dated. Then I ended up in an abusive relationship. I was still "strong". I stood up to him when something was bugging me and he would end up tossing me around for a lack of a better word. I made excuses for the bruises. I would have to say that, in retrospect, I obviously had at least some fear of not being good enough, or of being alone, or not deserving better, to allow that to happen. Thankfully my family got me out of the situation(otherwise I probably wouldnt have backed down). I think that no matter what, everyone has those fears in one way or another at some point in their lives. It is just a matter of realizing those fears and conquering them, hopefully in time to find mr. or mrs. right!

  10. Fear has definitely colored my life. Fear of loneliness and abandonment has kept me isolating myself a lot, when connecting and being warm and emotionally available, would have served me much better...