Trigger warning: Mental health.
A while ago my love and me started dating again. For a little while I threw myself into it, partially because I really needed to feel alive after my father’s death. I had some amazing dates, met some great people.
Right now I’m taking it a bit slower though, conserving my social energy and also making sure I get enough me-time. Time to read books, watch movies, build models. All the quiet pleasures I enjoy and which help me recharge.
Meanwhile she also started dating more in earnest. I see our shared calendar filling up and she’s also been meeting some amazing new people, forming connections. For the most part I’m happy for her and proud to call this sparkling vibrant creature mine.
The past weeks my mood shifted though. There was a party where I opted not to go with her because I felt I didn’t have spoons. What also played a big role though was the feeling that I was merely allowed to tag along. It turns out I was deeply wrong about that, and it made me think.
I’d been struggling with my self-image lately anyway. There were come occasions where sexual interest on my part wasn’t reciprocated. There was the recent train trip where I felt like less of a man for no longer owning a car.
I realized that as much as I try to escape it, my self-image is still very much tied to patriarchal markers of success.
This all came together last night, as I tossed and turned in bed; unable to sleep. I felt like I was surely going to be left behind. With such a menu of interesting lovely new people to choose from, wasn’t it inevitable that someone would come along that would be more interesting, more fun, just plain better than me?
In the dark of the night my head tried to convince my gut of the folly of this, but with little success. I know that she loves me for me. I know that the whole idea of “someone better coming along” is old monogamous conditioning. I’m aware that she would only change our relationship if something changed between me and her, not for anyone else.
It all kept coming back to the same point though: self-worth. The feeling of not being good enough, not being worthy. I finally did fall asleep, but the feeling was still with me this morning and stayed there right up to the moment I was in bed with her, holding her tight to me.
I explained all my thoughts and a very simple question came up: if my self-worth isn’t in money, status or my bodycount… What do I measure it by? And amazingly the answer was actually simple. For other people I’ve always been much more interested in how they treated others. If someone is kind even to people that can do nothing for them. So maybe, just maybe I should apply that same standard to myself.
My gut seemed to relax a little at that. Not convinced yet, but it’s a start. I’ll keep repeating it until it sinks in. One day I’ll truly grok it.