I’ve always loved the background stories of why we do the things we do. Brides wear white because of Queen Victoria. We call it a cow in the field but beef on the table because of the Norman Conquest. Listerine was named after Dr. Joseph Lister who pioneered using antiseptics in the operating theatre. Nothing just occurs with humans. Most thoughts and actions are born out of an experience or notion of some sort which is fascinating when you’re discussing the lexicon or history but begins to sting a little when it initiates introspection. Now, you may be asking yourself, “What the heck does this have to do with Medusa?” and I promise to tell you but you’ll have to allow me to be vulnerable for a bit and do a little soul searching.
This morning I read a Tumblr post that said, “I wish when attractive people make eye contact with me I would make eye contact back and smile and do a little flirty eye bat because that’s how all good love stories start. Instead I avert my eyes like everyone’s freaking Medusa.” I found this very funny but also very pointed. In fact, just last night I had a similar interaction and used the Medusa analogy later while telling a friend all about it. So, to be confronted with it this morning I figured the Lord was trying to tell me something.
Now, when I say I had a similar interaction, I’m talking I straight up made eye contact with a man I find incredibly attractive and nearly did an exorcist head spin to NOT keep eye contact with him. But why? He was staring first so what was my issue? In fact, I specifically prayed for an intentional interaction with this man earlier this week so why was I shocked and distressed when an opportunity presented itself? Also, what a moron for missing the opportunity! (At this point you are probably thinking, I see why your single...don’t worry my mother’s thinking it too!)
Now, you may be saying to yourself that you would react the same way because you’re shy and that would definitely make sense but I am not typically a shy person. I wear crazy costumes to work for Homecoming Week. I’ve danced as a big snowflake on national television and I will gladly speak to hundreds of people with little to no preparation. So, why do I suddenly become a socially awkward mute when put in certain situations? Back to my opening statement. There’s got to be a reason behind the “natural” reaction.
So this got me to thinking...I’ve always been cynical about people whose love stories start with, “We met at the grocery store.” Like, forgive my ignorance but how do you go from looking at kiwis to a booth at TGI Fridays? It doesn’t make sense to me but I realized that I also don’t give anyone a chance. I’ve come to the understanding that maybe I’m so afraid of the unknown, lack of control and potential for rejection that I actually sabotage myself. Maybe subconsciously I’d rather not take the chance and be alone than face rejection and someone “confirming” my self doubts because I’ve experienced that before and it sucked!.
And there it is... the reason behind the action. A reason that is based on experiences from a lifetime ago. Experiences that I don’t really consider very often but have somehow warped my thinking. Hateful boys asking me out as a joke. Friends reminding me that I’m not really the attractive, dateable type. A guy trying to convince me that I misunderstood his flirting and the dates we went on when he found out I would not lower my morals for him but my friend would.
Each moment chiseled a little out of my confidence in the area of romance in the same way every fall at the skating rink made me less likely to let go of the carpet wall. I became so afraid of the potential bumps and bruises that I convinced myself that I wasn’t capable at all and that it wasn’t worth the risk. Maybe you’ve done the same thing? Maybe you have that small voice that sneaks in and reinforces your doubts and here’s the thing, nine times out of ten that voice is wrong because it’s being fed by negative experiences. Funny enough that little voice rarely chooses to remind me of all the compliments I’ve received or successes I’ve had and I’m sure yours is the same way. We are fed by emotions and we tend to let the logic drift away.
So, if I (or you) think about it logically, there is no danger, no potential for rejection because the fears we have are not based in reality. Every man that you find attractive will not necessarily find you attractive but that doesn’t mean you aren’t high value. (I think the Honda Element looks like a box on wheels but my mother paid good money for one because she loves it. Neither one of us is “right”. It's just a matter of taste.)
Also, I’m southern. Conversations with strangers happen to be a part of our culture so even if my worst nightmare comes true and the man I find attractive thinks I look like the Crypt Keeper what’s the worst he can do? Not smile back? Not say hey? Then he will be the one who looks like the unfriendly jerk not me and the man last night is very personable and wouldn’t have been rude anyways. Cognitively I know all this and yet here we stand!
Actual picture of me in the morning!
So, where does this leave me? How do I (or you) change these instinctive reactions? I’m afraid it will require getting out of our comfort zones and making a concerted effort to BE the truth and not the fear. What I mean by that is that sometimes we might just have to ACT like we are incredibly desirable or unbelievably brave or overwhelmingly capable even if we don’t feel like it or believe it ourselves and this stretches far beyond our dating lives. We need to learn to be intentional in every area of our lives because these habits can lead to personal change. Don’t just let life happen to you but take a part in it even if you are scared!
You’re probably thinking all of this is easier said than done and you’re right so I am giving all of you who know me permission to hold me accountable to this standard. You have permission to question my intentionality or push me out of my comfort zone when it comes to romance. Remind me to smile. Jab me in the ribs if I don’t say hey. Point out my standoffishness. Whatever is necessary and I promise I will try to be more intentional, confident and brave in my daily life.
Maybe if we all live out the truth of who we are we will eventually forget all the lies we’ve been fed?