Hax: Don’t let anyone else define self-worth

The Washington PostDecember 12, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: OK, I’m dating someone I really like, but he and most of his friends are super high achievers: best schools, prominent careers, athletic, etc. In comparison, I feel very very very average.

I haven’t been hiding anything, so he already knows the truth about the things I feel insecure about: school, job, etc. So that must mean, in spite of these things, he likes me anyway? Right?

My fear — and this is in all relationships because this happened to me once and completely shredded my soul and my self-esteem — is that he’s just using me “until something better comes along.”

SHREDDED

Stay with me here, please, because it will sound like I’m dumping on you, but I’m not.

When you suggest he’s capable of mistreating you like that, you’re slamming his character. Do you have any grounds to do that?

If he has given you any reason to think that’s true of him, then you need to break up for that reason alone.

If instead he’s given you no reason to question his character, then you need to cut it out, and treat him either with the respect he has earned or with the benefit of any doubt.

His liking you for you wouldn’t guarantee you’d stay together, of course; people of fine character have changes of heart like anyone else. The difference is that, going in, their intentions will be sincere.

That’s the part about him. The part about you is bigger: Please examine the idea that one person can have so much power over the very essence of you. Any time you feel so vulnerable to anyone, please ask yourself: “What’s THAT about?”

There will always be jerks, users, abrupt mind-changers, sooperdooper achievers, and whoever else scares you. Each of us, in becoming whole, functioning adults, needs to find a way to come to terms with sharing the planet with people who are well-positioned to hurt us, be it through intent or merely by proximity.

Give only the good ones a place in your soul, and recognize your self-esteem as yours alone, a place to which only you have the key.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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