Day 21 - Commodity Theory, Lab Rats & Unworthiness
Updated: Oct 28, 2019
Do men feel unworthy?
I am seriously asking. Do men feel that if a woman doesn’t choose them or they are alone that they are unpartnerable, not pickable and wholly unworthy? Women do. I hate admitting that. I really, really hate admitting that. I like to think that I am so advanced and empowered and forward thinking. But there I am sitting at my desk yesterday thinking about the fact that no one has asked me out or shown interest in months and all of a sudden I felt awful about myself. I felt worthless.
Why is my self worth tied up in whether or not a man wants me? Why do I care? Is this just a human quality or is it something that I do to myself to participate in my own oppression?
Let’s unpack that...
My self worth is tied up to someone wanting me because in our society we value relationships. Practically everyone I know is either in one, wanting to be in one, getting out of one or looking for a better one (often while still in the last one). We are a pack animal and we need others. So on a base level, I can see that to a small degree this is a fundamental need and I am just being human in this desire for a mate, a connection and a partner.
On the other hand, it seems as though I have taken this basic human instinct, partnering, and turned into a value call. It seems that I have taken a process (partnering) and made it a binary value judgment for myself, about myself and of course about you. If I am partnered (even if I am unhappy in my partnership) I am wanted, desired and valued. This is not factually true. It is emotionally true. There is a big distinction!
Factually true means that if I am with someone else then I am wanted, desired and valued because the other person has made a commitment to me and is ostensibly honoring that commitment. That has not been my complete experience though. In most of my relationships, I really, really wanted to feel wanted, desired and valued but they all seem to fall short. Admittedly, I have not put all that much work into selecting partners...when I was young it was really a matter of proximity. If you were reasonably attractive, a drunk and willing - you were in! My taste and selection process has gotten better over the years but overall I will fully admit that I have not been the best at quality control. Kind of an open cattle call and I wonder why I am where I am?
While examining the factually true part, I can see that I couldn’t really handle someone who was all in with me. Seems as though I had some sort of preinstalled default that wanted to be wanted, desired and valued but I kinda could only handle two out of three. And the problem was always with the valued part...Something happened when I felt valued. Like this quality was a measurable quality on a scale that required perfect balance in order to be actualized. Too much valued and I couldn’t handle it - you liked me too much and I would run. Too little valued produced two opposite reactions: way too little valued and I would bolt. But if you got it just right on the not way too little and just the right amount of too little then I would stay forever trying to get you to give me just the right amount of valued. Kinda of like a lab rat, hitting that dopamine level on the intermittent reinforcement experiment...I would keep hitting it until I was dead (well at least emotionally).
So on the factually true value, it is something that I really wanted to feel but seemed to have developed a lot of maladaptive coping strategies that prevented me from ever being with someone who really did actually value me.
Emotional truth is easier. When I have someone who is dating me or partnered with me, it is very easy to claim emotional value. I am wanted - see I have this person that wants me. I am desired because they could have picked a lot of other people but they picked me and I am valued because here they are! Bullshit. I think this emotional truth telling or in my case, emotionally not truth telling is what fills in the gaps in the factual truth. I can whip emotions around to fill in all the places reality has left me lacking.
None of the above really gets me at the core. I can see why I feel the way that I do but I can’t seem to understand how to change it. Perhaps it is in how I am looking at relationships. I think I might just have to give up the commodity idea of dating and partnering. Commodity theory says that the less the supply the bigger the demand. I seem to have adopted this belief that if I cut my supply line for available partners that I will somehow become more in demand. This is also bullshit.
Maybe I got a little lost on unpacking this...maybe I am a lot lost on this subject.
Here is what I know:
Not having someone want to be my partner hits me on a fundamental level that makes me doubt my own worth.
This feeling of unworthiness makes me fee like shit about myself.
When I feel like shit about myself I do not handle life well.
When I don’t handle like well I tend to engage in self destructive activities: dating, shopping, eating and a long time ago drinking.
These self destructive tendencies are the equivalent of me getting into a hamster wheel and thinking if I just keep going I will actually get somewhere. I feel better for a short period of time but the aftermath is always worse.
If I am not engaging in one of my life long maladaptive habits, I have no fucking idea what to do to make myself feel less unworthy.
Yesterday when my own head ambushed me while sitting at my desk, I did not have time to engage in one of my tried and true defective problem solving strategies. This forced me just to sit with this feeling of less than all day. I had to act as if I was just fine and perform my job and do the deal.
When I was finally alone after law firm and motherhood duties were attended to, besides being tired, I was drained. I felt as though I opened a vein and was leaking my life force onto the ground. Too tired to do much of anything else, I quit the lights and called it a day.
When I woke this morning. I still felt haunted by yesterday’s ghost. I woke feeling like I couldn’t handle another day of feeling like I need to justify my existence. But then a new thought came to me...what if I was enough just as I am? What if I, just for this day, decided that I was worthy? That I needed no one else to give me anything to be enough. What if I just decided I already was?
So today I pick me. I want me. I desire my own attention. I value me. I might get to bed time tonight and feel no differently than I did last night. But I have to believe that there is something meaningful in the exercise of validating myself for myself. Perhaps my lifelong mistake has been assigning others the job of accessing my worth. Perhaps, this has always been my job alone. Perhaps, it is time I just did the work instead of trying to Tom Sawyer others to give me what is truly only mine to give.