ABOUT TRYING TOO HARD

September 1, 2021
We've all done it. You are finally on that date with that special person you've been wanting to get to know when he or she states an opinion that you don't agree with. You nod and pretend to agree, even though in your heart you don't.

What about the guy who hears an attractive woman say she loves to dance, so he takes her out dancing and pretends to like it; but inwardly he hates it?

These are examples of self betrayal. It is one thing if you say, at the outset, "I've never really liked dancing, but I'm willing to give it a shot since I know you love it." That's honest and lets your partner know where you stand.

Pretending in order to be accepted will never really work in the long term. If you are putting on a show in order to be accepted, you have to keep putting on that show year after year for fear of being rejected. And that becomes a very heavy burden to bear. You become a slave to it. It doesn't satisfy either, because you feel, deep down that the other person loves the mask you are wearing and not your true self. In some cases, you may relax once the vows are said and the other person is stuck with you. In that case, your new spouse is going to feel betrayed.

This is tricky, because I think there is a fine line between putting your best foot forward and and trying too hard. Being your best self involves dressing appropriate to the occasion, having good hygiene and personal cleanliness, engaging in thoughtful conversation, being a good listener, and other efforts that show respect to the person you are with. I am not saying that you need to show up to a date with body odor to be authentic, unless that is just how you intend to be. If you live a Bohemian lifestyle and don't believe in regular bathing and deodorant, then by all means show up to your date the way you normally show up to life. But, if you generally want to be well groomed and clean, there is nothing phony about making a special effort before a date.

So where does simply "trying" morph into "trying too hard"? It is where you move from being your best self to being what you think the other person wants you to be. The line is when you become a pleaser. You know when you've done that. That little voice inside tells you. But we want so badly to be accepted that we sometimes just say what we think the other person wants to hear. It may keep you in the game. But, then, it's a game you have to keep playing and a lie you have to keep telling.

One of my favorite comedies of all time was the movie "Opportunity Knocks," where a con man named Eddie Farrell (Dana Carvey) is caught taking a shower in an luxurious home he has broken into when the owners of the home return early from a vacation. They mistake him for a house guest they are expecting, John Albertson, who is their son's friend. Eddie plays along, pretending to be John Albertson, at first to avoid getting caught.

Eddie decides to continue the ruse for awhile to see if he can con this wealthy family out of a large sum of money. Eddie decides to romance their daughter as part of the whole act. At first she is non responsive, but grows to care about Eddie a lot. Milton, the husband and father in this wealthy family, begs and practically insists that the fake John Albertson come to work at his company in a very responsible position.

Of course, the whole charade begins to come apart when Eddie realizes that he loves the daughter, and in fact, the whole family. He tells a friend of his that maybe he could stay in this fake life he has created. Maybe he can actually be who they think he is. In a reality check moment, the friend says, "Eddie, you conned them! And now you're conning yourself."

Most of us, to a greater or lesser extent, are a little like Eddie Farrell. We are pretending to be something we are not to get what we want. We think maybe we can actually keep up the act and become who our partners want us to be. But, inside, that leaves us feeling phony and insecure. We are always left wondering if our partners would love us if they knew the truth about us.

At the end of the movie, Eddie decides he can't con these people he has grown to love. So he switches the con to a white collar criminal, cons him out of a great sum of money, and tries to undo the plans he had to steal Milton's money. His whole plot is uncovered when the real John Albertson shows up. He finally comes clean to the daughter about his plot,, and gains her sympathy by faking getting hit by a car. In some sense, then, he trades one con for another.

The message is, don't con people and certainly don't con yourself. Be your best self in building relationships. Put your best foot forward. Just don't pretend to be something you're not to be what someone else wants. Any relationship that grows out of that is based on a lie.

Dating in my forties was actually a lot easier for me than dating in my twenties. One of the reasons for that was that I was more comfortable in my own skin. I had a much more developed idea of who I was and what I had to offer. I could accept it if someone I fancied just didn't feel the same way. I didn't need her approval to be comfortable with who I was.

If you are not comfortable with who you are, I think preparing for an eternal relationship includes finding out who you are and what makes you special. Ultimately, that comes from your relationship with God. But if you are coming from a secure place, rejection is not devastating. You can accept it by realizing that you are not for everyone, but you are for someone. And that special someone will accept you as you are.

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