DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am a 21 year old girl with severe self esteem issues. I have a full face that is extremely plain and my smile is hideous. My hair is nice, except for the color, it’s a clingy orange/yellow color. I can’t bear to look in the mirror or see pictures. I almost cry every day. So now that you know a little bit about me, here’s my problem.
For the past three months, a really good friend of about 3 years and I have started texting regularly. And texting a lot…. first thing in the morning and sometimes all the way to night. I’ve liked him for a while – he does not know this. Sometimes I feel like he is flirting with me but I don’t know. I refuse to admit he likes me because why would he? I am not attractive and I don’t really have anything going for me. I need to tell him I like him, I can’t be just friends anymore. I have what I’m going to say all worked out.
But I don’t know if I can bring myself to do it. I don’t think he could ever like someone who looks like me…..
What should I do?
Too Much To Hope For
DEAR TOO MUCH TO HOPE FOR: If I’m being honest, TMTHF, I think your first step should be talking to a counselor. I fully acknowledge that’s something I say a lot around here, but there’s only so much a loudmouth with an advice column can do — especially, as I’m always saying: Dr. NerdLove is NOT a real doctor. If you literally can’t stand to look in the mirror and you’re crying every single day… that’s honestly the issue you should focus on. Even if we’re strictly cold-blooded about this, the ratio of effort-to-outcome and the knock-on effects of dealing with your feelings of low self-esteem and emotional despair far outweigh telling your crush that you’re into him.
I mean, pretty much everything about how you describe yourself and your feelings in your letter screams depression to me. But even if it’s not, having a professional to help you unpack these feelings, pick them apart and figure out ways of addressing them is going to do you a world of good. And if you’re currently a college or university student — and your age certainly makes that more likely — you have the advantage of having your school’s health center and attendant resources. That makes it a lot easier (and cheaper!) to find a counselor than if you have to start from scratch or with a referral from your GP.
Now as for your friend… sometimes you have to be willing to accept “yes” as, if not an answer, than at least a possibility. As I’ve told ROTFML and many, many others: just because you feel a particular way, especially about yourself, that doesn’t mean that it’s true, or even accurate. You are convinced that you’re plain with a hideous smile and weird not-quite-ginger hair. That doesn’t mean that’s the case, nor does it mean that people don’t or couldn’t find you attractive. It’s more about letting yourself believe it, especially when an opportunity drops into your lap and starts to wiggle.
Is he into you? Is he flirting? Would he respond positively if you told him you have a crush on him? I couldn’t say. What I can say is that, as a general rule, people don’t text all day, every day, from dawn until dusk, with folks they don’t like. Maybe you and he are just really tight friends with a strong connection. Or maybe he’s caught some feels. After all, science has found that people become more attractive to us as we get to know them better. It’s certainly well within the realm of possibility.
Now, my personal philosophy is that I’m not a huge fan of declarations of feelings… not, at least, in isolation. While it makes for great dramatic moments in shoujo manga or CW shows, I find that in practice, it tends to come across as “Here are my feelings, now you need to do something with them.” That can often put a lot of pressure on someone to decide right then and there what kind of relationship they want to have, possibly before they’ve thought beyond “Well, I’m interested in trying something with them.” I’ve found that what works better is to ask someone on a date — not to hang out, not to get together some time, but a proper date. This tends to be a much easier ask; all they’re agreeing to is an evening, not to try to figure out the entire relationship. Plus: the romantic and/or sexual interest is implied; people don’t generally ask folks they don’t like out on dates.
There’re a lot of ways to frame this, especially considering you and he have been friends for a while. Personally, I prefer to do what’s known as “inviting the ‘no'”. That is: you make it clear when you ask them out on a date that it’s totally ok for them to say “no, thank you”. This helps dial back both the potential “feelings out of nowhere, what do I do??” overflow error and the fear that saying anything other than yes would ruin the friendship or make things awkward. So in your case, what you could do is say “Look, maybe I’m completely misreading things but I feel like there’s kind of a flirty vibe going on between us and I’m into it. I really like our friendship and what we have and I would never want to lose that, but I’m interested in seeing if maybe there’s more. It’s totally ok if the answer is no, but would you be interested in going on a date and seeing how things go? If not, that’s totally ok, and maybe it’ll be a bit awkward for a little but we can resolve to power through the awkward. What do you think?”
And then the ball’s in his court.
But, regardless of whether he is interested in you or not, I think one thing you don’t have to worry about as much is ruining what you have now. A long-standing friendship that seems to have gotten closer and more intense is generally not the sort of thing that falls apart after one speedbump (or, in this case, one invitation on a date). I also think that the risks of not asking him mean living with the pain of uncertainty, ambiguity and wondering “what if”. Getting an answer, even if the answer is no — and I’m definitely not saying that it would be — is almost always better.
But seriously. Prioritize talking to a counselor above everything else. You deserve to feel better about yourself and to treat yourself better than you are right now.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org