Before I get to the nitty-gritty, I want to say thank you for your work. The world needs more ethical, kind advice, especially for lost, young men right now.
Ok L&L, I’m gonna do something I rarely do with letters like yours. I’m going to be bluntly honest with you. So brace yourself, it’s Chair Leg of Truth time:
You’re doing something a lot of folks do: you’re talking a lot of self-pitying s**t. I’ve picked your letter in particular because, frankly, it’s an example of an entire genre I get on the regular: guys who are miserable and lonely and want me to sign off on the idea that they’re uniquely f**ked by the universe.
And I won’t do it. Sorry. My job is to help folks and give people solutions. So if you’re writing to me for permission to give up, that’s on you, chief. Because I’m not willing to say “yup, time to give up.”
Why? Because, quite frankly, most of the things you’re talking about are confirmation bias. You believe that you’re ugly and hopeless and, as a result, only pay attention to the things that confirm what you already believe. Someone looked at you and looked away? It must be because they couldn’t stand to look at Quasimoto, not that they were looking at things entirely unrelated to you. Someone didn’t respond to your dating profile? Had to have been because of your looks, not because the two of you had conflicting interests or they were so inundated by messages that they never saw yours.
None of these have anything to do with your looks or your “value” – more on that in a second – but it’s incredibly easy to write a narrative that just confirms what you think of yourself. Regardless of any evidence to the contrary.
You’re “pretty sure” you’re ugly and you hate photos of yourself. As for the second: hey, welcome to the club. I hate 99.9% of all photos and videos of me that are out there. The ones I don’t mind tend to be taken by professional photographers, and even then I zero in on the things that I can’t stand. And y’know what? Those are things that literally only I see. To everyone else, it’s a non-issue or something so minor and nit-picky that it’s downright absurd that I get fixated on them. And yet, I do. I recognize it intellectually, but it still gets me on a gut level.
So y’know. I sympathize.
But let’s talk about the first for a second: you’re “pretty sure” you’re ugly. That’s an important distinction. 9 times out of 10, when I hear from someone who tells me they’re ugly, what they’re actually saying is “people don’t look at me the way folks look at Channing Tatum.” And when I see pictures of them? I can see why. Not because they’re ugly – they aren’t – but because they don’t put any effort in. Their hair is limp and lifeless, their grooming is entirely off and they look like they haven’t slept in a week. Their clothes are sloppy and ill-fitting, their body language screams “go away” and they look like skin care is something that happens to other people.
And here’s the thing: these are all easily fixable. These are all issues that could be taken care of in a matter of days, if not hours.
Making even absurdly minor changes can drastically affect how you look. All you have to do is watch any random episode of Queer Eye and see how a simple haircut, beard trim and change of clothes can transform a person. But you have to want to put the effort in. The problem is that when guys declare that they’re ugly, they are giving themselves permission to not do anything. After all, what’s the point? You can’t polish a turd and putting lipstick on a pig leaves you with an annoyed pig. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They’re ugly, so why do the things that would make them not ugly? Alternately, they don’t want to step outside of their comfort zones – they don’t alter their hair and skin care routine because that’s not something they “do”. They don’t change their hair or their clothes because it’s “not them”.
But as I always ask: how’s that working out for you?
That’s the first step, by the way: putting some care and effort into your appearance. Even if you don’t have Michael B. Jordan’s face or Chris Evans’ chin, that doesn’t mean you can’t be more attractive. You want different results, you have to start doing different things You have to put the work in.
And, incidentally, I’ve seen burn victims with massive facial scarring find love. So can you.
Then there’s this: what’s the point of hobbies or interests if you have nobody to share them with? Well, to start with, you have things that you enjoy and bring you comfort and satisfaction in your life. That, in and of itself is valuable, even if you’re just doing them on your own. I love talking books with people, but even if I didn’t have anyone to talk about them with – as I didn’t for years – I’d still be a voracious reader.
But just as importantly: you can have people to share those interests with. We call them “friends”. Yes, I realize that you’re talking about wanting a romantic partner, but that is actually part of the problem. One of the reasons why we are dealing with an epidemic of loneliness is because of how men have consistently isolated themselves emotionally. We are taught to equate emotional intimacy with sexual intimacy and that to be emotionally open and vulnerable to other men is gay and effeminate. So we end up expecting our romantic partners to be our all-in-one source for our needs. We treat our girlfriends and wives as not just sex or romantic partners but to be our best friends and the sum totality of our emotional connection. And not only is that not sustainable within a relationship, it contributes to that isolation. Most relationships end, after all, and when they’re your only emotional connection, you’re left feeling even more alone than before.
That’s the second thing that you need to focus on: you need to make more friends, closer friends… especially with other men. No, they won’t be your romantic partner. But they will add value, satisfaction, companionship, and happiness to your life: things that you desperately need right now.
And then there’s the fact that “approaching doesn’t work and apps aren’t helping.” First, let’s be clear: most people don’t meet their partners at bars or clubs on a cold-approach. Nor, for that matter do most people meet their partners on dating apps, even in this day and age. Most people meet their partners either through their daily activities – such as work, hobbies or church – or through their friends.
This is no small part of why investing in your hobbies and interests and building your social circle are important. Not only do they make you happier, less lonely and more satisfied, but they help you meet other people. Don’t have any friends who can introduce you to singles they know? Cool, work on making more friends. Pursue your passions in ways that bring you in contact with other people – people who would make amazing potential new friends. These will get you out of the house and interacting with more people. The more people you interact with, the more potential you have for making new friends – and in doing so, meeting folks who you will want to date and who will want to date you.
That’s your third step, incidentally.
And you may want to take another look at some of the women you’re meeting on dating apps that you aren’t interested in. They may not be a Kardashian or a Taylor Swift or a Beyonce, but that doesn’t mean they may not be relationships worth pursuing. Examining your own ideas of who you’re attracted to and why is important, especially if you’re basing 90% of your judgement on looks.
And then there’s this: “[I’m] aware that as a mid-thirties, low-value man that it’s too late.”
F**ck right off with that. That is complete and utter bulls**t and I won’t have it. That’s just a way of absolving yourself from doing the work. The fact that you’re in your mid-thirties means exactly two things: jack and s**t. And Jack left town. Same with being “low value”. Value is neither universal nor permanent. It has nothing to do with your job, your looks, your possessions or your popularity? Want to be a high-value man? Cool… start providing value to others. Be a good friend to others. Help people feel appreciated and liked. Give of your time and emotional energy to people who need you. Work to make the world a better place.
While we’re at it? “I try to add value though it’s meaningless without partnership?” No, sorry I call bullshit on this action. Having a partner is great, but being partnered with someone doesn’t change your value or give worth to something or someone that you wouldn’t have being single. Being single isn’t a reflection of your worth or worthiness as a person; it just means that you’re single. Period.
And double-f**k “it’s too late”. Are you dead? No? THEN IT’S NOT TOO LATE. There is no such thing as too late. There’s no window of time which stands as the only point in your life where you can find love. Would it be nice if you had found someone amazing in your twenties? Sure. But you didn’t and that’s ok. That’s fine. You can start now.. but only if you actually start. You’re looking for reasons to not get started. You want to way “well, I missed out and now there’s nothing.” Which, hey if that’s what you want, then go right ahead. But you also have to accept that this is a choice you’ve made, not something that the universe has forced onto you.
Will it be easy? No, it won’t. Relationships and love are never easy, even for people who seemingly have the knack for it. You’re always going to have to put in effort and work for it. There will always be trials and tribulations, no matter how socially gifted you are or aren’t. It just doesn’t seem like it to you because, frankly, the anxiety weasels in your brain are telling you that you and you alone struggle. And you don’t. Everybody does. And if you saw their lives with the same totality that you see your own, you’d realize that.
Now here’s a truth: Some people do indeed die alone without having found love or a partner. But here’s the thing: you don’t know if that’s you until the moment when you die. Are you doomed to be forever alone? Nobody knows and nobody can know, not the least of all you.
Technically, you could be. You could line up a date for this weekend and be hit by a falling satellite tomorrow. Or you could be single into your forties or fifties until you meet this amazing person at lunch and spend the rest of your life in connubial bliss. You don’t know.
And since you don’t know, it’s better to live under the assumption that it’s possible and – importantly – work towards making that happen. Otherwise, you will be forever alone because you will have chosen to be so.
This is your life, and you can choose to take control of it. It’s all up to you. The choice is yours.
And I promise you: all will be well.
This article originally appeared on Doctor Nerd Love