A very handsome guy lives in my building.  He’s incredibly nice and charming too.  All the women, even the old married ones, harbor little crushes on him.  My single neighbor was in the lobby with him last week and she texted me- “guess who I’m in the elevator with- really want to tell him about this new bottle of wine I got….giggle giggle.”  Now, every time I see him, I look my absolute worst.  I was doing laundry the other day, and I switched out of my “nice” (clothes that should be worn in public) into sweats and a t shirt.  My t shirt was also on inside out.   Oh- my slippers- hot pink and fuzzy, like the kind you wore to a slumber party in 5th grade. Yes- it was quite a look.  And yes, he got into the elevator as I was coming up from the laundry room, made the usual pleasantries as I was trying to hide behind my laundry basket.

Here’s the thing:

Why do I care?  I’m married and not looking for anything on the side.  (seriously- 1 man in my life is more than enough).  So why do I freak out when I don’t look nice and a handsome guy is around?  Is it just some strange survival of the fittest thing?  Is it just instinctual to want to attract the more evolved species?  (I thought evolved sounded a lot nicer than saying the really hot guy)

Now let’s switch this ever so slightly.  Remember a few weeks ago I felt that I wasn’t taking care of myself as much as I should be?  So I started paying attention, dressing more neatly (except laundry and house cleaning- then I am scraping the bottom of the clothes barrel).  My husband and I were out at a music performance with a bunch of friends and a guy chatted me up- a younger, pretty attractive guy.  (I know- you’re thinking he’s a serial killer…..don’t worry- that thought briefly crossed my mind too….)  But anyway- guy chatting me up- it felt nice.  I felt attractive.

When the guy at the fish counter looks for a really good piece of cod for me, I feel attractive.  (I know-who feels attractive when they are buying groceries?  Well, me, yesterday when I was at the market in a shirt that was right side out).

I like to think of myself as a strong, tough competent woman.  I worked on the trading floor in the 80s and 90s…I know there is steel in my veins.

So why do I still feel good when a man thinks I’m attractive?  And for the record, I feel just as good if a woman finds me attractive. (though again- all of you men and women- don’t get your hopes up- I’m taken)

What is it about praise or interest from others that makes me feel good?  Now I know, I have all sorts of issues from my past with my Mother being critical of my appearance.  But is it just that?  Or is there a greater biological imperative?

Is self worth always going to be oddly tied into how others view us?

How hard is it to feel good about yourself if no one ever compliments you? (ok- as I’m writing this I am remembering how crappy my Mother made me feel- so I guess that’s part of the answer)

Do we need positive reinforcement to survive?  If we do, how much do we need?  Where do we draw that line?

I know I try to give my daughter positive encouragement for the things she does well, and I try to give her constructive criticism for the things she needs to work on.  As of today, this has worked out well- she is confident and capable.  But is that enough?

Thoughts?

Feel free to tell me how wonderful I am……..

59 thoughts on “Not so Enlightened

  1. We are social creatures. To some degree, external validation just confirms to us that we are doing well within our own society. There’s nothing wrong I think with feeling a bit flattered at compliments, and getting a bit of a confidence boost from that. The issue is when we begin to rely on external validation to the exclusion of our own opinions on self worth. A confident woman should be happy with compliments but realise that they’re not the source of her self worth. She should also know the difference between baseless negative comments and useful constructive criticsm and be able to realise that the former also does not in any way determine her self worth and should be ignored while taking on board and reflecting on the latter because none of us are perfect creatures and there’s always room for a little self improvement.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, I think that Mr B or Sunshine could do a better job of explaining this, but they’re not available at the moment, so I’ll give it my best shot.

    The research shows that we’re so invested in our beliefs that when someone disagrees with them, the amygdala triggers a fight-or-flight response. Someone threatening our beliefs feels life-threatening to our egos.

    So, I’m guessing that our self image is another piece of our ingrained beliefs that feel threatened in adverse situations (like when I run to the store wearing my furry slippers, sweatpants pulled above the right knee but fully extended to the left ankle because I was trying to figure out what happened to my right sock). Someone who’s judging me based on this appearance in public… well, that threatens my belief that I’m a sexy hot babe who’s got her shit together. (Let’s totally ignore the fact that wondering what happened to ONE of my socks is neither sexy nor hot, and is definitely a sign that my shit is NOT together, because that threaten my ego just a little bit LOL)

    Seriously, though, I do believe we’re just wired to need approval because humans are pack animals that do need each other to survive. So even if I mis-stated the science, I think maslows hierarchy of needs definitely applies. If we have food clothing and shelter, then it’s only normal and natural to want to be our best selves.

    Now, I’m off to have coffee, because my head hurts from all this deep thought this early in the morni😉😙

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  3. Positive reinforcement seems to work well for all age groups. I know I’m always pleasantly surprised when it comes my way, and I’m always surprised at my surprised reaction! 😉 Not only should positive reinforcement be a frequently used tool in a parent or teacher’s toolkit, it should be used more often by employers, supervisors, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yup. Like in a store. People will complain about lousy service, but how often do you go out if your way to say someone was great. When I was at Staples the other day, the salesguy was really helpful. As I was checking out the cashier asked if I’d found everything I needed. I told her that the guy downstairs was great, did everything he could to get me what I needed (which were two spiral bound graph paper notebooks, which for some reason were on a top shelf). We should be more grateful to the people that are good and helpful

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think we tend to feel better about ourselves if we think we look good. We can have all the outfits we love and think look awesome on us, flatter our best features, etc., but when you get that validation from the outside, especially from a stranger that has no obligation whatsoever to give that compliment, it shows that we aren’t actually crazy and are doing something right. That that good feeling isn’t just in our heads. I don’t think it is necessarily something that we need, just that it really feels kind of nice to have that validation.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dressing right side out, that’s a new one, eh?

    Hmmm… I think we all need the reinforcement from time to time. I miss the more frequent compliments, but I wouldn’t trade them for comfort and happiness with someone. Some days tho… you just want someone to acknowledge what’s being brewed up on your inside but plastered on your outside!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Everyone needs a little motivation. I think sometimes we all assume that the other person knows we think they’re great…..but we know what happens when you assume……
      One day I’ll tell you a bit more about the cute neighbor. Nothing lascivious, but I think you will appreciate

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Maybe it’s a deep-seated survival instinct—“as long as I’m considered attractive I might be considered worth saving in case of some unnamed disaster.”

    And you’re wonderful, gorgeous, and supremely talented. You’re definitely going to get one of the spaces on the lifeboat.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I feel the same way if an attractive man gives me attention. I, like you, have my hands more than full with my husband, but it still makes me feel good. I don’t know why. We joke around like that (giggle giggle) at work when there’s a new hottie working. It passes the time and maybe it doesn’t make us feel so old. Especially when we are old enough to be the hottie’s mother. It reminds us that even though we are married we still are hot woman —
    even if we are wearing pink slippers and an inside out t-shirt. We are all beautiful everyday no matter what we are wearing. Some days are just better than others. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Is self worth tied to how others view us? Good question. I can be deflated so easily by a negative remark. I made myself a sweater and was going to wear it out. My husband proceeds to point out everything wrong with it. I never wore it again.But I’mtrying to figure out why people feel they can critisize me when they never toss a complement.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Maybe it’s a two-way street. You feel happy/attractive when someone pays positive attention to you. The other person giving you the positive attention feels happy/attractive to put a smile on your (and his/her) face too.

    Some days I stay home and don’t take a single step out. Some days I give less than a crap how I look. Other days, knowing I’m going to stay indoors, I even put a smudge of make up on, coordinate my casual but attractive clothes…What do I know. Maybe I feel better when I look better?

    Some days I lounge around in yoga pants and then I have to go to some grungy rink and hang out near a smelly dressing room. And I put on normal, nice clothes and boots with a small heel and maybe even earrings…

    lol

    It’s a catch 22.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You are wonderful. In fact I know that you’re the best dressed blogger over 50 with no first name who I know online. 🙂 I’m leary of compliments about how I look. Probably part of charmingly cynical nature. However, I do dress as well as I can each day when I leave the house. Nothing fancy per se, but pulled together. And that seems to be enough for me to feel comfortable wherever I go. If somebody wants to comment positively on it, then *yay*!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Everybody does it, I know I feel good when a man I don’t know pays me attention. Equally my husband is always really boosted when he gets attention, ironically he usually gets attention from men also! I think as social animals it’s flattering to know others find us attractive even if we are doing nothing about it. I don’t think having a harmless conversation or flirt with someone demeans our position as strong women at all. I can be a shameless flirt but I am still a very professional and capable woman when I need to be. It’s just a case of knowing your audience and if your conversations are appropriate.

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  12. sooo, I think you have a long way to go to tying this to your self worth. In my unexpert opinion, it seems that years of never being held in high esteem (or other experiences) by one’s family does lead to low self-worth, so that you might seek attention from others to fill a void. However, there’s a difference between just feeling good cause a guy “chatted you up.” Right? I hope so lol I’m thinking if we seek these things, then that’s a different situation, as opposed to just feeling pretty.

    Hope I didn’t ramble.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve observed that most serial killers live out east or out west or in Florida or someplace south but never live here. My theory is because it’s too damn cold here so you could freely chat up all of the younger guys that you want. maybe some older ones while you’re at it. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think being complimented or noticed for either your appearance or deeds from someone outside your immediate circle is a a verification of all the work you put in either in your appearance or work. It is nice to be noticed. Have you ever complimented a stranger on something and seen them light up? You are not going to gain anything by this exchange so people feel that it is honest. Say something nice to someone you don’t know- spread the good feelings!

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  15. Funny story. I had a funny story the other day. There is a neighbor: Eastern European who has taken quite an interest in me. In fact, as I walk our pug, I manage to freak out as he always finds a reason to approach me. The other day, he turned around his bike to follow me down the way with the pug. I am a little freaked out by him and mention it to my husband who promptly informed me that when he went past this guy’s house, it didn’t happen to him. Needless to say, it didn’t reassure me especially since I walk the pug half asleep early mornings with no makeup, rough clothes, etc. I don’t like his complimenting. My husband’s advice: Walk another route which I did this morning. LOL.

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  16. I guess I could look upon it as a compliment or maybe he wants to practice his English. The other day, he asked me “No working today?” which prompted images of me being stalked. Either I have an overactive imagination or he must do this complimenting to other women walking by. I am tempted to introduce myself to his wife when I see her outside but usually they are arguing in Russian, perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I have already started a fictional story about him where he is part of the Russian Mafia which explains the mercedes in his driveway, the weird but expensive bike and the fact that he doesn’t seem to work. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

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