Dear Papa Bear,
Not to toot my own horn, but I am someone whom people typically label as exceptional. I have several awards of various kinds under my belt and have accomplished things that most others in my age group have not. I am typically viewed by society as highly gifted and have been in accelerated programs throughout my entire life.
Why, then, do I constantly have feelings of inferiority regarding my boyfriends? When I ask my friends for advice regarding this problem, I'm typically met with comments such as, "well, HE should be the one who's jealous, not you," and, "you are so much better than the rest of us, how can you be jealous?" This sort of rhetoric is not helpful to me at all as it does not address the root of the problem. I doubt that it has anything to do with self esteem; I have mostly been happy with my life so far and look forward to where it will go in the future.
How can I get around these feelings? I try to date people who are going somewhere in life and it seems like the simple solution would be to date someone who is going nowhere, but I know that there must be a better solution than this one. Do you have any advice?
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What an interesting paradox you introduce here. You have high self-esteem (for good reason, it sounds like), yet you feel inferior to your potential boyfriends. You sound like you are attracted to men who are highly intelligent and ambitious; aiming high, you wind up with potential mates who are even more “accomplished” than you are, I would bet, and that makes you feel inferior.
I’d like to tell you a true story, if you’ll indulge me.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful woman. She was college educated, tall, fun-loving, and loved to travel. When she was in her 20s, she went to Europe, where she was a tour guide for U.S. military men in Germany.
While she was there, she met a sergeant. He was kind, handsome, and she started to fall in love with him. But a couple things held her back: he did not have a college degree, and he was shorter than she was (she was very self-conscious about her height). So, after a while, she met a man who was a captain, had a college degree in chemistry, and stood 6’ 4” tall and was quite good looking. She decided to tell her sergeant good-bye, and when she returned to the U.S. and the captain left the army, she married him instead of the sergeant.
Well, at first it went okay, but it didn’t take long before the man she married began to mistreat her. He sold her car without telling her and kept the money; he became verbally abusive and controlling. Still, she stayed faithful to him and bore him two children. He got a job as a salesman, and a couple years later, she found out he was having an affair. Nevertheless, she stayed married for her children’s sake until they left and went to college. She then left her husband and got a divorce, feeling like she wasted over twenty years of her life.
The lesson here—if it’s not already painfully obvious—is that you shouldn’t pick a boyfriend based on his education, career, money, awards, etc. On the opposite end of the scale, don’t pick a boyfriend because he seems like, well, a loser in comparison to you so that you feel better about yourself.
What you should look for is character. Is this man a good person? Will he stick by you when you need his help or abandon you? Will he love you no matter what? Look for a man with soul. Look for a companion in life. Someone you can laugh and cry with. Someone who shares your interests. This isn’t a job interview. You are not looking for a guy with an impressive resume. You are looking for love and friendship. Put the measuring stick aside because you don’t count character by the number of awards on a wall or a 4.0 GPA.
Once you do that, thoughts of inferiority or superiority or whatever will not even occur to you.
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