Welcome to the second installment of the new Chubstr advice column, Big Questions with Zach Miko. Zach takes your questions on body image, relationships, self esteem, dealing with insecurities and more. Send in your question anonymously by clicking here.
Anonymous: I had a rough time growing up being self conscious. Haven’t been in many relationships and still a virgin in my 30s. Trying to push forward. Should I be ashamed? How do you take the appropriate steps?
You absolutely should not feel ashamed. Love is something that cannot be timed, scheduled, or calculated. Now, I’m speaking as a man who has been married since he was 25, so you might think there’s no possible way I can empathize. But I got lucky, and it all happened for me by mistake.
I’ll never forget a girl in my 7th grade French class explaining to me that the reason girls didn’t like me was because I was “fat and ugly”.
Before I met my wife, I was crippled by a lack of self-confidence. I had severe insecurities that plagued me every second of the day. Most of my self-hate and insecurity was a result of feelings I had about my body and my weight. I was always the biggest kid in class and was reminded of that throughout elementary and middle school. Kids used to refuse to sit next to me on the bus because I took up too much room. I’ll never forget a girl in my 7th grade French class explaining to me that the reason girls didn’t like me was because I was “fat and ugly”. These comments rooted themselves deep in my soul.
Insecurities about our weight or our looks are specifically tied to our ability to feel attractive or desirable. I didn’t think I deserved to feel loved, to feel desired, I mean how could I?
People who are emotionally damaged in this way end up going in one of two directions. I went the route of chasing, begging and pleading for love. My desires, and joy did not matter. I did everything I could to win someone’s affection, then gave up who I was in order to become who they wanted me to be. These compromises of self ultimately led to relationships that ended turning poisonous. I lost friends, I lost opportunities, I lost myself. At the end of each of these relationships, instead of finding who I was, I ran to whomever next considered letting me around them. I started the cycle all over again.
The other route is to withdraw into yourself, close off from the world and not let anyone in to hurt you. It’s lonely, but you feel safe and protected. You preserve your sense of self, but days turn into weeks, into months, and into years much faster than you expect.
So, how do you get off these paths? The answer may be annoying and cliché, but it’s the same for both. You need to learn how to love yourself. Love yourself and you don’t have to change who you are to make someone love you. Love yourself and you don’t have to put up barriers to protect yourself from being hurt.
So, How Do You Start Loving Yourself?
Alright Zach, that’s all really nice and deep and whatever, but how do you actually start to love yourself? It takes time. Don’t be afraid to take as long as you need to focus on yourself. Get a pad of post-it-notes. Write one positive thing about yourself every morning. Then, stick that self-compliment to your bathroom mirror. Add a new one every day until have to look at yourself through a face-sized hole surrounded by beautiful thoughts about yourself. Go out and do things that you enjoy, then take yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new. Go to museums, sporting events, ren faires, bars, bookshops, whatever. Go out and enjoy time with yourself; I promise you are a lot of fun.
When I met my wife, I was ready for a partner, because for the first time in my life I truly liked who I was. I spent 9 months on the road performing children’s theater, seeing the country, inadvertently focusing on myself, growing as a person, and learning to like myself again. When I got back, I didn’t want to date ANYONE, I was finally happy being by myself. That’s always the moment when you meet someone. People are drawn to someone who is content with who they are. Most importantly, you’ll have taken the pressure off of yourself and the desperate need to be liked by others, because you’ll like yourself.
What About Being a Virgin?
As far as still being a virgin, I know you may feel behind in some way, but I assure you it is so much more common than you would imagine. Our sexuality is so personal, so much of who we are, and you should not put expectations on it. I know that’s hard in today’s society where every tv show, magazine article, and movie is focused on sex, but that’s not the real world. The amount of sex we have does not define who we are. You get to define that for yourself, and if one day someone comes along who loves you for the person you are, then lucky them.
There’s no magic wand for love. It’s about people finding each other in the right time and place, and there is no way to predict when and where that will happen. We just have to learn to be open, welcome, and confident. There is no shame in not having gotten there yet. Millions of people haven’t found that person and there is no reason to think less of yourself because of it. You are wonderful, you are unique, you are desirable, you are worthy, you are a catch.