You're focusing on ways to impress them when you should be focusing on you.
I didn't expect to relate to "Thank U, Next." First, because in it, Ariana Grande references three famous men she was once in relationships with. (I have dated none of them.) And second, because I am 33 and have resigned myself to the fact that while I love pop music more than I do most people, I don't tend to see myself reflected in its lyrics as much as I used to. Which is fine: I'm a grown-ass woman with three decades of life experiences who's come to see herself reflected more in TV and movie characters. (Shout-out to Dr. Cristina Yang asking to be sedated when she starts to cry in an early season of Grey's Anatomy.) Ariana is 25 and lives a life different from mine in every way.
Which is why "Thank U, Next" was so surprising: less a break-up jam than an anthem of self-empowerment, Grande uses it to declare the importance of prioritizing her relationship with herself over her relationship with men. And that was exactly what I needed to hear.
I have a problem with trying to win over guys who don't deserve my efforts. They're not necessarily bad or mean or toxic, though their indifference or unavailability tends to categorize them as gentlemen not worth the attention I tend to give them. I've got a storied history of hemorrhaging time and energy in attempts to win them over; trying to convince them to like me by sharing news of my accomplishments, by talking about my professional endeavours, or by making jokes or references to pop culture that make me seem "smart" or "cool." (I am both of those things, but I tend to assign quotations because I don't always believe it.)
"They will notice how amazing I am, and then they will finally like me!" is a thought I've had more than once. "Just one more career milestone and I will have proven myself!"
But to whom, exactly? To think and act this way is exhausting. It's awful. It's a painful waste of time, energy, and text messages, and as 2018 morphed into 2019, I realized I didn't want to do it anymore. I, stuck inside over the holidays with a cold/flu and nothing but time to reflect, began thinking about the habits I wanted to break and realized that my thirst for second-party (male) validation will never fulfill me. It never has. I have never successfully "convinced" a guy to like me, nor has any accomplishment of mine managed to make any man treat me better. Or, if I've "won" their affections even briefly, it always felt like a type of one-woman show: "Look what I can do! Are you not entertained?"
Plus, I was—and am—enough. I have to be. I'm the only one who's gone through the things I have and gotten stronger and smarter in the process. No man's acknowledgment (or lack thereof) can take my ups and downs away from me, and no man deserves any of it if I have to convince him that I am "worthy." Of what, anyway? Support? Encouragement? That I am worth more than a passing thought or occasional hang, in which I am asked zero questions about myself? When have any decent love stories started that way, anyway? ("Oh, well he was completely indifferent to me, but after I hit several career high points, he finally realized that texting me first was an option!")
But as easy as it is to type here, only I could come to that realization after too many days spent in bed with soup thinking about the behaviour I'd come to adopt as normal over the last few years. Sick, you can't perform. You can't advertise how sweet your life is on Instastory and hope That Guy sees it. And maybe more importantly: Only I can decide to set limits and treat myself like I would a friend or somebody I respected or liked. Only I can declare that what I've worked towards and achieved is a big deal, and only I can choose to believe it. To "win" some dude over by listing my resume is an exercise in futility at best, and an act of emotional masochism at worst. My dreams and goals are mine, and I'm ready to celebrate them as much. I am tired of tarnishing good news with the memory of the guy I've decided to like not caring about it even remotely.
And I'm already tired. Like, as a person. I have work to do, I have friends to see, I have trips I'd like to go on. And I don't have the bandwidth to pour any more energy into performing for a nonchalant, "Oh, that's cool." I don't need to win (and honestly, dating somebody like that isn't a "win" anyway.) Or, as Ariana once sang: I've turned out amazing.
Thank you, next.