Two Decembers ago the person I was seeing at the time managed to break my heart.
I use the phrase loosely because I’m not entirely sure I can vouch for the full extent of that emotion. I know people have felt much worse than what I felt the day my heart got “broken.” That night I found myself taking a long walk around my college campus with a friend. It was snowing out. My boots were soaking wet. I felt sick to my stomach.
My friend and I were discussing love, and how we all try so hard to make ourselves lovable. We learn things, we acquire things, we develop socially acceptable behaviors and try to break our bad habits, all in the name of making ourselves more “attractive” in some sense, more desirable. We decorate our bodies and our personalities like an elaborate layer cake but all we are really searching for is someone to desire our company in the most genuine way.
We enhance ourselves both physically and characteristically to suit a hypothetical other. They need not be big changes, and often we are not trying to betray our natural selves but instead unearth a more streamlined, polished version of the person we were made to be. Our best self. The cultured version of ourselves who can hold a conversation. The ambitious version who can climb to the top. The one who can build things and own things and look good doing it.
We pile on the titles, the fancy adjectives, the accomplishments and the attributes, when what we are searching for is someone who doesn’t love us for any of that, but instead loves us for what we are underneath it all. We craft an elaborate mask just so we can take it off, hoping our raw, unadorned face will be seen as equally beautiful.
But it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished or what you’ve bought, how much you can bench or how high up in the company you are. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good you are. Your titles. Your trophies. They are give or take when it comes to love. You can be rejected in spite of all of them.
Because love is not about impressing someone or being impressed by someone. We do not fall in love with a person because the are the CEO or because they have a nice house (okay plenty of us are on some level seduced by those material advantages, but you get the point). We fall in love with a person because we look at them and deeply desire the opportunity to freely give to them. This doesn’t have much to do with the societal praise the object of our affection has achieved.
When it comes down to it, we fall in love with a person, not a title. Not a resume. Not a list of accomplishments. Not an inventory of possessions, but a real, flawed, 70% water, idiosyncratic person. We love them for the quirks and the shortcomings because they are their quirks and shortcomings. Because we loved the person first and foremost.
We try to make ourselves a good catch. But it’s not about how good you are.