Go Ask Lev #1: Dating, Rejection, And Rivalries

If you’d like to Go Ask Lev, email him here.
Man Seeking Woman
Man Seeking Woman

1.

Hi, Lev,

My sister is two years older than me and I’d guess you’d say much more successful than me. She’s always excelled naturally and while we’ve both made decent grades and achieved various awards throughout our whole lives, she’s done more with her natural talents.

It gets tiring being compared to her as she moves on with her life into graduate study and her first home and a relationship while I feel like I’m barely hanging on and getting by.

I wondered if you had any advice for how to stay out of a sibling’s shadow and how to deal with people’s comparisons between the two of us? 

Kaitlyn.

***

Hi Kaitlyn,

Who’s comparing you?

Are strangers? When you walk into a Starbucks do they say “you remind me of ______, except you’re worse somehow.” Do your parents photoshop your sister’s face over yours in family pictures so it looks like there’s two of her? Or are you the one comparing yourself to a superficial gleaning of your sister’s success?

Probably the last one, although if it’s the middle one, run.

Here’s the thing, Kailtyn. Sibling rivalry is natural, and insecurity of the younger is a life-long affliction. It’s also surprisingly baseless. For one, you’re basing your insecurities off a superficial gleaning of your sibling’s success. For another, you’re assuming two years is a snap in time. Where were you two years ago? Really think about it. Probably you were a little worse at everything than you are now, and significantly worse at a few experiences you’ve now stumbled through and grown from.

You’re at a disadvantage, sure. But that’s not your fault, and it’s relative and relative (hah!) to your circumstance. You’re fine; better than fine, even. And the same way you can’t compare yourself to somebody’s Facebook, you can’t compare yourself to the over-estimated life of a sibling.

It’s natural to look up to them, but don’t look down on yourself.

2.

Hi Lev,

How do you deal with rejection? 

I mean this writing-wise, but it could just be a general thing too. I know rejection is normal and eventually we’ll learn and then move on, but do you have any advice for someone who is stuck in the ‘I’ve just been rejected from this (insert awesome thing here)’ limbo?

Alternatively, what have you learned from rejection?

Thanks,

Julia H.

***

Hi Julia,

Rejection is a normal part of writing and life, but that doesn’t make it any more fun.

There’s a two things I’ve learned from rejection. The first is that I have to be better. Ambition is well and good, but, left unsharpened, there’s no push to improve. You need to be knocked down to get back up and all that jazz.

The second thing is spite.

Yes, Julia, spite. There’s a joy in the “fuck you” motivation that snarls, and I need to feed it with effort. Sorrow will slow you into pity and doubt. Spite will burn and propel you, until it cools into the hardened, sharpened point of your reinforced dedication.

Go get ‘em.

3.

Hi Lev,

Recently, I broke up with my boyfriend of five years. This set off an amalgam of issues for me that I believe I’ve been suppressing for years. Issues with my family and how I was raised, especially with the ever-present anxiety that lay dormant for the five years I had “security” with my boyfriend. I don’t really know how to deal with all the types of feelings I feel now, so I’m quick to push them down, deny they exist and move on quickly. I enjoy this because I feel that the feeling of denial is a feeling itself, and that the more I’m at peace with this, the more quickly I’ll go being back to “OK.”

Living by myself, in a large city, as a 23-year-old woman, it’s both exciting and intimidating. I live in this universe day-to-day reconciling that duality, so why can’t I do the same with the “I’m hurt, scared and sad about my relationship not working out” with the “I’m OK, I do well for myself, this is what I wanted” set of thoughts? For some reason the world tells me I can only have one. I can be hurt and sad, and THEN I can move on.

I like moving on. I like change. I’ve already starting dating, and the guy I’m currently seeing is quite commitment-phobic and has stalled our relationship in the casual state because it’s what he wants, and I’ve convince myself it’s what I want, too, because it’s the only thing I’m ready for so soon after a five-year relationship.

I get anxious when I start to feel differently. I get anxious when he hasn’t called or texted me, even though I know I shouldn’t expect it from him because I’ve basically agreed to keeping things casual. Everyone tells me I “deserve” better, even though I don’t feel like I deserve anything right now because I’m flawed myself. I get anxious when I think about that and all of my other unresolved issues.

I don’t expect you to be able to start answering any of these things, really, but what I’m looking for is this: how do I make peace within myself? Clearly I’m my own worst enemy. Denial is my friend right now. How do I recognize what I want and then go about getting it? I’m so confused about what’s “right” for me, and separating that from what I enjoy (which may be spending time with someone who doesn’t treat me as a priority). How do I decide where to place my value?

Thanks for the insight,

Hannah H.

***

Hey Hannah,

So it seems like you’re having trouble dealing with the shift from a long-term relationship I’m guessing was in college to being single and being, I’m guessing, a professional. Even if you like change, as you said you do, it can be a lot to process all at once.

Which brings us to this nameless, praise-less dude you’ve been seeing.

Dump him.

Why wouldn’t you? You’re not happy in this non-relationship-relationship; he’s obviously fine with the level of seriousness, but you aren’t, and just because someone feels a certain way doesn’t mean you’re obliged to indulge them. You owe him a level of kindness, respect, and decency, but you owe yourself more than that.

Being single is about being free, and that often sounds like being “casual” or whatnot, but it’s not. Well, not exactly. Being single is about being free to choose. And if this isn’t something you want, you should use your newfound single-powers to find something you do.

You’re new in a new city. You’re newly single. You owe yourself high standards and self love, because this is going to be an anxious time, regardless. Settling for a veneer of stability is going to be as anxious as exploring new people and options in the long run, but with less upside.

You’ve got this.

P.S.

As far as making peace with yourself, acknowledgement of mental peace as an ambition is already a powerful first step. As far as the second one? When you figure it out, start a column yourself. 

But the good news is that the gravity of life bends towards self understanding. Even if you learn things the hard way, you’re learning. TC mark

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