Saturday, June 22, 2013

dating, modesty, success and other things that nobody really understands (but I'm going to pretend to)

 I spend a lot of time worried about myself and my feelings. How people are reacting to me, what they think of me, etc. Especially in dating. I get super caught up in the idea of playing "the game". I watch people around me have dating success and think "what are they doing that I'm not?" Like there is some set game plan that wins the guy. And lately I've been seeing that video about the evolution of the bikini and reading all sorts of posts on modesty. Lots of opinions on what's right and wrong, what you should wear and shouldn't wear, bikinis are okay, bikinis are definitely not okay.

The point is: my feelings, my thoughts, my hopes, my concerns they are all very real. And in dealing with other people, their feelings, their thoughts, their hopes, their concerns are all very real, too. We are not dealing with rules or game plans here. We are dealing with human beings. 

I can't look at Little Miss Momma's love story and decide that I need to go work over at the campus activities center so that a boy will fall in love with me. Just like I can't talk to Brooklyn about her love story and decide that a blind date is going to solve all my dating woes. I am different. I want different things, I react different, and I am not pursuing the same men as them. And even if I was, it would be a completely different situation. What worked for their situation, worked for their situation. Are you understanding what I mean by there are no rules?

What does it have to do with modesty? Oh, a lot. This blog post is really long, but very worth reading. (So is this one. Thanks, Katilda. #thanksphil). The thing I liked most from the first post is this: he shared a story about how his reactions to barely-clothed women were very different from his mission companion's reactions. His companion grew up in a different setting, was a different person, had similarities, but also responded differently. And I think that can teach us a lot about humanity.

In dating, in any kind of first impression, in how we dress, in what we do, we aren't following a system. Life is not an if-then statement. We are dealing with human beings with very real emotions and feelings. And each one of us is unique.

That's one reason why it's unfair to make statements like "men are pigs" or "boys suck at dating" or "I must not be desirable if I'm not getting asked on dates" or even "I must be doing something wrong if nobody wants to date me". The truth is: we don't know. We really just don't know. None of us can predict the future, none of us can read minds, and none of us has a perfect understanding of any person we come in contact with.

So, there is no solid, set-in-stone answer to whether or not bikinis are "okay". There is no secret, fool-proof plan for falling in love that all the married people somehow got in on. Yes, I know there are a billion self-help books that teach you how to ace a job interview. Flirting for dummies exists. And maybe there are a lot of reasons that could support either side of the bikini argument.

You can't control the reactions, choices, or feelings of another person. So, the only only only thing you have control over is what you do and who you are. And people might actually react in a way that you wish they wouldn't. The part that matters is that you do what you decide is right. That's where the self-help books can come in, that's where the "facts" about bikinis can play a part, etc. Find a basis for your choices: your values, people's opinions that you respect, observations of how people have reacted to you in the past. Then, make your own choices based on your own feelings. And stop assuming that the way you want to do things is right for everyone.

One last thing. When I went to California for Elevate Conference, Erin talked to us about defining success in blogging. Some bloggers have goals to make money, so that helps define their success. For others, they want to share their story and connect with someone, so that helps define their success. This applies SO MUCH to life (and I maybe haven't stopped thinking about it since May). What you want, who you are, your feelings, emotions, thoughts, hopes, concerns, dreams, etc. all define your own success.

I've realized that my success is a lot more about what I think of myself, how I can be a positive influence to others, and how much I am progressing and learning than it is about what others think of me. I've realized that there is a lot more value in caring about other people and wanting to serve them and love them than sitting around wishing they all loved and served me. (I mean, I'd love for a boy to bring me flowers and I probably am not going to start taking tulips around to the boys I'd like to date.) When we remember that we're all human, all children of God trying to figure things out together, I think we stop looking at others as a challenge to be conquered and more as a person to be loved.
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