Does Barack Obama Validate You?

I am writing this on Barack Obama’s inauguration day, 20 January, 2009. This may not seem like it has anything to do with meeting women at first, but bear with me through the end.

Now, I am not an Obama lover. I thought he was the better choice of the two candidates to lead the country, but I don’t believe that he is the messiah, or that he will magically make the world a better place, and I am not irrationally filled with hope.

But some people do, and some people are.

At work today, the office manager allowed the inauguration to be played in one of the conference rooms. Anyone who wanted to take a break and watch it was free to do so. The office manager is not the most socially gifted person in the world, but she does make some efforts, and she made a joke in her announcement of the inauguration viewing that she may be crying when she sees him sworn in, if for no other reason than that Mr. Obama is able to put together a complete sentence that is grammatically correct.

I was thinking about this a bit, because I have noticed a sense of pride and joy over Obama being president that I don’t remember from any past inaugurations. Don’t misunderstand me, I completely respect the historical significance and the move forward in racial equality that this represents, and am filled with joy at the thought that both my 6 year old and 6 month old nephews will grow up in a country where a black man is president. I don’t think that we understand the social significance of this right now, and we won’t realize the significance until we see how the next generation is different.

Anyway, I got to thinking about why my office manager was having such a strong emotional reaction to this event. As I was thinking about this, I thought about the large, sweeping, overly-generalizing and stereotyping views about who are democrats and who are republicans. The story seems to be that democrats represent “intelligent” America, and the republicans represent “the real” America. I don’t buy into this, but it has become somewhat of a meme. I think that there are people out there that see Barack Obama’s win in the election as a victory for “intelligent” America.

So further more about my office manager. She is successful in an analytical field (I am an engineer by day), and very intelligent. She is not the most feminine woman, in fact very much not so. She dresses poorly, has a poor haircut, and really sacrifices the traditional attractive female qualities. I think she has sacrificed some of this in order to succeed. Or perhaps, that is what she tells herself. Seeing this victory of Obama, this victory of intelligence, so to speak, may very well be very validating for herself that she is right for being less womanly in order to pursue her “intelligent” career.

Now, this is pure conjecture, I have no idea if this is true at all, but I imagine that it is for a number of people. I think a number of people have a story about themself in their mind, and this story goes somewhat like this: “I have sacrificed certain things, or am not good at certain things, and that is ok, because I am intelligent. I may not be good looking, or socially successful, or wealthy, but that is alright because I am smart and intelligent”. It is a bit like the skit on Kanye West’s College Dropout album, “no, I don’t know what sexy is but I can count up the change in your purse very fast!”

So everybody that voted for Obama, and saw that as an intelligent choice, got a HUGE hit of validation today. If they have a story in their head explaining their life that uses their intelligence as a reason, or explanation, or consolation for not having other things in their life that they want, then that STORY got a huge hit of validation today.

Feeding from and seeking validation is a pretty uncool thing to do, and may be the subject of a future post, but I want to focus on the stories we tell ourself. I think that we all do it to some degree. These stories can be beneficial. Maybe the story you tell yourself is that you are too sexy for your shirt, and all the women want you because of that. That is a great story, and is gonna work for you.

You can come up with bad stories, or stories that make excuses for something else. Here’s some of the bad stories I told myself:

  • The things I say aren’t interesting, and people aren’t going to want to talk to me or be friends with me
  • If I have a strong emotional reaction to something, it is because I was not strong enough to keep it back, and these emotions are a sign of weakness

Or how about one of my favorites:

  • When I am mean and insulting to women I am using negs, or cocky/funny, or teasing them, and am being more successful with women! (when in reality, you are just insulting them and being a jerk)

Crazy stuff, huh? I spent years coming up with these stories, and I didn’t even know I was doing it! It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I started to closely examine my emotional patterns that I discovered that I told this story to myself.

Here are some other stories that I hear from men that are working to improve their dating life and ability to flirt:

  • I need some time not talking to women to get my “inner game” together. (No you don’t, you need to be around more women)
  • I’m not nervous about talking to that woman, I just want to wait until I finish my drink. (No, you’re actually just nervous)
  • I don’t like meeting woman out at night because quality women don’t go to bars. (No, they do, this is just an excuse)

These stories are insidious, we usually don’t even realize they exist, but they effect the things we do.

To find out what stories you may have floating around, ask yourself a question: what is it that I want that I don’t have?

Got it?

Now ask yourself: why don’t I have that, why is it hard for me to get that, or why am I not doing that?

The answer that you want to tell people is the story. The little thing gnawing inside of you that you are trying to ignore is the real answer.

Usually, the real answer to these questions is that “I am afraid. I am nervous. I am uncomfortable. I don’t have confidence in myself.”

I asked myself these questions, and came up with those answers. It felt shameful, and I felt a little weak. Like I wasn’t good enough. We are supposed to be capable of anything, and to admit fear or discomfort or lack of confidence is difficult.

I also realized that it’s ok. By accepting these uncomfortable answers, rather than the answers that our story provides, it allows us to confront these things and really change them.

REAL change requires confronting these inner demons, rather than just paying them lip service and avoiding them. If you want to make some fundamental changes to yourself, you might decide to look at some aspects of your life in this way.

So, uh, go out and do this! I don’t really know how to wrap this up other than to say that I spent a while doing this, I have journals filled with my notes and thoughts as I worked through these types of issues myself, and I am glad I did.

It is a good thing.

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