Do You See Yourself The Way Others See You?

Name: Monica DeBiase
State: MA
Age: 47
Comment: Hi Moxie, this has happened to me and maybe to you as well:
A-I’m at Starbucks and there is an attractive couple, clearly on a first/online date. They seem well matched, age, looks, smarts etc. However, the guy will just not shut up. Anytime the woman opens her mouth he cuts her off and goes on forever. You can just see her eyes glaze over. I mention this story to my friend who lives in the area, describe the guy, and she has seen him in action at same Starbucks with same result.

B-Restaurant with nice retro type lounge. Very popular with first online dates/meetings. I observe two-The first couple is again, attractive, nice seem good match, but the guy will just not shut up. Also he gives her less comfortable seat, not major but to me sign of social awkardness. Funny because he got to lounge early to set up seating and talk to waiter etc, so clearly he cares.

C-The second couple is again attractive, well matched, on first date,they sit at the bar. The woman this time is the yapper, and she is loud enough we can hear her animated if one sided conversation-basically her entire gory life history, complete with stalking and restraining orders. When she pauses the guy says “So! How about those Red Sox!”
I’m not writing this to dis the yappers, I have a huge amount of sympathy for them, this behaviour is driven by loneliness and nerves more than anything.

My question to you is, have you ever done a first date intervention? Taken someone in this kind of a situation aside at an opportune moment and said something? Seems too invasive but yet I feel badly for them, with a little coaching I think they could overcome this. Maybe this is something you address in your classes?  I know should keep my own (big fat) yap shut, and I do, but it hurts me to see people who otherwise seems decent but just can’t get get out of their own way. I think they go home wondering why they don’t ever get a second date.


I’m not really sure there’s a question here. So, I’m going to use this letter submission as a spring board to another topic that ties in to the theme of this letter.

Let’s talk self-perception.

We all like to think that we have various attributes. Many of us consider ourselves attractive, engaging and interesting. What we often times forget to consider is how others perceive or judge us. Which leads to people walking away from a lot of first dates very confused.

A distorted self-perception is probably at the top of the list of  reasons why so many men and women can’t seem to find a mate. Either they believe they bring much more to the table than they actually do or they incorrectly place value on certain attributes that, to the object of their affection, means little to nothing.

Contributing to this problem is that these people typically surround themselves with people who will confirm their perceptions of themselves. Regardless of how many awkward first dates they have, no matter how many men or women blow them off, their friends will continue to tell them that they are awesome and that it’s not them.

I can say, with a very high degree of certainty, that if you continuously encounter the same situation over and over again, then that means the flaw lies with you. I know that’s not all warm and fuzzy and it might bother some people. But it’s the truth.

What I don’t understand, and what a friend and I were discussing last night, is why so many people are afraid to consider that possible reality. Why is it that so many men and women appear to rely on confirmation bias and seek out opinions that support their inner narrative, even though they never manage to have much success with their current belief system and approach?

Maybe they do. Maybe they think there is success because they “dodged a bullet” or “could do better” or “refused to settle.” Maybe the “success” for them is in the belief that they did not compromise? It seems like the definition of “dating success” is constantly being modified as a way to enable people’s distorted self-perceptions.

This, in my opinion, is a trap that many of us often fall in to. We choose to believe certain things about ourselves or others, even though there is plenty of evidence to support the opposite side of the argument.

So my question is…why do we do that? And why are we so afraid to change?



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26 Responses to “Do You See Yourself The Way Others See You?”

  1. Jaclyn Says:

    Could it just be that these people are talking too much because they find first dates overwhelming? And eventually they will meet someone in real life and get to know them as a friend first, and then be able to successfully date them? It is possible that eventually they will find a partner and leave the dating market.

    I am suggesting this since I had the exact opposite problem. I find it overwhelming to be in a large crowd of people whom I don’t know, so I give off anxious vibes so men wouldn’t come over to talk to me. Online dating was great, since it let me get to know someone in a one on one situation, and I was able to be completely relaxed and myself.

  2. Stacey Says:

    Although the thrust of the topic appears that people over-estimate themselves and what they contribute to a couple, it’s important to note that many people under-estimate themselves to their detriment as well. Thus their perception, perhaps based on prior experience, possibly how their parents treated them or their peers in high school, is skewed the opposite way, that they are not good enough. This affects their actions adversely in that when they meet someone they like, they may appear over-eager and either over-communicate or set themselves up as a doormat (i.e. I would do anything for you, you are so wonderful!). Then the other person starts to see them not as who they really are, maybe a good looking, funny, caring person, but as someone who is annoying or a bit of a loser and rejects them. This reinforces the first person’s self perception that they are not good enough and the cycle keeps repeating itself.
    I think a condition precedent to being part of a healthy couple, and respecting and treating the other person well, is doing the same towards yourself.

  3. joe-f Says:

    It is psychological and well-documented. People are overconfident so 90% of people think they are better than the average driver.

    But people are also adaptable. When a lot of women weren’t interested in my looks (didn’t answer my calls,return my emails or thought of me as a friend), I adapted and realized I am probably in the bottom 50% in looks.

    • Crotch Rocket Says:

      True, but people can only adapt when they recognize a problem. That’s the real issue here: they keep running into the same issues over and over but, rather than admitting they have a problem, they manufacture excuses how it’s always the other person’s problem.

  4. myself Says:

    Ok, first dates, for me, are torture. I’d rather go for 100 job interviews then 1 date (yes, I said that). As a result, nervous laughter & babbling ensue. I’ve had it mentioned to me by the last guy I went on a date with. It does go away as I feel more comfortable, and now that mentioned I’ll try to reign it in (probably won’t work but hey I can try)

    And I’m also a person that tends to underestimate my value/potential. I know it’s not good, and have tried to fix it. I don’t see myself remotely how others see me, I’m very aware of that, and I’m working on it. There are aspects to me that probably won’t change and I don’t want them to, they’re what make me my quirky self, but underestimating myself needs to go, it’s probably partially why my dating life tends to go the way it does.

  5. Marshmallow Says:

    I just went through a really bad situation with a guy (posted on here, in fact) and I have BEGGED my friends – both male and female – to tell me what is wrong with me. I know it’s me but I don’t know what it is. If I knew, I could work on it and hopefully overcome it. So since people aren’t going to be honest, how do you get to a level of self-awareness so you can figure it out yourself?

    • Crotch Rocket Says:

      You need to find someone who is free to be objective because they have no vested interest. A friend will always be concerned about damaging your relationship. Based on how you (or others) have reacted to unpleasant truths in the past, their desire to keep you happy may win out over their desire to help you improve yourself–or they may be shitty friends that don’t really want you to improve because that would make you better than they. It’s also possible they’re so screwed up themselves they don’t even see what is wrong with you; in fact, those problems may be partly their fault.

    • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

      Like CR said, either you have friends lacking in self-awareness or they’re too afraid to hurt your feelings. OR…they have tried to tell you what’s wrong with you, but you’re so fixated on figuring him out that you aren’t hearing them.

      Since I’m not your friend and because I went through an almost exact situation, I’m going to take a stab at it.

      For starters, You’re still talking about this guy. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been there. No judgments and all that. But when you submitted that guest post, you also submitted it as an Ask Moxie letter. You were DYING to have people tell you not what was wrong with you, but what was wrong with him.

      He’s an attention whoring douche. That’s been established. It was established the first time you wrote in about him, but you ignored what I and everybody else said. Because you didn’t want to You wanted to believe, much like I did, that you were special and things were different this time.

      (Somebody help me out here. is this an example of cognitive dissonance?)

      Anyway. Moving on.

      The proof was right in front of you. He had a couple of women posting crap on his wall announcing that this guy was a duplicitous asshole. You ignored that. You believed what you wanted because it aligned with your inner narrative. That this guy was just so fucking special that he could cause other women to react that irrationally. That’s why he left those posts up on his Wall. And the only women who would buy in to that instead of run away from it are women who seek a man’s approval. You wanted to believe that he’d be different with you, because that would mean *you* were different. Now you’re fearing that things between he and this woman are different. You’re assuming that the way he treated you had to do with you, and it probably doesn’t. This is how he treats all women. Hos shitty behavior is not exclusive to you.

      Are you seeing a pattern here? You’re allowing this guy’s behavior to dictate how you see yourself.

      I can tell you, with almost a 100% degree of certainty, that when you confronted this guy with the information you learned by doing a little research (no, you didn’t *happen* across her twitter profile or blog. You, like I, looked for it) that he created some story about a girlfriend or ex that was harassing or stalking him. Then she went to her Facebook and Twitter and she wrote her little cryptic messages about how she now had some scary “fan.” That’s EXACTLY what he wanted. He gets to sit back and watch the women he “dates” perform for him and work for his approval. Publicly. He has you two spinning your wheels all over him.

      Now, why did you fall for a guy like that? My guess is that this guy provided some kind of social proof for you that you can’t give to yourself. We talked about this in another post about older men and younger women. The younger woman is quite pleased with herself for being able to attract the attention and affection of this distinguished, successful, handsome older guy. What she doesn’t realize is that the guy – like your guy – is with her because she had no sense of herself or identity. That kind of simplicity made her easier to manage and control.

      You have absolutely no sense of yourself. You gain validation through the attention and reaction of others. And so did that guy, which is why you two were drawn to each other in the first place. It’s a very parasitic relationship when two people like that come together. It’s neither healthy nor real. It’s all based on a house of cards.

      • dimplz Says:

        Yes, I believe you’re right about cognitive dissonance. Holding two conflicting thoughts in your mind, in a nutshell.

      • Angeline Says:

        I believe this would more accurately be described as delusion: “a false belief held with absolute conviction despite superior evidence.”

        The dissonance comes from inner conflict over two beliefs that can’t coexist in your mind (he loves me/I am unlovable), not just believing what is more pleasant because it reflects better (in spite of evidence that says he is, in fact, a douchebag, I choose to believe he is not).

        • DrivingMeNutes Says:

          Yes and the term cognitive dissonance refers to the mind naturally trying to reconcile two seemingly inconsistent ideas. Usually, it involves justification of one of the ideas in a way that eases pressure from the other. This justification is not necessarily expressed, like on a blog. That is more attention seeking. We are talking about true self delusion not just expression of “gee, aren’t I such a cute hypocrite?”

          An example I see on your blog is in the “who pays” posts. She says: I am a feminist and believe woman should earn their way. But, I also believe the man should pay. To reconcile, in her mind, she comes to believe that she has done something to earn her entitlement to a man’s paying rather than seeing it as a gift or offensive economic transaction.

          Most wealthy people similarly think they’ve “earned it” because the idea of pure chance cannot be reconciled with a person’s belief in control.

      • Crotch Rocket Says:

        “You have absolutely no sense of yourself.” So true. If you really knew who you were, and really believed you deserved better, you never would have put up with this douchebag in the first place, you wouldn’t have put yourself in a position for him to hurt you, and you wouldn’t still be talking about him. You would have seen him for what he was, kicked his ass to the curb and moved on without another thought.

    • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

      Something else….

      You also thrive off of being wounded. You’re choosing to hang on to this situation which, if we’re to be honest, really wasn’t sooo awful. Sure, it sucked. It was hurtful and humiliating. But this wasn’t a real relationship. This guy didn’t even live here. You hardly ever saw him. You mostly had an electronic relationship. There are women out there who LIVE with men like this. Who invest YEARS to men like this. You got off easy.

      Again, I’ve done everything you’re doing now. I get where you’re coming from. But in the grand scheme of things, this really isn’t as horrific as you’re making it out to be.

      Hanging on to this drama is just your way of hanging on to him. You’re never going to get over it until you no longer care what he thinks.

  6. Saj Says:

    I had a date with a guy like that. We had lots in common and he was my type but he wouldn’t let me say anything and kept interrupting me. It probably was nerves and he was probably excited to show off his attributes but I ended up frustrated. After a while I just gave up and went to my mental happy place and when he tried to set up other dates I was less then enthusiastic.

    The people who are resistant to change aren’t going to do any self reflection or possibly have their egos so wrapped up in deflective shields they will run at the first sign of criticism. You could probably say something to some of them and while their first impulse is to fight you and defend their right to keep doing what they are doing maybe it will sink in once they stop being mad at you for saying it.

    Dating can be so tricky. I have a single coworker I’ve been talking to about his adventures and I said something about just trying to find your target market and he asked me what that market was…and I had honestly no idea how to answer that. The types of girls he liked would probably like another type of guy.

    The over yappers though if they were one of your friends I think you could say something to the effect of slowing down and try to listen to your date more and they’ll try it. At least that’s something they can control rather then how attractive/interesting or whatever they are.

    For self assessment I think being an artist has helped. When drawing or painting you have to try to see things as they are for improving some skills (figure drawing is a good example). So I’ve never really fallen into the trap of going for guys way out of my league and while my personality is (different) it’s not completely repellent to a lot of guys and I’m great at being emotionally available and bonding right away with guys on that level if I’m interested.

    • dimplz Says:

      Actually, Saj, artists are stereotypically depicted and selfish and self-absorbed, only caring about their art more than anything. Even a passionless artist tends to put more importance on themselves and their feelings and how it contributes to their art, so I really don’t find that to be a very strong case for your argument.

      • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

        I almost included “artist” in my list of online dating profile buzz words yesterday. I have to agree that people who describe themselves as artists tend to be, shall we say, quite self-important and self-absorbed.

  7. dimplz Says:

    I think the reason people don’t want to hear what they are really like is because they may have a need to be “perfect” all the time. They also may not want to know that maybe they are the reason why they are not in a relationship or have the job the want, friends they want, etc. People have a very hard time accepting personal responsibility for their own flaws, because then that would mean it falls entirely on them to be more conscious of their actions, and those people want to live in a society where anything they think or do is ok, because they are ok. The thing is, not everything is ok, and not everyone is ok. So they continue to perpetuate this idea that people have to love them *as is* or they will not love them at all. Yet, they will not yield or acquiesce in order to find happiness. That myopia leads them to become rigid, alone, or in a string of very short term relationships. Instead of forcing them to look inside themselves, these circumstances drive them to become more misanthropic, and they continue to be blind to what they need to be able to adjust in order to be with someone else. In order to have a partnership with someone else, you have to be able to be flexible before and during the partnership. The parts are always shifting to keep the puzzle together. If people can get out of their way long enough to realize that, then maybe they can see themselves the way others do. But the key part is simple: it’s listening to those around you. Listening to what THEY say to you, and what they say to you ABOUT you.

  8. Crotch Rocket Says:

    “Why is it that so many men and women appear to rely on confirmation bias and seek out opinions that support their inner narrative, even though they never manage to have much success with their current belief system and approach?” IMHO, this is because they fear, deep down, that they’re really not good enough and will be alone and miserable forever. So, rather than doing the hard work to improve reality, they create a fantasy world where they’re already good enough to get what they want and then try to drag other people into it. If it doesn’t work, that’s the other person’s fault or, at most, they didn’t try hard enough to drag the other person in. These people have been living in this bubble of self-delusion for so long, they would now completely break down if they were forced to confront reality–and they will fight any attempt by others to show it to them.

    • Crotch Rocket Says:

      BTW, this sort of delusion is not a “some people” thing that anyone here can claim to be above and feel superior about; we all do it to some degree. If you think you don’t, that’s just a sign of how serious your problem is.

  9. Christina Says:

    It’s really hard to see ourselves accurately. We all get feedback, but it’s filtered through so many perceptions, stereotypes and wishful thinking that it’s hard to see what we’re really like. Even really self-aware people often seem to struggle with this. For the average, not-so-aware-person, it’s probably next to impossible to see themselves clearly, and then decide to change.

    First of all, seeing reality implies the need to take personal responsibility for things that aren’t going right. That’s no fun. It’s much nicer to hang out with friends who will validate and tell you how awesome you are. Sometimes we all need that, but it can be a big obstacle to self-improvement. In dating, it seems that blaming the other party- and often, gender- is endemic. It’s far from productive, but it’s easy.

    Secondly, change is hard. It’s not something that can be done in a day. It requires work, multiple times every day, and not everyone has the ability to do that. Personally, I’ve spent the past week with my head under the covers (mostly figuratively, but sometimes literally) rather than deal with some of the things I know I need to do to make my life better. It’s so haaaaaarrrd!! :-P In that sense, I can understand those people who’d rather bury their head in the sand and carry on like normal, even if they’ll never be as happy as they could be.

  10. Crotch Rocket Says:

    “have you ever done a first date intervention? Taken someone in this kind of a situation aside at an opportune moment and said something?” I’ve never done it, but I can’t say I’ve ever noticed this happening on other people’s dates. If you’re tempted to do it and an opportunity to speak to one of the guys privately presents itself, you could approach him, apologize for overhearing their conversation, and say that, if he’s interested, you have some advice that might help him. As with anyone, soften the blow by pointing out one thing he did well for each thing he could improve. I think most guys would appreciate this. OTOH, I wouldn’t bother with the women.

    As for the yappers, my momma told me “God gave [me] two ears to listen with but only one mouth to speak with.” I’d find a more polite way to say it, but the core idea is sound.

    • D Says:

      While theoretically useful, in the heat of the moment I think I would resent a stranger critiquing my date. It would get in my head while I was talking to the girl.

      • Angeline Says:

        If someone was doing so colossally badly to invite help from a total stranger, that date can probably be written off anyway.
        But I’d be hugely unlikely to intervene, unless there was a moment in the ladies’ that gave me an opening to say something. And I agree that a woman would more likely be offended than receptive.

        • Angeline Says:

          I’d also be worried I’d be participating in a Cyrano de Begerac thing where the person getting advice on how to camouflage this big social flaw would only hide it, not fix it. That the poor sap on the other side of the table is really confused by the sudden appearance of non-stop blathering or whining.

  11. Devon Brown Says:

    The issue that Moxie brings up about self-perception is not related to dating only, but to every aspect of life. Business people surround themselves with “yes men” to reinforce their own opinions about themselves. Everyone has friends that support us no matter what bad choices we make. And, of course, we have people who tell us that it isn’t us but the people we are dating who are messed up. Mentally and emotionally that is the easiest road to trek and therefore the path we choose subconsciously. As much as we like to believe we are being objective about ourselves, we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves.

    We continue to believe the best for ourselves because it is easier than dealing with the fact that we are all alone and a little messed up. “Dating success” comes from how you feel about yourself after the date. If the date goes well, you feel good about yourself. But if it goes bad, you need some other thing to feel good about yourself. Having friends support any delusions to get to that happy place is what we do. And if we don’t have friends to get us there, we find other ways – alcohol or other substances, etc. It is human nature to try to find happiness at whatever cost we can.

    We live in the Matrix and we are all deluding ourselves. We are all the image of ourselves we would like to portray. It is in our mind and it is where we exist in the quiet hours of the morning when no one else is around.

    Just my thoughts…

  12. Marshmallow Says:

    I appreciate the feedback – which is why I come here.

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