You Don't Owe Anyone Your Feelings

Oh, the sparkly feeling of getting asked out, the shimmer to being placed on someone’s pedestal—it’s sometimes irresistible, and entirely acceptable to acknowledge, even to bask a bit in the attention of men who express their interest in you.

Where dealing with attention becomes complicated is when your desire to leave the feeling and affection where it is, and to not, for whatever reason want to move your interactions or flirtations towards something deeper or more involved is challenged, or, when you are coaxed, by yourself or your admirer into relationships or feelings you did not originally want.

Most of us start the problematic tendency of guilting and talking ourselves into reciprocating feelings early in our love lives. My first crush was a boy I did not like.  He was a boy with thick black glasses and I’d decided to like him the eighth grade because my mom said he liked me, and a friend of mine said he was a nerd.  Blindly, without once examining my actual, original feelings for him, I nearly memorized the Pacific Northwest History book to impress him, disappointedly learning that he wasn’t ever, it turned out, a nerd. I did become more knowledgeable than I ever planned to be in Pacific Northwest History, but I wasted a significant amount of time worrying about whether I was nerdy enough or knew more about the Pig War than James, time I could have spent figuring out what actually stands out and matters to me.

No person has a right to your love, attention, affection, or communication, and it is in your hands who you choose to have in your life at any time. It is okay, of course, even healthy, to like or appreciate those who like us, but the very fact that someone likes you is not a reason in itself to care for or devote yourself to them in return.

You don’t need a giant, or convincing reason to not want someone back the way they want you. Of course, kindness and respect is crucial. It is kinder and better to reject someone now, when you know you do not have feelings or the ability to give them your best, than it is to enter into a relationship on false premises or to fabricate feelings you think you should have for someone. Doing so might feel better and safer for everyone at first, but no person, regardless of how much they like the idea of you and want you to like them, will be happy to find out a week or a year into knowing you that you guilted or obliged yourself into loving them. You, as you already know right now, would certainly not be happy either.

If someone really likes you right now, or claims to, consider how well they know you. Likely, you have been rejected in the past and it has stung, but it is also likely that the people who rejected you barely knew you. The person who lusts after you right now also does not know you yet, and it is not your job to color in whatever fantasy they have stenciled into you while sitting behind you in Russian literature lecture.

There are so many aspects you like about yourself or haven’t discovered yet, and in the dating pool, it is just the same. Don’t get stuck because someone else is stuck, for today, or a couple days or weeks on you. Keep moving until you find someone you can and want to choose, and remember that the same choice applies to everyone.