When I hear the phrase “settling for less,” I get automatic flashbacks from my own personal life to my family and friends. Those three words have a huge backstory behind it for me; the question is whether it’s good or bad.
Some people date below their own standards for various reasons, whether because of some insecurities or self-hatred, and they settle for someone who does them no favors, someone who is the definition of disrespect and even abuse.
People also settle for less because they’re intent on finding the ideal mate. They know exactly what they want in a mate, and feel defeated when they can’t find that person. They run into the arms of the first person they can – usually the total opposite of their ideal – because they feel that’s what they deserve. Some people want to be in a relationship so badly they’re willing to take whatever comes to them.
How do I know? I was that person.
I remember being a young, lost boy with incredibly insecurity and lots of self-hatred. I didn’t think that anyone really looked or acted liked me. I felt I was a combination of so many things that some people assumed I was nonexistent. No one really saw who I really was: a guy who was a combination of geek and gay male. I was smart, hyperactive, and doing my best to be everyone’s friend. I never showed anger or stress. I always had a happy smile.
Because of my differences, people removed me from their lives. The friends I did have revealed to me later on that they became friends with me because they felt sorry that I didn’t have any friends. One secret after the next was revealed to me. It made so miserable that what made me, me was not accepted by anyone.
It even crossed into my relationships. When I started dating my second boyfriend, I began hanging out with men who were the total opposite of me. Bad boys who loved cursing and saying the n-word constantly, smoked and sold drugs, etc. They had jobs, but selling drugs helped to put extra money in their pockets. Their daily regime was hustling, fighting, and having group sex in each other’s cribs every day. I was the kind boy next door who looked like a future trophy wife. When these men showed me affection and attention, I went for it.
Later on in my relationship, when my boyfriend began to know me a little more, he and his friends were all of a sudden turned off by me. They were turned off by my intelligence, mannerisms, and geeky personality. It’s like they’d never seen a guy like me. My boyfriend pulled me to the side one day and said this to me before I left – he buttered me up before dropping a bomb on me. “When you hang out with me and my boys, adjust your vocabulary. Talk to me like a normal person. I don’t want you upstaging me with that out of this world brain of yours.” He also asked me to change my looks to fit in better with what he thought “a real man” would be.
I walked away from that conversation feeling more miserable than ever. I wanted to be accepted, but I didn’t want to change myself. But because I wanted to keep my relationship, I did. I changed 99% of myself in front of my boyfriend and his crew. I stopped using “big words,” the n-word was coming out of my mouth like crazy (which I don’t say or use at all), and I even got involved in some risky sexual behavior, all to please my man. All I was doing was a reflection of how much I hated myself. I felt like no one was going to accept me for who I was, so I changed everything about me and settled for something and someone that was beneath me.
Then one night, I woke up and I realized this wasn’t right. I was not supposed to hate myself; I was supposed to love and accept myself. After that moment of clarity, I knew it was time for everyone to accept me as a black, openly gay, geek. Within days, I changed back into who I was really was. I broke up with my boyfriend and his crew, and started talking like an intelligent human being again.
I realized that I know who I am and I love who I am. I stopped being myself for a while because of insecurities and self-hatred. It doesn’t matter if someone thinks you’re alien, as long as you know yourself, you should never settle for less – especially in relationships. Because someday, someone is going to walk into your life and love you for whom you are.