Whippersnapper and I tentatively confessed our love for each other, but agreed we still couldn’t do anything about it, because of his body image problems. I did wonder when I went to bed that night, if I’d get a drunk 3am text from him.
At 2:59am, I got this message:
“See tonight is a classic example Dater Analysis. I just don’t believe that what you’re saying is actually real. I think you’re just taking pity on me because you like my personality and because it’s easy to muddle up nice people with being good looking.
“Not that being good-looking should be that important anyway, but to me it’s everything. You know my mate who works in Asda told me, a few moths ago, about how he served our old English teacher.
Now they got speaking about old times and she asked who he hung around with nowadays and he said me, and apparently she laughed and said, ‘what, Whippersnapper? He was just a blob who did nothing in school. Him and his friend were like Tweedledum and Tweedledee.’
“Now to some people this might be an innocuous comment, but to me, it kills. Even a teacher who is supposed to be helping me saw such little value in me that she tried to fucking ridicule me in front of my mates.
And yeah I’ve changed a lot since then but that’s how I feel: I just feel like everyone is secretly thinking ‘oh look at him he needs to lose some weight: what a loser’.
When even your own teachers are taking the piss out of you, you know you’re a fucking hopeless case. My best mate was trying to console Me and he said to my ex teacher that I’ve done well since school and all that bollocks but it still just gets me so down.
I think most people are fucking horrible judgemental wankers and I don’t trust anyone and even though it’s been years I just wish I was accepted.”
“Basically, everyone is ‘there’ at this level of wonderful normal acceptance and I’m just circling the drains, wishing I was in the gutter. Which is shit itself.”
Oh Whippersnapper. I thought, as I lay in the dark, with my bedroom lit only by my phone light. I felt overwhelmed with love and concern for him.
We exchanged a couple of messages, before he said “anyway, good night x.”
“Wait ive got so much I want to say about this!” I replied, sacrificing punctuation for speed.
“Send in the morning Dater Analysis x”
He’s like “I don’t mind waking you up at 3am with my sad little story, but don’t reply now, because I can’t be bothered to read it because I want to go to sleep.”
What a total bellend. I thought. (I love him).
I told him I was sending it now because I wouldn’t have time in the morning.
Thank you x”
“Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me how you feel.”
“You’re welcome x”.
Then I launched into some absolute CBT gold.
“I’m not surprised it kills, what happened with that teacher.
You’re 100% right. Massive cunt.
It makes me ache to hear you saying such brutal stuff about yourself. I wish I could give you a massive hug and make it better.
To me, you’re not in the gutter or circling the drain at all. To me, you’re perched right at the top of the hot tap, above everyone else.
“There’s a thing in Psychology called the Confirmation Bias, where you notice things that fit with your existing beliefs, and you disregard things that don’t fit. We all do it because it’s quicker than constantly having to readjust all your beliefs all the time, and there’s an evolutionary benefit to being able to process information quickly. The confirmation bias will cause things like two eyewitnesses to give really different accounts of something they both saw, based on their pre-existing beliefs.
It sounds like you believe you look bad, that looking good is everything, and that people are judgmental and untrustworthy.
“I’m not surprised that your terrible, painful experiences made you come away with some beliefs like that.
The problem is that the confirmation bias makes you notice and remember the stuff that fits those beliefs. All the evidence that doesn’t fit with those beliefs, you naturally ignore or forget, or you warp it to make it fit. (EVERYBODY does this, but it has less catastrophic effects if they don’t have something like body image or self esteem problems).
“It’s hard to explain over text, but an analogy we use at work, is that your brain is a bit like a shape-sorter children’s toy, like this?”
(I did a quick google image search and sent him a screenshot.)
“Some beliefs are positive and some are negative. So like everyone will have a belief like ‘I am good enough’, maybe that is a circle shaped hole, and also they’ll have a belief ‘I’m not good enough’, maybe that one is a square hole…
Each time something happens, those incidents/memories are like one of the different shaped bricks.
“To get into the box/your brain, it has to fit one of the holes first.
For example, if I do something stupid at work, that would be a square memory and it would go through my ‘I’m not good enough’ belief-shaped hole, and into my head.
“But then lots of good things I’ve done at work will have happened so I’ll have lots of circle memories that went through my ‘I am good enough’ belief.
“So I’ve got both good and bad memories in my head, and I come away with the balanced belief I’m generally OK at my job.
“When someone has had shitty life experiences, forming the positive beliefs has got disrupted. With someone with low self esteem, their positive beliefs about themselves have been messed up. It’s like those holes on the shape-sorter have got taped over, so nothing can get through.
“This means when a positive, circle incident happens, it either gets dismissed and doesn’t get into the box at all, or it gets crushed into a different shape, a square, and gets into the box wrong.”
You know you’re a CBT therapist when you get a 3am drunk text from an ex, and half an hour you’re texting him about things going into holes.
But it’s the shape-sorter metaphor.
“So it’s like your belief ‘I am attractive enough’ has got covered over, due to what it was like growing up.
“You also have the belief ‘I’m not attractive enough’ (everyone would have both).
Every time something happens that is obviously evidence that you are attractive, it doesn’t fit any of the shaped-holes that are open. It’s like a triangle-shaped incident but your triangle belief hole is covered over.”
Mmm. Say ‘triangle belief hole’ again.
“You might just dismiss the incident and not remember it afterwards (e.g. A girl saying ‘WS you’re fit’). Or you make it fit the hexagon-shaped hole for your belief ‘I’m not attractive’. Maybe you convince yourself ‘she was just taking pity on me’ so it gets filed away as evidence you’re not attractive.
“I don’t know how much sense this is making.
Basically that teacher saying that is a dirty, heartbreaking hexagon that feels like it confirms your hexagon-shaped belief that you’re not attractive.
“But if you didn’t have body image problems, your box would be brimful of triangles, so the hexagon would hurt a bit less.
“The thing is, the way you’re fitting the evidence together, it doesn’t quite make sense (to me).
“You have this bit of evidence that you’re attractive, which is me saying ‘WS you’re really gorgeous/handsome/fit/sexy’. You don’t know what to do with it because it doesn’t fit anywhere.
“It sounds like you make it fit your existing beliefs by saying ‘you’re just taking pity on me because you like my personality’.
“But that must mean personality is important, right?
If personality didn’t matter and looks were everything, people wouldn’t be fooled into thinking you’re OK-looking by your personality.
“Also, I don’t believe you really think looks are everything.
“When we were dating, you would say positive things to me about my appearance but also my personality. It seemed like you valued positive things about my personality as well as my appearance.
If you think about your friends and what you like about them, I bet it’s not that much about how they look.
“And it’s the same for them. They probably like you because of all kinds of things.
Anyway, I’ve written loads and it’ll take you all morning to read.
“You are incredibly attractive to me. I absolutely promise you, on our first date I thought ‘great, he’s really fit’ straight away. I didn’t have any information about your personality in those initial moments, to be swayed by.
I do find I fancy someone more as I get to know them and like their personality, but all that means is ‘your personality didn’t ruin the great first impression your face made.’
“You have so much to offer the world. You could do anything, you could do stuff related to writing. I was thinking about how much you helped me come to terms with my problems and that you could also work in a caring profession.
“You’ve got so much going for you.
It’s totally understandable you feel the way you do, given what’s happened.
“But it doesn’t mean the negative stuff you believe about yourself is accurate.
Good night you wonderful man.
“I’m always here if you need me xhxh
Also let me know if you want to have sex one last time ;-)”
“That was a joke.”
“Well, a half-joke.”