Let’s Shower First… / See Yourself as Others See You
Dear Dr. Hurd,
What is it with people who have no sense of hygiene—
especially on a first date? I have connected with several people in the last year or so, and when we finally meet they either haven’t brushed their teeth since the Clinton Administration, or they (and their clothes) need a good scrubbing. What do these people expect to accomplish by looking, or smelling, like they were raised in a refrigerator crate?
Whatever happened to looking your best when you meet somebody for the first time? Is this what Grindr, Growlr, OkCupid, and the Internet in general have reduced us to?
Dr. Hurd replies,
People can’t not communicate. When someone doesn’t take care of him- or herself physically, it’s most certainly an indication of how that person is functioning in other areas of life. The best people to love (and to be loved by) are those who love themselves. Not in a narcissistic or one-sided way, but one that includes love of life and self-respect. This generally includes good grooming, organization, and punctuality. People who are usually on time and who acknowledge it when they’re not will more likely be trustworthy and considerate in other ways. Timeliness and a healthy personal regimen are a show of respect for oneself and the people with whom one chooses to associate.
Some people rebel against cleanliness and organization. It feels oppressive to them. Maybe in the past they were exposed to parents or others who were obsessively neat and clean, to the point where it took the fun out of things. Instead of finding reasonable alternatives, they react in the opposite direction.
Some people are depressed or otherwise lacking in mental and/or physical stamina. There may be understandable reasons why they’re the way they are. By the same token, I have known individuals who struggle with any number of problems and still find a way to be well groomed and well organized. They wisely understand that this is a path toward making life meaningful and uplifting despite the challenges they might face. Conversely, depressed people tend to view life in all-or-nothing ways. This can result in a lack of hygiene or organization because, “If some things are wrong, there’s no point in getting anything right. Why bother?”
I don’t blame this on the Internet. The Internet makes it easier and quicker to find people. In a lot of ways, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Along with that comes the fact that it’s now easier and quicker to discover flaws in people. It goes with the territory.
I suspect you wrote this note simply to vent. That’s fine. If you read this column with any frequency, you understand that we can’t change or control others. We can only control ourselves, including our choices of the kinds of people we bring into our mental and physical space. Choose wisely and carefully.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I fear that I am missing the gene that allows me to know if somebody likes me. I will be in a group of people, and friends will take me aside and say, “Can’t you see she likes you? Why are you ignoring her advances?” Advances? I just thought she was a nice person! I’m sure that I have lost out on more than one prospective relationship because I am, in my friends’ words, “clueless.” How can I tune into this stuff? I don’t even know how to start.
Dr. Hurd replies,
The most obvious answer is that you underrate yourself. Your question suggests that you don’t see yourself as desirable in a physical or sexual way. I suggest that you start with some healthy ego exercises. Try to look at yourself objectively, i.e., as others see you. This includes identifying the physical and other qualities (personality, sense of humor, and intellect come to mind) that you bring to the table.
Ask yourself, “What do I have to offer in a relationship? Why would somebody want to be with me, and how could they benefit once they get to know me?” Ask people you know and trust what they believe you have to offer, and what makes you stand out as compared to others.
Some people are irrationally afraid of their own egos. Let’s review the concept of ego. From a purely technical point of view, ego means a focus on self and reality. In their quest to not be seen as narcissists or obnoxious jerks, people sometimes mistakenly throw out the important feature of seeing themselves in a realistic and positive light.
When dealing with others, keep the possibility in mind that they might actually be interested in you. None of us wants to be hurt or rejected. In your desire to not be hurt or rejected, a part of you might have shut out the prospect that you could in fact be accepted; even desired. How convenient. Now you have nothing to lose. But look closer: You’re losing out on countless opportunities.
You might consider some counseling or other introspective time to visualize a world where you can be appreciated not only by yourself, but by others as well.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.