On Acceptance into the Club
Groucho Marx once said he would not join any club that would accept him as a member, a statement as true about club membership as it is about love.
We are all, in different degrees, broken, overwhelmed, petty, vindictive, and shallow human beings, and we know our own flaws with a depth and intensity others could only guess at. Luckily (for them) they will never have to know of the inner turmoil we experience daily; the whirlpools of self-doubt that spiral into self-loathing as we hold a mirror to our psyche and see the fractured and mean person reflected back at us. The notion that another could love someone this deformed strikes us as a bit strange.
We often have a remarkably low opinion of ourselves; one which we believe is all the more accurate the more offensive it is. Yet, as we journey through life, we chance upon people who (with either short-sightedness or exceptional clarity, we aren’t sure ourselves…) see us as someone worth spending time with. There must be something wrong with them, we tell ourselves. We know how petty, angry, divisive and mean we can be; how broken, confused, and demented we are, so what the hell is wrong with this person? Anybody who is crazy enough to love us is obviously not someone we would, or should, ever be with. Anybody who would send us an invitation to attend clearly hosts a club we would not want to belong to.
But, we are likely suffering from a slight distortion of vision. When we begin falling for someone, we can only see the good in them, often contrasted against the bad in ourselves. In what is a perverse psychological projection, we take all the terrible qualities upon ourselves while pushing all admirable qualities onto them. We forget they too are, in their own way, broken. They are not perfect. Nobody is. But, failing to realise this, we hesitate in the face of being with someone, holding onto the mistaken belief that because we are unworthy, any relationship we join would be diminished in quality simply by our presence.
In a way, we do not want the one we love to love us back. So long as we love them, we can escape ourselves. But, the moment they love us back, we are forced to look back at ourselves, and are reminded of the qualities that drove us toward them in the first place. We dislike ourselves, so if someone likes us, it doesn’t mean we are worthy of being liked, but instead, that there is something wrong with them.
Seeing only the devil in ourselves is part of the same destructive mechanism as seeing only an angel in them. We need to keep in mind that the person who likes us and we like back is equally flawed and far from a bad thing, it is an endorsement of how everyone is worthy of being loved.
What matters is not finding someone perfect (because they would be intolerable) but finding someone who accepts your flaws and can have you, in turn, accept theirs. What matters is becoming better versions of yourself in the joint project we call a relationship.
The relationship will be a small club with only two members, but it will be one where each member is highly valued. When we are accepted into this very private club, we should not agonise over how we are bringing down the quality of membership, but rejoice and perhaps even laugh about how lucky we were to find someone who despite our flaws, still wanted us to join.