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Why You Shouldn’t Ask Yourself What You Have to "Offer"

You are more than what you can "do" for people.

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Source: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

How many times have you seen someone you find attractive, or developed a crush on someone you know, and asked yourself, “What do I have to offer this person? They’re so great and I’m so…not.” This is a serious issue for self-loathers, of course, but I think most of us have felt something like this at times in our life, even if it’s not a persistent problem.

It's also a natural question to ask. If you like or admire a person, you tend to lift them up and make yourself feel like less in comparison. But there are several reasons why questioning what you have to "offer" another person is self-defeating.

1. It reflects a "transactional" or exchange-oriented mind-set.

As I explained here, relationships shouldn’t be about exchange, focusing on what each person can offer the other and constantly checking whether each is getting a “fair return.” Even though this can be a prudent consideration when you’re getting into a relationship — and toxic when you’re in one — putting too much emphasis on it, even at the beginning, can lead you to second-guess your own “value," because we usually don't recognize our own best qualities. Thinking of relationships as exchanges can also make you narrow your worth down to its most basic qualities, such as looks or income, that would often and obviously be valued, but obscure the complex and fascinating person you are.

2. You don’t have to offer anything other than being yourself.

If we don't think we have any qualities that would attract another person, we can start to take the idea of “offering” something too literally, thinking that we have to do things for another person to make or keep them interested. Because we can’t imagine what another person would see in us, we think we need to be overly generous in paying for dates, buying gifts, or doing other things for them to demonstrate our value and justify why we should be with them. While these are great ways to show affection, they shouldn’t be used as currency to earn or buy another person's interest; they should be done genuinely and with no expectation on either side of "getting something in return." (If the other person takes advantage of your generosity, then it's obvious that they don't appreciate you for who you are — and you deserve better.)

3. No one can judge your value in a relationship except the other person.

Even though you may not think you have much to offer, you also have to realize that you’re really not in the best position to judge. Here I explained that other people may appreciate you much more than you do. You may not find yourself attractive, but it's likely that someone will, because everyone finds different things attractive. You may not feel you make enough money or have a "cool" enough job, but other people may not care about those things, or may have very different ideas about which jobs are cool. And you may not feel you’re very interesting, but other people may find you fascinating for reasons you can't even imagine.

You have to learn to trust other people to know what they want and to trust that they will consider you according to those preferences — which they know, and you don’t. All you have to do is put yourself out there — in person, online, or both — and see who shows interest. If you give someone a chance, you may find out you have a lot to offer, without having to think about it at all.

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