Discover more from Mind Mine
crushes are often just misplaced ambition
what the people we're drawn to tell us about ourselves
I loved the line so much that I tried to dig through the Ask Polly columns to find where it came from. I couldn't find it. But I found a lot of similar, related advice in Ask Polly that got me thinking a lot about where crushes come from, why we have them, what draws us to people, and what draws us to people so deeply that we start to feel the buds of love with them—a romantic mapping of ourselves to them that softens our sense of self, that makes us excited, nervous.
The feeling we get around a crush, or when a crush is starting to form, is actually quite similar to the feeling we get when we define a new goal or set a new aim that really excites us. Like signing up for a marathon, or trying to get into medical school, or meeting someone doing exactly what we want to be doing. We start to imagine ourselves doing that thing, and it gives us butterflies. It gives us this floaty feeling of not being where we are, of zooming into some new era of space and time where we can be someone else, doing something else that we really want to do, or being like someone we really want to be more like—just like we get to be someone new with a new crush.
We get to perform with someone new that we like. Crushes can be a window into something we feel we don't have, something we feel we are lacking, something we want someone else to fulfill—some ambition we have for ourselves.
if you’re enjoying peeking into my mind:
I recently learned that ambition doesn't need to only correlate with money, prestige, status (shocking, I know). Ambition is really just another way of saying that one has "an aspiration to be excellent". Excellent at anything. This can be excellence at work, professionally. It can be creative excellence. It can be excellence at being kind, generous, loving. Ambition just means that you want more from yourself than what you are now.
And crushes are such a perfect container to encapsulate this desire for more. Because you can see someone right in front of you, living out that ambition that you have. Maybe they're as successful as you'd like to be one day, or as thoughtful, or as close with their family, or as creative, or as interesting and well-read. Whatever you might want to see more of from yourself is highly correlated with the qualities that the people we tend to crush on possess.
I've recently had a few interesting conversations about what it is that draws someone to someone else. Specifically, what draws me to someone, and what draws the person I'm talking with to someone. It's interesting how different the things we are drawn to are, even if we have a lot of intellectual overlap.
For me to be drawn to someone, I need to think that the person understands something that I don't. I need to feel like I can learn from them. Like I can learn a lot from them. They need to be someone I need to work hard to understand. Someone interesting, dimensional, layered. A thinker, usually. I like people who think hard. Who have beliefs, and who have reasons for those beliefs, but are open to letting go of those beliefs if their reasons for believing them are proven to be untrue or wobbly. I like people who think about things larger than themselves. I like people who have direction, who are decisive. I like people who have a calmness to them that puts me at ease within myself, because they feel at ease within themselves. I like people who challenge me intellectually.
Almost every guy I've ever been into has given me the feeling that they might be smarter than me in some way. It feels like they know something more than me. Clearly, there's something about the feeling of having to work for intellectual dominance that is very attractive to me.
If a guy is simple, basic, easy to understand, if it's obvious that the interaction can't be reciprocal intellectually, that it will only be me talking and them pondering, dumb-founded because they've never thought about things on such a 'deep level', I'm instantly bored.
So, for me, my crushes typically represent an ambition to learn more, to better understand myself, to think more deeply. I think this is worth noting for a number of reasons. Number one, it helps us see where we have ambition. I do want to always be learning, better understanding myself, becoming more calm within myself, thinking more deeply. This feels obvious as I write it out. I mean, there's evidence of this everywhere in my life. But there is no evidence as rich and obvious as my crushes—as the people that catch my attention and hold it. As the people that I find beautiful.
The people I find beautiful are almost never just attractive people. They are people (and things) that demand attention, effort, thought to be completely understood. I can appreciate mere physical beauty, but it doesn't excite me. The idea of having to peel back layers to completely understand something or someone is what excites me.
And beyond this pattern of being somewhat complex, opaque and having layers to their psyche or personality, I don't see any real patterns amongst my crushes. Some are Type A, professional, super hard-working types. Some are totally the opposite: fluid, creative, present, exploratory types. Some are worldly, having travelled all over, seen many things, while others learned most of what they know through books and curiosity. I don't discriminate as to what makes a person interesting or how they developed this seed of knowledge I want to dig for within them. I only require that it is there.
This has been quite a helpful notion for me. To see such a pattern in the people I feel drawn to. This is true beyond just romantic interest. I feel most drawn to friends, people, family members that seem to know something that I don't. And everyone knows something that I don't, of course. But I need to be interested in the specific grain of truth I think I can find within this person.
I guess knowledge is my ambition. But not just knowledge. Understanding, too. Depth. Rigour. Curiosity. Learning.
This also explains why I need to connect with someone intellectually to feel any level of attraction towards them, even on a friendship level.
Attractive people without much to say do not intrigue me in the slightest. I want to know what's behind the random genetic material that makes up the exterior shell we have little control over. I want to see what that person has done with their mind.
I say all of this because I've been developing some pseudo crushes lately (that aren’t romantic in nature but stem from a deep sense of connection with another person). And I'm like: why? I am in a loving relationship with a great boyfriend who challenges me and makes me feel safe. He’s the epitome of everything I am drawn to in a crush. So, why are there other individuals that I'm also drawn to, intrigued by?
And I think I found my answer: it's just misplaced ambition. These crushes just represent something I want to see more of within myself. Something I want to develop, lean into more deeply, as an individual. And I think that's quite normal; to look out into the world and feel attracted to things we want to see more of. This is, I think, how everyone develops their own definition of beauty. It's largely the intersection of what we find most interesting, and what we want to see more of in the world. Because beauty, by definition, is rare and hard to find. If it was everywhere, it wouldn't be beautiful. It wouldn't snag our attention and hold it, as real beauty does. It would float in and out of our field of vision without ever really capturing us.
So, our crushes often exist to tell us what we are looking for within ourselves. They tell us where our ambition is pointing. And that's quite useful. Because if you don't think you know what you want, or where you want to go, or what you want to do, or what you want to be more of, just look at your crushes:
What do they all have in common that makes you want them?
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