It took me a long time to notice it, then to really admit it, and then to articulate it clearly, but eventually I understood that I operated according to a secret rule:
Dave’s Super Secret Rule: Everybody must love me but I must not try at all to make that happen.
If I tried, then people might just love the trying, not the actual me, right? How could I be sure? And that unpleasant uncertainty would be the best outcome.
In the worst case, of course, I would try, and people still wouldn’t love me, and I’d be right fucked then wouldn’t I? I’d be in my all-time favorite episode Bart Gets An ‘F’:
BART STARES AT HIS EXAM AND CRIES. MS. KRABAPPEL: What's the matter? Well I would think you'd be used to failing by now. BART: No, you don't understand. I really tried this time. I really tried.
So the only safe, Bart-Approved Life-Long Strategy (TM), is never to try completely. Always hold something back, so one always has an ‘out’ if things go wrong.
Some people say they “left it all on the field.” Whoa if true.
I can barely imagine it. But sometimes I wish I could.