Why you should tell your crush you like them… or not

Sometimes, the feeling starts off small: a warmth blossoming in your chest, a butterfly here or there, a flash of joy. When they’re not around—or not too close, you’re safe.

Sometimes the feeling is all-consuming: a violent rush of dopamine and norepinephrine, heart palpitations at just the thought of them, euphoria and a whole kaleidoscope of butterflies.

A crush is giddiness, energy, embarrassing, cute, annoying, fun, nerve racking, exhausting and an uncontrollable smile. A crush is bliss and terror all at once, so why would anyone ever want to burst that bubble? Why should anyone tell their crush that they like them?

I will be the first to admit how scared I am to confess my feelings to a crush. I like to play it safe, feel things out, avoid vulnerability for as long as I can. So, I’m sure it’s a big surprise when I tell you that I have only told crushes I’ve liked them if they’ve told me first. Needless to say, the list of people I have had feelings for and never told directly is longer than I’d like.

This Valentine’s Day, I want to get over my fear of taking romantic risks and being rejected, but should I? Should I pull a Lara-Jean and confess my feelings to old and current crushes? Or should I settle back into the comfort and safety of silent hints? Maybe the right answer is somewhere in between?

Maybe confessing feelings to a crush should be conditional. Kate Hirsch ’26 revealed, “I feel like personally, if I knew that [my crush] liked me back then I would [tell them], but I would be too scared if I didn’t know.”

Cal McElhinney ’26 and Delilah Kaplinsky ’26 expressed similar sentiments. Kaplinsky said, “I would never [confess my feelings to anybody], but I would have everyone tell me.” Kaplinsky also noted, “If I was a really hot, over-six-foot dude, and I knew I was hot, then I would [tell] anyone because then who could reject me?”

If I knew with 100-percent certainty that I would never be rejected, sure, I would have confessed my feelings by now, but that is hardly ever the case. Expressing your feelings means being vulnerable, and that can be terrifying. It can feel like you are giving your crush all of the power. You lay down your feelings for them to scoop up and love, or throw to the ground and trample all over. But maybe that’s not the only way it has to be.

Jenny Karsner ’22 remarked, “I feel like there’s not too much to lose. I think the only time there is something to lose is if your crush is a really good friend of yours, and you’re scared that [telling them will] mess up that relationship you already have. But, I honestly think that it doesn’t matter because you’ll regret it forever, really, if you don’t tell them.”

Speaking from personal experience, that regret is real. I may never know how many of my crushes have liked me back or if expressing my feelings could have made us closer.

And in between stretches of hypothetical fantasies, I can’t help but wonder: what is the worst that could have happened? Getting rejected? Embarrassment? Losing my pride for a little while? In the moment it must suck, but is it really that bad? Maybe, there’s not as much to lose as I think. Maybe there’s even more to gain.

Karsner articulated, “Even if [your crush] doesn’t like you back, [for them], it’s so flattering to hear [that you have feelings for them]— you want to hear that. Just imagine being asked out. Even if you don’t like the person back and say no, imagine what you’re feeling. You’re not upset with them, and you don’t really feel like they’re weak. You just [think], ‘Oh that’s so nice.’”

Along the same lines, Jody Lieb, Admin specialist and former Casti parent, described confessing feelings to a crush as a “win-win situation,” as long as “you’re yourself and you’re confident and not nervous.”

However, Lieb also shared her surprise at her kids’ overwhelming advice to ask your crush out. “I always thought of crushes [as] something almost not real, like just [for] fun,” she explained. If you don’t know someone too well, it can be fun to admire them secretly from afar.

I am no stranger to learning more about stalking a crush (let’s call it what it is) on social media, but when that’s not possible, getting to know a crush without exposing your feelings must happen differently. When Lieb was in high school, social media wasn’t an option, so she and her friends had to get creative to gauge whether or not a crush liked them back.

“We used to drive by [crushes’] houses in high school, hide behind buildings [at school], and prank call [crushes], just to hear their voice,” she recalled. While I have social media, I don’t use it a ton which is sometimes the case with my crushes too. But maybe stalking a crush that doesn’t have social media (or a crush stalking me…) is not as hopeless as it seems.

On the other hand, when you already know your crush, it is a completely different game. Lieb divulged, “To me, if you know someone well, you are either on the verge of entering into a relationship or your crush is almost not real.”

I know too well how easy it is to create this false idea of someone in your head, and stop seeing them for who they really are: imperfect and human, just like everyone else. I can’t always differentiate between when I am crushing on an actual person and when I am crushing on who I want them to be.

Attraction is complicated, but what if I want to keep it simple? Lieb asked her daughter, a second grade teacher, about crushes and got some perspectives I envy.

One second grader said, “Well [when you have a crush on someone] you’re really supposed to love [them] and you have to buy them chocolate, or flowers, or a bear [and stickers].” I am still waiting on my stickers and bear…

Another student said, “We all have crushes on people,” to which Lieb responded, “I think [that’s] kind of true. I have crushes on a lot of people, just because [I] like them.” I also stand behind that answer. There are so many types of crushes other than just romantic crushes. In some ways, that second grader is wise beyond their years.

As straightforward as second graders make love sound, I was comforted to hear that not all young crushes are as simple as chocolate and flowers. Apparently, even 7-year-olds deal with turbulent love as another student disclosed, “All of the girls have a crush on Marco, but he doesn’t [like them back].”

I am glad I am not in second grade anymore, but being in high school is not much easier crush-wise. Constantly bombarded with conflicting advice and sorting through my own opposing thoughts and feelings has never felt harder. Even so, I am learning to find peace within the chaos.

Maybe my feelings are fluid and can change over time. Maybe I can not like someone one day, and crush on them hard the next. Or maybe, my crushes can go just as quickly as they came.

Whatever the situation, to be confident in myself is all I want. As Karsner put, “Just [know] how great you are before you do it, so no matter what [your crush] say[s], you know: ‘I would be able to give so much to them in this relationship, they would be so lucky to have me,’ but that’s just something they need to figure out. Follow your dreams, ask them out. You never know what will happen if you don’t try.”

And so, maybe I will.