“You must learn to love yourself before you can love someone else.” ~Sonja Mylin
It’s tough being out there.
I remember myself some years ago embracing the world of online dating. Everyone kept telling me “be yourself” (and I kept telling myself that), but when I was actually on a date, “myself” would fly out the window.
I’d go hard on the impressing, second-guess myself, drink too much, look for every little thing we had in common (even if the person did not feel right), feel devastated if I was rejected, and utterly lose sight of what I was on the date for in the first place. Perhaps I didn’t really know who I was or how to be her in what I saw as a confronting environment.
Dating brings out all our fears and vulnerabilities. You’re basically putting yourself on a platter, asking folks to judge you: “Pick me! Pick me!” like someone on a reality TV competition. You forget that it’s a two-way street. That you are looking for a suitable love (or a lover) to be with you, and that is all.
We get the little brain buzz from being swiped right, from the initial contact message, from a nod of approval when we arrive. All of these microsigns can feel so great that they interrupt our reasonable thinking around who we’re looking for.
Or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we’re bombarded with messages from people we’re just not into (and straight up jerks), we go on dates that end up in an awful mess, we get rejected or we reject, which crushes someone, and it all feels terrible.
It’s easy to lose heart.
Dating doesn’t have to be like that. There are ways to bring it all back to what you are actually dating for in the first place. I know for myself that love came my way when I dug down a little deeper, stopped adjusting what I wanted from a relationship, gave it some time, had fun, and was really myself—warts, opinions, and all.
Here are five ways to be out there from a place of self-love and have a much better chance of finding the real love you’re looking for.
1. You are dating to find someone for you, not just to impress.
This isn’t a job interview: dating is an opportunity for two people to find out if they like each other enough to keep finding out. No one is in a position of power over the other.
Try not to spend the whole date putting all your energy into impressing the other person. Remember that you are checking them out as much as they are checking you out, and that you are making a decision too.
2. Identify your values and then look for a match based on those instead of just shared interests.
Sure, you want to be able to enjoy spending time with your partner, but contrary to popular opinion, your partner doesn’t need to be your best friend. You don’t need to do every single thing together. It’s far more important that you have similar core values. Interests can change, but values at their very core generally hold.
What traits and ways of behaving are most important to you? What do you believe in? What world issues really pull your heartstrings? What would you fight for? How will you be able to tell if someone shares your values?
Spend some time with yourself to drill down into the deeper stuff and then look for matching connections. Shared values will make for rich conversation and bring you back together when times are tough, not the fact that you both like white water rafting or watching RuPaul’s Drag Race.
3. Stop performing a version of you.
Many of us filter out the stuff we think might be seen as weird or boring or stupid when we’re dating. Or, it becomes normal to present a curated, cooler version of you. Of course you want to put your best foot forward, but sometimes it’s stripped back so much that who you are becomes completely invisible.
Dating is not a numbers game. You don’t need loads of matches to find someone. You need matches with fewer folks who are really going to get you. Who will think you’re cute and funny and smart and interesting (even when you’re driving them mad).
If you love binging Pretty Little Liars and cheap chocolate, painting old furniture, sleeping in until 4pm on Saturday afternoon, devouring true crime podcasts, attending the odd rally, and you wish you were an earth mother but are really more of a city gal who likes to shop, then that’s you.
And my bet is that you are pretty unique and special with all your faults and quirks. We fall in love with real people, not pretend ones. If someone doesn’t love the real you, why are you with them in the first place? Wouldn’t it be far more wonderful to be cherished even when you are not the curated version of yourself?
4. Don’t interpret “fun” as just the other person having fun.
Hands up: Who is fantastic at helping other people relax—so much so that you forget to actually notice if you are having fun too?
We all have roles we tend to play in life, and if yours is along these lines, then I’d encourage you to swallow that role somewhat and see what happens when you don’t leap into “Make them feel good” mode.
Live with an awkward silence. Notice if you’re being asked questions, listened to, or engaged in conversation on a similar level to what you’re putting in. Spout an opinion or two. Not going well? Then it maybe this one isn’t for you. And phew! You found out early on.
FYI: “Fun,” for those who have forgotten (because you’ve been out there way too long) is having a bit of a laugh and feeling relatively at ease.
5. Yep, it should be pretty easy.
Myth-busting time: Relationships don’t need to be hard and shouldn’t need to be “worked on” all the time. Are your friendships like that? My guess is that the good ones are not. Sure, they have ups and downs. There are misunderstandings and times of trouble. But ultimately, you really like each other’s company. You can rely on each other.
The best relationships are fairly easy. They need to be able to stand the test of time. If it’s hard when nothing hard is happening, how is it going to be when something really hard is happening?
Sure, there are situations that are supposed to be fun but instead can be fraught with issues (like moving in together). When we’re invested in someone and then mesh our lives together, that has some serious weight and it makes sense there will be teething.
But if you’re on date four and it’s uncomfortable, combative, awkward, and pressure-filled, and you feel bad about yourself, or the other person is trying to control you? This one is most likely not for you.
Ultimately, dating from a place of self-love is about believing that you are worthy just as you are, and that there is someone out there (maybe several someone’s) who you can and will connect with.
It’s not just about being loved—it’s about you loving someone else. And if you’re coming from a place of self-love, then you will ultimately run the dating gauntlet with kindness, self-respect, and vulnerability without heaping a load of meaning onto rejection. Rejection means this one wasn’t right for you, nothing more, and thank god they did you a favor! Because you are deserving of the real, luscious thing with someone truly amazing.