“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~Alan Watts
After a few years of living through the betrayal and anger of my divorce, my friends decided it was time for me to start dating again.
They took me out to the bars, dressed me up, bought me drinks, and showed all the men how cute I was.
I didn’t feel cute. I felt like a fraud.
The bar scene was not for me. I felt like a piece of meat wrapped in cellophane on the shelf waiting for a man to decide which one he’d like to eat.
I dressed up in my newly skinny body and looked the part of the fun loving girl, but inside all I felt was desperation.
I put on makeup so men would think I was pretty.
I exercised so my body would look good for others to gaze at.
I smiled and giggled so men would think I was fun and funny.
I didn’t feel fun, funny, pretty, or like I wanted to be looked at. I felt scared.
I kept grasping at a portrait of who I wanted everyone to think I was. I so wanted to be this picture perfect representation that I thought men wanted. I wanted a man to like me so I could feel loved and validated.
I finally realized my imaginary self-portrait was who others wanted, not who I wanted to be now. I was not being true to my new self.
So I trashed the portrait, went home, and got my act together.
I wanted to find love again but not like this. Not by picking up someone in a bar who was looking for love in all the wrong places, just like I was doing. I needed to learn to love myself, because no one else could do it for me.
I wanted to find love by knowing who I was. Then I could find someone who complemented me. So I stopped going out and started to learn who I was, what I wanted in life, and what I deserved in a man.
What I did learn from speaking to men in bars is that real men want real women. I decided to learn how to be real. Learning how to be real would require some investigative research on my part. I had lost myself in my marriage. It was time to find me.
I decided to step out of my proverbial box. I had to try new things and figure out what activities I liked, and which ones I needed to stay away from.
I traveled to developing countries. I had my palm read and visited a mind reader. I went kayaking, took up road biking, hiked on volcanoes, rode zip lines through the rain forest, joined book clubs, learned to meditate, I found out what tai chi was.
I started to visit international restaurants. I went to museums and hung out in coffee shops. I got my yoga teacher certification and started to teach. I tried things I had always wanted to do but never could while I was married.
I had fun. I learned that I favored Thai food over Italian food. I learned that I can ride thirty-five miles on a bike and love it. I learned things about me I never knew.
I stopped wearing most of the makeup I had worn thinking it made me look good so men would like me. Instead, I decided to look good for myself.
I stared at myself in the mirror and told myself over and over that I am beautiful, even though I didn’t believe it. The more I told myself I was beautiful, the more I began to feel good about myself.
I wanted my beauty to be defined by my self-confidence, which began to return when I started to truly believe in what I began to represent.
I started to dress the way I wanted to feel, not the way I wanted to be looked at. I wanted free flowing clothes that I could move in. I wanted to be able to feel my body, not the clothes pinching me.
I started to exercise because it made me feel good, not so I would look good. I accomplished both by doing what I wanted for me, not for them. I found exercise that I loved to do. I increased my yoga practice and kept on walking. I took up rowing and increased my biking.
I stopped going to bars to meet men. Instead, I went to the occasional bar to hang out with friends and to be social.
I stopped looking at men as the answer to my problems and started looking at myself to solve them.
I realized I needed to know what my interests were if I wanted to attract a man who shared them.
When I learned what I liked, I became happier than I had ever been before. I learned to be true to myself, not someone else.
I realized that I had been incomplete without the self-knowledge required to define my own boundaries, my likes, and my dislikes. Without knowing what my boundaries were, I could never attract a person into my life that could live within them. I had never known how to define and stand up for my own beliefs.
When I felt confident with my new self, I joined a dating site. I was far more aware of the kind of person I wanted to attract because I knew who I was.
Writing my profile specifically for what I wanted and how I wanted a man to treat me was far better than telling someone to take me on a romantic date, when I couldn’t define what I thought a romantic date was.
So get on with it. What are you waiting for? Get out there and experience life. Find out who and what you are. Live life by yourself. Be happy by yourself. It’s your life; make it what you want. Don’t look for someone else to do it for you, because they can’t. Only you can know who you really are.