This is the final post in a four-part series on dating. The goal of this series is to shift prevailing perspectives on the dating world: from fear to hope.
I hope the previous posts in this series have helped you squash your fears so that you can embrace hope and thrive in the present. In our final post, we’ll explore how to set conditions to create the kind of love you desire and deserve. It’s about not letting your fear stop you from putting yourself out there so you can attract what you want. Fear, in this context, is an illusion. However, love is also an illusion, until you make it your reality. You can be inspired and driven by either fear or love. Which would you choose if you realized you had a choice?
You might be wondering, what are the conditions that will allow me to attract love? These conditions are all around you. They are where and how you live your life, and whom you surround yourself with. They are also represented in how you feel about yourself and others, the world, and the intentions you put out into the universe.
Love Can Be Your Reality
Love is not a thing that finds you, rather you become love, and by choice. You are capable of cultivating love, feeling it, and making a decision for love to be the driving force in your life. The notion of romantic love, in and of itself, can be the stuff of delusional fairy tales. There is no “soul mate”, and no Mr. or Mrs. Right. There is no “knight in shining armor” arriving astride a horse to rescue you from yourself. As I write these words, even to me they sound pessimistic. But it is necessary to embrace what is real to allow openness for love in your life. It’s important to have attraction, but there is no objective quality of attraction, as again attraction is a feeling that you create. Imagine how you would feel (or maybe you have already felt this) if romantic love was all you had with someone, and all someone could offer you? Chances are you would find some major holes in the plot line of that fairy tale.
In the context of dating, ask yourself how you show up. Are you putting yourself out there and then “waiting” for someone to measure up? Are you fishing for certain gestures or compliments, like how often they tell you that you look beautiful, to measure your love? These things may fill your self-esteem bucket, but are not the truest indicators of love.
Put Your Insecurities In The Backseat
In our second post in this series, we addressed the importance of seeing yourself through the lens of your values and strengths instead of your perceived flaws or weaknesses. This is crucial, because the act of dating can be a breeding ground for your worst insecurities and vulnerabilities. It can be helpful to know what those insecurities are and to name them, to put them in their proper place. In her book, A Return to Love, Reflections in the Principles of a Course in Miracles, Marianne Williamson famously states,“Our self-perception determines our behavior. If we think we’re small, limited, inadequate creatures, then we tend to behave that way, and the energy we radiate reflects those thoughts no matter what we do. If we think we’re magnificent creatures with an infinite abundance of love and power to give, then we tend to behave that way.”
Know Your Character Values and Personality Traits
We don’t see things as they are, but through the lens of our perceptions, shaped by our experiences in this world. Taking steps to systematically understand yourself can help you approach people and situations with more objectivity. One method to do this is through this free survey offered by the Via Institute. The survey will help you clarify your character strengths and virtues. There are many tools and resources out there to help you do this, the most well known being the Myers-Briggs personality test.
Understanding yourself helps you stay grounded and to appreciate the truest parts of yourself. Ask yourself, what do you want someone to notice and love about you? When others recognize and appreciate those same values and not just surface values, you are closer to love.
Pay attention to negative self-talk, which happens automatically without even thinking about it. Your inner bully will zoom in on your thunder thighs, receding hairline, raucous laugh, or whatever it is. The bully is likely paying a lot more attention to it than those around you. An eye-opening exercise is to track your negative self-talk for a day, write it down in a journal or the notes section of your phone and see what you come up with. It might surprise you that these messages are running as a constant dialogue in your head. Negative messages strip away your confidence and affect how you face the world.
Audit Your Social Life
Try to live a balanced life that allows the best parts of you to shine. If you find that your social activity is limited mostly to Facebook, then there may be some room to increase your visibility in the real world. On the other hand, if you are getting out but your evenings are being dominated by Hinge, Match, or Tinder dates, then you may not be allowing your whole self to thrive. These activities might fill the void of loneliness or boost your ego, but they may not allow you the space to grow into your complete self.
Try creating quality time with your friends and people who enrich your life. Instead of always being on the lookout for romantic partners, stay open to new friends. Meet Up groups, athletic leagues, activism, and religious or spiritual organizations are all great ways to meet people with mutual interests. If you can’t find a group that sparks your interest, then start one up yourself! Chances are, others will share the same interest. This can be especially helpful for people who have relocated and are living away from friends and family, or for anyone that finds their current social connections just aren’t meeting their needs.
People are often afraid to take the initiative. Be the one to extend the invite, throw the party, organize the outing, or even just make the reservation. Others will be glad to be a part of it. If this sounds like torture to you, for instance if you are shy or have social anxiety, the first step is to recognize your fear. With recognition, you can face your anxiety, and work towards eventually overcoming it. One helpful exercise is to objectively look at the various possible outcomes of any given action, rather than zeroing in on the worst possible outcome. Ask yourself, what is the probability, out of every possibility, that my negative prediction (i.e. I will end up rejected and humiliated) will come true?
A Note to Independent and Successful Women
Many women find that the higher they climb in their careers and the more secure and independent they are, the harder it is to find a suitable partner. This does not seem to be true for men. If you think this is the case for you, consider the fact that competent and secure men are attracted to powerful women, and are not afraid of being with someone who has more status, influence, or money than they have. Furthermore, pay attention to how your values and interests have changed over time. Chances are, you are giving insecure, weak men more power over you, and neglecting to see the ways that your values, passions, and interests have changed as a result of your growth, hard work, and success. Your options are more limited, but stay focused on quality over the quantity. It only takes one.
Kerrie Thompson, LCSW is a psychotherapist in FIDI Manhattan. Contact her here for a complimentary 15 minute consultation.