When I was looking for a man, I spent most of my twenties walking around with a metaphorical sign on my forehead reading “Hey you…don’t worry about treating me right because I don’t treat myself right”. It’s taken a while for me to realise that this self-talk isn’t just mindless chatter, it was ingrained into my interactions and beaming out like I literally had a sign on my forehead.The very essence of dating is to find somebody to love us, treat us right and respect us and yet it’s a struggle to find the one who can do that.
Wasting Time on Bad Dates
Let me take you back to the old me…eager to date, even more, eager to find a relationship and equipped with a subconscious list of likes and dislikes for a potential match. Must have a good sense of humour…must be loyal…must treat me like a princess…none of these were inaccurate and even nowadays, although slightly more refined, I still look for similar qualities in a man I would consider dating. Why was this so impossible to find? What was wrong with me? Why did I struggle to meet a match? And why, the biggest WHY, did I ever go on so many awful dates knowing too well before I even left the house, they were terrible? Can you relate to this?
Time to own up. Maybe I didn’t end up with the best pic of the bunch (shhh…don’t tell my ex) but it’s taken me years and countless first dates to figure out that it’s not about them. Nor is it about how they treated me, the sleepless nights when my ex wouldn’t come home or the times he would sit and tell me “Steph, I only date plain looking girls…oh isn’t she beautiful” commenting on some other woman on the TV or internet whilst categorising me as the plain, inferior girl he had handpicked to date!! No…what this is really about is how I treated ME. I spent far too long focussed on what I wanted in somebody else and accepting the criticism that I forgot the somebody staring back at me in the mirror.
Do I look Fat in This?
Forgot is the wrong choice of words, I spent plenty of time criticising my look, seeking approval and double guessing myself. It’s those classic lines we use all the way through the dating process where we question ourselves, “are you sure I look OK in this?” “Does this make me look fat?” that subconsciously shoots us down before we even leave the house. I don’t know how many times I have done this to myself and what is worrying is just how natural it was. The confident, independent career driven version of myself got left behind and out came this doubtful, self-critical, unsure girl who then expected to get treated like the person I really am and even worse, I actually recall having to describe this person…I even knew deep down I wasn’t naturally portraying who I was.
This was far more involved than just “you can’t be happy with someone else until you’re happy with yourself” ... at this point in life I believed I was happy, I lived a great lifestyle, did what I wanted when I wanted and wasn’t in search of more. However, I wasn’t aware of my self-talk and the damage this was doing. I probably didn’t even consciously understand that before I could ever have a successful relationship with someone else, I had to have at least an OK relationship with myself. Every time I looked in that mirror and criticised myself, both the literal and metaphorical mirror, I wasn’t treating myself very nice, I wasn’t respecting myself and I certainly wasn’t loving myself. Now, after working long and hard on my issues with self-love and self-confidence, it makes complete sense to me…what I was giving out, I was getting back, like a punch in the face. The more bad energy I gave out about how I felt about myself was directly proportional to the level of self-respect I had and in return, the respect I could demand from somebody else. The people we entertain in our lives are simply acting as mirrors, reflecting back to us how we treat ourselves.
Check your Metaphorical Mirror
See this might sound cheesy but I really was searching for someone back then to love me, treat me right and respect me. I was looking for me. And it has been a long journey of truly unsuccessful relationships, dreadful dates and to be fair, a few amazing men who came along just a bit too soon on my journey.
How did I change this and how can you recognise the effects your relationship with yourself is having on your dating life?
Self-talk and how it influences your self-worth, self-respect and confidence are all intertwined. You cannot say you are successfully working on your confidence until you start recognising the negative self-talk and assessing how you treat yourself. I know it isn’t easy to admit but go on, I dare you to ask yourself are you treating yourself, right? This isn’t just for the single people, sometimes in a relationship, we can lose ourselves even more.
- Do you tell yourself negative things when you look in the mirror? For every time you recognise having a negative conversation with yourself I want you to crowd it out. Take that thought and however uncomfortable it feels at first, replace it with 3 positive comments. Say them out loud and remember the ratio must be 3:1. Gradually this will change your thought process.
- Try a gratitude journal, get to know yourself again or for the first time ever and write down what you’re grateful for in you, your strengths and what lights YOU up…by focussing on the good stuff, slowly there is no room left for the negative.
- Love thyself – pencil time into your diary for you and prioritise it. This is not a treat or a once every 3 months, a spare couple of hours, spur of the moment bit of time to yourself. It is an absolute necessity that you incorporate some of the stuff that makes you most happy…take yourself on a date, read a book, book a spa…whatever it is, do it well and fill yourself up!!
- Respect yourself and start recognising your strengths and how they make you unique, special and great. Ask yourself, “what do I bring to the table?” and answer it in an abundance of love, respect and compassion. You, just the way you are, are enough and will be a welcomed addition to the right person’s life.
- Start focussing on the values you want from to attract in someone else. And I am not talking about the “must be over 6ft, earn over £50k a year, have green eyes” type stuff, you need to ask yourself what you deserve, what you require in terms of characteristics, personality traits and values and begin to see how you actually recognise them as opposed to the superficial things we see or find out we first meet someone.