When you grab your toothbrush in the morning and look up at that person staring back at you in the mirror, what’s the first thought or feeling that comes to you? Are you happy with yourself? Or, are you displeased, dissatisfied, or just uncomfortable with the person staring back at you? If so, you may need to put your dating life on hold to make sure your next relationship is a healthy relationship full of happiness and fulfillment. But why?
Because if you don’t have positive or productive feelings about yourself, dating becomes fruitless, futile, or even downright dangerous to your health. This isn’t a speculation or theory — it’s a scientific truth.
If you encounter a moment where you realize your perception of yourself is less than positive (and it can take some time to realize this), it’s best to ignore dating altogether (as tempting as it may be) and focus solely on yourself. Putting this off, more often than not, ends in serious pain, and can even put you in unhealthy or unsafe circumstances.
So, how do you focus on yourself? And how long will it take before you can date again? The good news is, it doesn’t have to take long at all, as long as you get serious about this and make it a priority. Start by pausing for a moment to ask yourself: Am I happy? So many of us put happiness off by telling ourselves things like:
- “When I lose 20 pounds, I’ll be happy.”
- “When I get my next promotion, I’ll be happy.”
- “When I get my ideal relationship, I’ll be happy.”
- “When I move to (insert desired location), I’ll be happy.”
Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t work that way. At the risk of sounding cliché, happiness doesn’t come from anything outside of you, including a relationship. It comes from within. Everything external can be taken away at the snap of a finger, and then you know what you’re left with? Just you. So, are you enough to make yourself happy? If it’s not, realize nothing else will do it for you.
The weight of your struggles and pain can feel like a million tons sometimes. And it can be overwhelming. What most people don’t realize is, that’s okay. When you’re not “okay” with it, you seek to escape those struggles and pain through things external to you. But that’s only an illusion; you never actually escape them. This can be especially harmful if you’re trying to fill that hole with a relationship. Most of the time, we can’t help but date people who mirror us. Your unconscious mind will always seek out a partner who only validates and reaffirms your unproductive and negative feelings. But we’re not consciously aware that will happen. Consciously, we just feel “comfortable” around that person.
So, of course, we think they’ll make us happy. And it never ends up that way, does it? In reality, relationships like this can only dig the “hole” inside you deeper and deeper. But here’s the good news: once you do the work to be happy with yourself, you’ll only attract someone who adds to your happiness in the long run. You can’t do this, however, until you truly become happy with yourself. Now, this is not a new concept. We all already know, in one way or another, that if we don’t love ourselves, we can’t truly enjoy our lives. And we end up dating someone who reflects that, for better or for worse.
So let me ask you this: If it isn’t a new concept, why do so many of us continue doing it over and over? Why do we keep asking ourselves: Why can’t I find a man? The answer to that isn’t simple. There are a variety of reasons why you can know something logically but ignore it when your actual life is playing out. But the most common and simple explanation, for many people, is shame.
You might think it’s wrong to be like this and feel shameful for it. You try to hide it or ignore it. We often pretend we’re fine because we feel expectations to be that way. Then we end up pushing the unhealthy feelings down inside ourselves even more. The truth is, you can never hide it. It’s like trying to cover up dog poop with a five-dollar rug from Target instead of just cleaning it up. No matter how much you pretend otherwise, the dog poop is still there, and everyone in the room knows because they can smell it.
So, listen: You are not alone in this. There’s no use in pretending like everything’s perfect and you have it together all the time. That will only do more harm than good. And it would be much more destructive when it comes to the surface after being repressed than it would be if you just dealt with it now. Realize that it’s okay to be a work-in-progress. People will respect you for it and like you more if you’re open and authentic about it. They’ll see you as a real person, and that’s a breath of fresh air.
The truth is, no one has everything together. In reality, everyone’s pretending to an extent. So, it’s worth it to commit to this and get it handled. You are worth it. Now, once you commit to fixing this and making your next relationship the one you’ve always wanted, the next question is: How do you start generating positive, productive feelings about yourself? Oftentimes, we don’t even know why the “holes” we’re trying to fill are there. And it can be hard to pinpoint, too.
But if you’re like most people, this is where it probably started for you. In childhood, we were all given mantras by our elders — whether that was a parent, teacher, or coach — that are negative or limiting in nature, and we take them on as our own over the years. Everything we do and everyone we choose to have in our lives is rooted in these mantras. These mantras typically are none of your business since they weren’t created by you. But you have taken them on as your own.
Furthermore, these mantras are dangerous and damaging. They express themselves in the form of beliefs about themselves or paradigms through which they view their place in the world. Your mantras could be anything. For example, you may think you have to act in a certain way around people, whether it’s a positive or negative way. Otherwise, people won’t like you. One of your mantras might be about what you’re not capable of because it’s telling you that you’re inadequate. Another one might be that you have certain physical or personality features that are not acceptable to people no matter what you do.
Realize that those are all lies. Take the mantra (or rather, “lie”) you adopted years ago and discard it. Why? Because it’s not useful to you anymore — and frankly, it never was. It’s time to construct new mantras for yourself. Mantras that are encouraging and full of hope and show your true potential. Here’s one you can start with: You are enough all by yourself. You don’t have to be a certain way or do anything. Just you — you are enough. Go ahead and feel that right now.
How you feel internally — specifically, the degree to which you accept, value, and trust yourself — will have a direct impact on not only your dating experiences but also on the quality of the person you end up dating. When you feel confident and comfortable in your skin, you operate from a secure place, where your standards match your self-assurance and expectations.
Finally, I want you to make a pact with me that from this moment on, you’ll start truly accepting, trusting, and loving yourself at your core. This is not going to happen overnight — it’s a process. But once you take only the first couple steps of your journey, you’ll be shocked to see how gratifying and amazing life is for you, and how truly empowered you’re capable of feeling.
Diana Mandell is a certified dating coach and relationship expert. She has been featured on NBC News, Entrepreneur, Maxim, Chicago Tribune, and more.