When it comes to protecting yourself from loving the wrong person, you can forget solely relying on your list of deal-breakers. It turns out that our thoughts about ourselves are way more influential than we realize in determining the quality of person we connect with. I’m talking about the “not enough” greatest hits that haunt even the most confident daters: I’m not successful enough. I’m not fit enough. I’m not funny enough. I don’t take enough fish oil supplements. Or we feel bad about where we are in our lives. We should be married by now. We should have had children by now. We feel ashamed that we got dumped or divorced – or haven’t had a partner for the past decade. Or maybe we could never keep a relationship going longer than three months.
It’s a simple truth: How we feel about ourselves determines whom we attract into our lives. It’s almost as if we’re broadcasting: “Hey, I feel totally inadequate. You do, too? Let’s hang out.” No matter how much we pretend we’ve got scintillating self-esteem – walking with our shoulders back, skillfully mentioning our achievements or forcing ourselves to smile – it’s a waste of time unless we can change our internal dialogue.
So, how do you get good with yourself?
1) Find your own hero narrative
Our lives are never static. We’re strivers at heart. We’re always trying to overcome something or improve ourselves in ways big and small. Find that story that gives meaning to your own struggle or journey. Feeling bad that your last relationship ended? Congratulate yourself for having the courage to leave what wasn’t working so you have the chance to find something that better meets your needs.
Not thrilled about where you are in your career, finances, fitness level or meditation schedule? Stop chastising yourself with ruminations, such as “I’ve got to lose this weight!” or “I’ve got to make more money!” Remind yourself of what you’re doing to meet your goals – even if they’re just intentions. Try saying to yourself “I plan to work on finding more income streams” or “I ran a 5K last year and would like work up to a half-marathon” or “I’m trying to find an eating approach that will help me lose these 20 pounds.” These little shifts shape how we see ourselves and communicate to others that we’re comfortable in our own skin and in control of our lives. There’s also something touching about others expressing their vulnerability instead of faking that they’ve got everything together.
Forming a positive personal story is also good for our mental health. Research from Emory University found that children who identified with a strong family narrative, such as moving to another country or city in search of opportunity, had better self-esteem and were more likely to bounce back from trauma than those who didn’t.
2) Acknowledge everything you’re doing right
I recently went on a long car ride with a friend who after describing her disappointment with a few mini-relationships that failed to blossom into toe-curling love affairs showed off her skill at making these shifts. “Wait a minute!,” she exclaimed. “I should be proud that I’m at least out there. There are so many people who do nothing.” She couldn’t have been more right. Who doesn’t know someone who loves complaining about the lack of love in his or her life but does nothing to help the cause?
Praise everything you do do. You took the initial steps to write a profile. You do the daily work of emailing, texting and planning dates. You show up for dates and sometimes have to suffer through boring conversation. You spend money. You pay babysitters. You put on lip gloss or your best shirt. You take a deep breath and make yourself go into the bar and smile. You risk rejection by asking for the next date or zooming in for the kiss. You thought a first date went well only to get a text back, “It was nice to meet you, but I don’t feel any chemistry.” Still, you dust yourself off and do it all over again.
So talk to yourself nicely. Be okay with yourself. Treasure yourself. You’ll boost your chances of finding someone who will treasure you, too.
Have you thought about your internal dialogue? Are you being kind to yourself?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate and Salon.