Here’s How Loving Myself Changed The Way I Date Online

loving myself changed the way I date online
Photo by Jon Ly

Loving myself completely changed the way I date online.

Let me explain by taking you back three years ago.

I had just changed colleges and was having a hard time meeting people. I wasn’t a partier, didn’t do many extracurricular activities, and had attended really small classes. So I felt like the chances of me meeting a guy in real life were very slim.

One of my friends told me to try Bumble, saying, “People don’t meet in person anymore. Get with the times.”

So, I crafted a profile on Bumble.

I added the perfect blend of pictures to attract the type of guy I thought I wanted; adding in a bikini picture and a gym selfie to show off the body I worked for, and that I wasn’t the typical girl that just did cardio. I was strong and fierce; guys think they like that. I added a touch of sass in the bio, declaring, “Guys love a gal who works out until she lifts more than him.

Daring, while not disclosing what I was there for or what I wanted. It was funny and flirty. It was perfect.

But it wasn’t me.

My profile was perfect bait for what I thought would be the perfect guy. A tantalising conversation starter that would leave unmet expectations of another beautiful, carefree girl here to be adored, flirted with, and leave no impact. Nameless. Blameless. A way to pass the time.

As I swiped, I looked at pictures and read bios. Pictures first, of course. Looking back, I realise that I swiped right on the guys that I thought would impress people. Tall, muscular, doctor or lawyer types with a “good” background and some kind of aspirations. I steered clear of the partiers and those looking for a one-night stand.

I knew in my heart I wanted a relationship, even though when they’d ask, I’d reply, “I don’t know. Not something casual, I’m just meeting new people I guess.” Code for: I want a relationship, but I am not brave enough to tell you because then you might ghost me.

That was my fear: getting ghosted. Rejection. I would tell him anything, be anyone, so long as I wasn’t ghosted. I could ghost like the cousin of Casper on Halloween. But I would not be ghosted.

I became an expert at the perfect first lines; so much so my friends would ask me for first lines to their matches. I was there, not to find the perfect connection, but to validate myself. I lived for the butterflies brought on by a good round of flirting; and the compliments that could have easily been copied and pasted from a conversation with a hundred different girls. It was enough for him to be nice and show an interest in me.

I loved to be adored. I loved to be fawned over. And I was there to be accepted and feel seen.

Now, please don’t write me off as a shallow, self-absorbed girl with daddy issues. I know, now, that this was a self-love issue.

I would talk to guys who liked me, because it validated me; and I’d confuse that feeling with true connection. I needed the validation from others because I failed to derive it from myself. I secretly loathed myself; and hearing guys compliment me, want to spend time with me, and continue to talk to me lessened the blow of that self-loathing I had stored up for years.

I tried to impress rather than connect with someone; and because of that, I was never my true self.

I actually got into a couple of relationships, but they never lasted. There’s only so long you can pretend to be something you aren’t and pursue a connection with someone where there isn’t one. At the end of the day, you’ll realize you don’t really have anything in common with the other person.

If you’re just there for the validation, and it stops coming, then what do you really have?

I took three years off dating to work on myself. I use the terms “work on myself” as a cover for “become really cynical about men.” Yes, I worked on loving myself. My confidence grew, but so did my suspicion of dating.

What if we are all just looking for validation?

What if no one falls in love anymore, we are just looking for someone to pass the time with?

How will I know? Can I ever be myself?

Now that I love myself, can someone else still?

Dating for validation is so much less risky, because you never let the person truly see you. You let them see what they like so that they will stick around. Dating from a place of true self-love and vulnerability is scary.

Was I ready for that?

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to get back into the dating scene. My friends encouraged me to download Hinge to “get back out there,” which is code for “it’s been so long and we are worried you don’t even know how to talk to males without offending them or being rude.

As I was creating my profile, I noticed something different. I was choosing pictures that actually showed who I was, not just perfect Instagram boxes heavily edited on FaceTune. I was writing a bio that shared my interests and what I wanted. And I was matching with guys that I actually had something in common with; not just the ones I thought would make me look good or were desirable in theory.

Without realising it, learning to love myself changed the way I approached dating.

I loved myself enough to validate myself, and that freedom made it easier for me to look for someone who I could actually see myself liking. Not just liking the idea of, but actually enjoying talking and getting to know them.

I was able to stop talking to the ones I couldn’t see going anywhere. I stopped ghosting and was honest; saying, “You’re really nice, but I don’t see this going anywhere” or “I think we want different things.”

It wasn’t enough for him to be interested in me, I also had to be interested in him.

I took rejection easier, knowing that if it was for me, it would happen, and if it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t.

I told the truth about myself, the entire truth, and let the other person decide if that was for them.

It was freeing.

Loving myself completely changed the way I date online.

Online dating can be scary. Any type of dating can be scary. It’s inviting people to judge you and possibly reject you.

The buzz that comes with scoring a match or a date can be invigorating and ego-boosting, but it will never fill you up. What will fill you up is first loving yourself, and then exploring that love in other people.

There are a lot of nice people out there, but just because someone is nice and fits your idea of a perfect match does not make them perfect for you.

Dating from a place of self-love is reassuring because you know, no matter how many ghosts you have or how many rejections come your way, you are worthy as you are; and there is someone out there for you, somewhere, who will recognise and honour that worth.

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