Original Dating has teamed up with dating expert, Jerry O'hare to bring you a series of practical articles based on his forthcoming book, Daring to Date, due to be published later in the year. Over to Jerry, enjoy!
If you're signing up for the first time to a dating event, you should feel good about it. You've taken a step that others would feel too nervous or uncertain about. And it's a step that could change your life.
That's one possibility.
The other is that you'll just have a great night out and meet some really interesting people. So either way, what's there to lose?
Not a lot if we approach dating in the right way.
But the truth is that putting yourself out there to meet someone special can be the most gut wrenching, unpredictable, sometimes disappointing but always exhilarating experience of your life. So it's good to be prepared!
In this series of short blogs, I want to provide some good groundwork by going back to some 'dating fundamentals' that will be a near guarantee of a good first encounter.
Putting yourself out there will require as much attention to what's going on, on the inside. That means a little self-reflection, yes, call it navel gazing. The dating experience will bring out some things you never knew about yourself because you're potentially becoming emotionally engaged to a new person.
So first we need to look at the first dating fundamental, our self-esteem. How might you feel about yourself, especially in relation to how others may see you?
The Look in the Mirror Cliché
How many times have you been told to look in the mirror and tell yourself what you see? Probably one of the more pointless self-help exercises because I'll bet that how you view yourself in the mirror has pretty much nothing in common with how others view you. They may like what they see, when you don't at all. They may not be that impressed when you think you're the bee's knees or they may not even think anything significant at all. But in the end what does it matter, you have to live with you, they don't.
It's impossible to be truly objective about yourself but it is possible to feel positive about yourself, regardless of the commentary that comes back from your reflection (or other people). It goes without saying that if you're not feeling good about you, you will struggle terribly when dating other people. This is because your self-perception will become how you project yourself and that will affect how people look at you.
It acts as a vicious or virtuous circle. If you're always down on yourself, people will believe that too. What have they got to think otherwise? Conversely good self-perception leads to good relationships. It's just that getting there can sometimes feel a difficult process.
It doesn't help when society adds some hurdles along the way. Images of perfect body shapes bombard us daily which can cause huge anxiety for women and now even more men. And to add to that there are even more pressures around career, status and attainment. If that wasn't enough, we’re persuaded to spend more money on things that will supposedly make us happy or change us into a different self that we and others will love more. Looking in the mirror has never been more fraught!
The thing is to get beyond the focus of how others see you to how you see yourself and there are some basic things you can do to change your self-perception. This is the basis of good self-esteem. Here's a couple of things to be mindful of to build a good self-perception.
Put on your best self - not a false self
You will have a best self and that’s the one to show. We're much too complex to come across fully to someone in one meeting or date!
But we can project our most positive and genuine self without coming across as scarily happy or a bit mad.
This best self doesn’t obsess about income or attainment but it promotes personal character and strengths. You will be loved and appreciated by friends and family for qualities they can see in you. Knowing them and valuing them in yourself is the solid foundation that must be laid. Our backgrounds, upbringing and experiences will always have a major bearing on our self-image and therefore our relationships. We all deserve the best for ourselves, not least because we carry a uniqueness unlike anybody else on the planet!
I should add one thing, the mirror you look in to see yourself is a little more convex than a proper mirror. The best mirror will always be someone else who truly loves you. They will be able to see you best for who you are the more they get to know you better. Just ask any parent, sibling, close friend and best of all, long term lover.
Confidence - that other cliché
It's widely known, confidence is key to successful dating. Everybody feels at ease with someone who is at ease with themselves. Easier said than done because it’s easy to ‘act confident’ but still feel insecure at the same time. So I prefer to use the words self-assured, this rings truer to me. From there confidence is natural and not forced.
The confident self-assuredness I’m talking about is also like an inner calm that is genuine because you actually feel it. Yes, dating will bring out inevitable nerves but they should be more like ripples on the surface. Eventually they should settle back into the reassurance about who I truly am. It sounds obvious and easy but it’s not actually commonly felt because our reflections, or inner critic, may be saying stuff that isn’t particularly helpful. Meeting a complete stranger with the possibility of intimacy is traumatic enough so it’s doubly difficult if we aren’t our own best friend and support. So how do we get to that magical place of inner calm?
It needn’t be difficult nor require the practice of Zen (though that could come in handy). All you need to do is just to accept yourself and say ‘I’m ok for now', regardless of how thing’s turn out, I’m still me, the me that I know so well, like and have kind of gotten used to over the years. The me that other people enjoy hanging around with. I don't need to be reliant on someone else's validation in dating.
That's easy to say and harder to make real. That's why asking yourself if you are feeling unhelpfully nervous or lacking in confidence, why that is the case. Is it a fear of rejection? A lack of trust? A fear of being hurt? Is your desire for the other person over-taking your normal cool headedness? Those are the most common reasons. Where possible, take a step back, suspend your hopes and fears and be prepared to let go. Why? Because here's the amazing irony, in being able to lose someone (who really is just an ordinary person) you're more likely to find them.
It's not always that serious
At the outset I've outlined something so important and serious to dating, I'm at risk of it all sounding, well, a little too intense.
Not at all. If you've got a lot of the inner work taken care of, the opposite will be the case. You'll come across as anything but intense or even worse, desperate.
Instead you'll be as close as you can to being cool, calm, genuine, open, focused on the other person and the real deal. That's liberating and dare I say, sexy.
Go well for the first date!
Jerry O'Hare is a recently married, one time regular dater, freelance blogger and author of his forthcoming title, "The Lore of Dating". On writing about relationships, Jerry hopes we can remove any 'weirdness' from the dating experience by simply doing dating better. His advice is based on plenty of personal experience as well as some age old (and modern) wisdom on finding genuine love.