In 2016, I am trying to put my new dating and life philosophy, Commit or Quit, into practice. January’s dating endeavours taught me that perhaps I am being a bit too strict with my criteria, so my aim for February was to relax the rules slightly, and see what happened…
My plans were almost immediately thwarted when I was pretty much incapacitated by sudden back pain so severe I actually cried, which made me feel like a pathetic specimen of womankind because like most people, I have a tendency to be really hard on myself. This led to an enforced 6-week break from work, my social life and….drum roll followed by a dark symphony….DATING! Which may well have turned out to be one of the best things to have ever happened to me.
After enduring a couple of weeks of excruciating pain and heavy-duty prescription medication, I was feeling exhausted, tearful and thoroughly fed up. This is often how I feel after yet another frustrating round of bad online dates, but in this case the pain was actually physical! I ended up spending most of a day of laying on the sofa, crying and feeling sorry for myself, until I reminded myself that Commit or Quit could also apply in this situation. I could quit, wallow, continue to cancel all my plans, and just give up, meaning that my back pain would get worse rather than better and the negative spiral would continue.
So instead, I started to set myself a daily goal, and committed to achieving this no matter what the pain or stiffness levels in my back. Initially my goal was walking to my local shops, which under normal circumstances are less than 5 minutes away. The first time, it took me almost 20 minutes but the sense of achievement was far higher than expected. And the first time I limped slowly and painfully to my local park and stopped to listen to the birds singing and admire the early daffodils, I was on a bit of a high.
It was at this point that I discovered Project Love’s 28 Days of Love Project. The aim, starting on Valentine’s Day, was to do one act of self-love every day for a month. Now call me childish, but previously when I have heard the words “self-love” I have either giggled slightly at the innuendo or dismissed it as slightly hippyish pop psychology. But this time, I was willing to try anything to make myself feel a bit better.
Self-love and self-esteem seem to be used quite interchangeably these days, but I think they are different. For me, self-esteem comes from the things I achieve and my sense of satisfaction with my life. There are a few different components to self-esteem all of which can regularly shift and change, such as our perceptions about how well we are doing in life overall, the quality of our relationships with others, our jobs and hobbies, our general health and well-being, how good we think we look and how we feel about that…and I think the ability to self-love is one of these components.
For me, self-love is primarily about being kind to myself, giving myself a break and accepting my feelings as they are. It is about listening to that critical voice that tells me I’m pathetic, should not be feeling fed up, that others have it so much worse, and being able to answer it back and say “but hang on a minute, I’m currently physically unable to do any activities that usually give me pleasure and satisfaction, so it’s not surprising I’m feeling at rock bottom and crying on the sofa, and that’s OK”. It is allowing myself to feel the full range of human emotions, and not to tell myself off for it, but to be vulnerable, to cry, to rant and rally against the world and my back muscles; but ultimately, after all of that, it is about then working out what the best course of action is for me and what I REALLY need. Even if my critical voice tells me that what I feel I need to do is “selfish” or that other people might disapprove (which it usually does), self-love is making a commitment to do it anyway, because I know it is right.
This is my own personal version of self-love, but a good potted guide to the basic principles can be found here.
All the evidence suggests that if we can learn to be kinder and more accepting of ourselves, warts and all, there are vast psychological benefits. As well as raising self-esteem, it changes the way we interact with others and the world and improves our relationships because it increases our sense of satisfaction, contentment and happiness. Which could only be good for dating, right? In just one month I would transform from slightly grumpy and frustrated me into happy and contented me = super awesome and fabulously attractive! So I decided to commit to a month of self-love, to see if it really does deliver all these promised miracles.
I incorporated some treats and enjoyable activities into my list, but on a more basic level this was about properly looking after myself. Project Love suggested writing a list of 28 possible activities – easy, I thought. I started on the list…came up with 8 things…then 10…and then I drew a blank. My critical voice piped up immediately with “come on woman, that’s a terrible effort, surely you can do better than that” – the antithesis of self-love. So I gave myself permission to write the list as I went along rather than doing it all at once – my first act of self-love.
The 28 days passed in a happy haze of beautiful bunches of spring flowers; slow walks in the park and the woods listening to the birds singing and watching spring emerging; taking time over tea and cake in many cafes, with friends or alone; cooking myself tasty and healthy meals; getting lots of sleep; taking my time over decisions; and seeing a counsellor and an osteopath. I also made a big effort to actively ask people for help and support, something I find very difficult; to look after my back in as many ways as I could; and to have a good cry and let myself feel fed up whenever I needed to.
I felt AMAZING, and I highly recommend giving project love a try.
The only downer during this time was that I had continued to message people on the online dating site I was using, and three times in a row, after they had suggested meeting up, when it came to make the plans I never heard from them again. Off to the Date and Dragon they go! So in another act of self-love, I decided to quit online dating.
I realised that all it really achieves for me is activating my most unhelpful beliefs about myself, and that after an initial burst of enthusiasm which generally lasts 3-4 weeks, I start to feel frustrated about the amount of effort I seem to be making for minimum gain, and then start to feel despondent and that I must be the most unattractive, boring and generally repellent woman alive to be dismissed by so many men (my good old critical voice, again). And I wondered…why am I doing this to myself? I was feeling pretty content with my life by this stage, beginning to think that a cat would be a much better companion than a man, and wondering why on earth I’m trying to rush into finding a new relationship when I have only been single for 2 years and actually, I’d quite like some more time to enjoy this.
So to celebrate being back on my feet and able to resume normal life, and feeling invigorated and confident after my month of self-love, I have decided to approach dating with a “just for fun” attitude and will be reporting back soon on how I am trying to meet new men the old-fashioned way; in person and off-line! I shall be back on the tlfw blog soon with an update.
Find out what happened next & where Briony is now with her dating journey…