How to date and manage your self esteem

Dating should be great fun – meeting new people, getting a bit of romance, pushing your sexual boundaries – whatever you fancy. But all too often the reality is that dating can damage our self esteem.

A study by the Western Sydney University found that using swipe based dating apps, such as Tinder and Bumble, can result in feelings of distress, anxiety and depression – which is probably not the outcome you were aiming for.

The researchers believe that these negative feelings stem from the focus on image, which is a characteristic of most dating apps, and the temptation to unfavourably compare yourself to the competition.

As a counsellor, I’ve seen self-esteem suffer through comparison. And it can also take a bruising from rejection – a dating app double whammy. So, if you want to keep your dating life fun and flirty, and your self esteem high, then bear these three points in mind.

1. It’s not you, no really it’s not

You can be a 6 foot tall supermodel with the most charismatic and captivating personality in the country, but if he goes for petite introverts then you’re out of luck. And there’s not a thing you can do about that. So much of dating, and what we’re really attracted to is unconscious, and can’t be fully grasped by our conscious minds. Social psychologist, Madeleine A. Fugère, states that our hormones, attachment styles and implicit beliefs are usually all unconscious, but will have a significant impact on who we pick as a potential partner.

Beyond this, there’s so much evidence to suggest that people are attracted to what they’re familiar with, that it has its own title – the familiarity principle. People tend to pick partners who have traits similar to their opposite sex parent – for good or for bad. Not because that parent was amazing, but because what we’re familiar with makes us feel safe.

Although the big impact the unconscious has on our dating life sounds dispiriting, it can actually be reframed as freeing. All you can do is go out on your date ready to make a connection and be your most authentic self. That’s it. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you, or you’re not sexy/attractive/vibrant enough. It’s probably because you were unconsciously incompatible.

2. Know your worth

Being single is no reflection of your worth or intrinsic value. And being part of a couple does not mean that you are more attractive, loveable or prized. It just means that, for now, you have found a partner you can get along with. I don’t often turn to Miley Cyrus for wisdom, but her new song Flowers drives home the point that your most significant relationship is with yourself. And if your potential partner can complement this, and bring out the best in you, then why not take them along for the ride too?

3. Find ways to nourish yourself

Sometimes, in the depths of dating, we forget our worth. Dating apps cause our self esteem to dip. So we need to counteract this by surrounding ourselves with people, rituals and experiences that enliven and edify us.  Dating is usually a marathon, rather than a sprint. And rejection can be part of the dating experience – so can boring dates, bad dates and dates devoid of chemistry.

Finding ways to anchor yourself in the midst of these uncertain times is essential. Author of Know your Worth, Anna Mathur, says to bolster self-esteem, get clear on what self-care means to you.  And it’s not 8 hours of sleep a night, staying hydrated, and eating well. This is the bare minimum and is called survival. Rather, good self care is the next step up. It’s surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you. It’s reading a good book in a long, bubbly bath, or signing up to a pottery course. In short it’s finding that thing that makes your soul sing and then making the time to do it.

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