Throw Away The Dating Books
I didn’t kiss a girl in high school.
I knew that wasn’t normal because every one of my friends and family members has had dating and relationship experiences in high school.
All of my friends on the basketball team we’re either in a relationship or dating someone at school. My brother was dating many girls. My dad, mom, and aunt would talk about their high school sweethearts often.
I knew I needed to change, so in college, I started reading self-help books.
After fifty-something titles and a lot of practice, I became a serial dater and was seen as a lady’s man.
But I never felt at ease in my initial conversations or longer-term relationships.
When I was working at Starbucks, I would meet attractive women often. Each time one would come to the register, anxiety would kidnap my body.
“What should I say? How’s my body language? I need to say something funny and witty. I need to appear confident. Make good eye contact. Don’t try too hard.”
Often I would say something funny and notice that they liked me, but the angst never disappeared, and I’d eventually mess things up.
My first committed relationship lasted three months. I’d feel anxious before, during, and after spending time with her.
I’d rehearse in my head how I needed to act before hanging out with her and debrief how I should’ve acted after hanging out with her.
Many of the books I read give you tips and tricks about getting someone to like you, but they never worked permanently.
They were like band-aids. They covered the wounds but never healed them.
I’m grateful for everything I’ve learned, and the information was helpful, but not when you believe you’re not good enough and you need “techniques” to get someone to like you.
It took years for me to unlearn many of the things I spent years studying. Honestly, I’m still unraveling layers of facade and reconnecting to my core.
The more band-aids I peel off and the more wounds I attend to, the more success I experience in my dating life.
My dating life and interpersonal relationships have become more straightforward, common sense, and intuitive.
Why Tips & Tricks Don’t Work
The initial frame of the interaction and relationship is of utmost importance. If you believe you’re inferior to the person you desire, the exchange and connection won’t be successful.
Even if you succeed and get the person to like you, the interaction and relationship will eventually fail because you’ll have to maintain the same behaviors that got their affection.
Let’s say you think you have to “do something” to get a person to like you.
“What should I say? What should I do?”
You crack a couple of jokes; they laugh and find you attractive. Because you believe they only like you because you’re funny, you overdo it and become a “try-hard,” and they begin to lose attraction.
Or, because you believe you tricked them into liking you, you feel uneasy every day in the relationship. You fear if you stop doing x (behavior), you’ll be exposed, and they’ll stop liking you and will leave you.
If you believe you’re not as good as the person you’re attracted to and have to “do something” to get them to like you, you won’t be authentic, feel at ease, and set boundaries — all behaviors that will lead to unhealthy or temporary relationships.
You prioritize external validation if you:
- Feel anxious or self-conscious around the person you’re attracted to
- Feel like you need to “do something” to get them to like you
- Don’t express your genuine thoughts and feelings
- Try and control the way they view you
- Self-sacrifice or over-compensate
- Say yes you when you want to say no
- Say no when you want to say yes
- Don’t set boundaries
- Act interested in everything they say
- Answer every question they ask
- Feel like you need to explain yourself
Why We Want External Validation
We believe their approval says something about us.
If we get this person to like us, that means we’re cool, attractive, or not unattractive. If we’re cool or attractive, then we can finally approve of ourselves.
“I must be cool if I got this girl to like me” or “I’m not as big of a loser as I think if she likes me.”
Cause of External Validation
We seek the approval of others to combat or neutralize shame. There are many causes of shame, but here are the ones responsible for external relational validation.
1. The lack of approval from parents. Our parents are the first relationship we experience. If we don’t get the love and acceptance we need from that relationship, we’ll seek it in others.
2. Misinformation from mainstream media and trusting figures. Movies, music, books, Instagram, friends, and family have installed in us false narratives such as the man should chase the girl and be “nice,” or the girl should be self-sacrificing and overly “feminine.”
3. Marketing. To sell a product, a company has to make you believe you’re not good enough the way you are, so you “need” to buy their shirt, hair wax, or diet book to be attractive and adequate. The subtle dose of lack in their advertising affects your view of self. Once the shirt doesn’t make you happy, you get the haircut. You look good with your clothes on, but without, not so much, you buy the diet book. Your shirt is name brand, your haircut is the newest style, and you have a six-pack, but you still feel inadequate.
Maybe a girlfriend will do the trick?
There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. The intention behind your actions is more important than the actions themselves.
Are you buying the shirt to get someone to like you? Or, even worse, to get you to like you?
Or, are you buying the shirt because you genuinely like the shirt?
How To Become Internally Validated
To become internally validated and feel comfortable and confident in your interactions and relationships, you have to heal the pockets of shame within your personality.
To do this, you have to become whole again. As newborns, we are our most confident and secure. Over time outer influences (the three causes of external validation) negatively affect our personality.
We create internal identity splits when we view parts of ourselves as “bad,” negative, inferior, or inadequate, and other parts “right,” positive, superior, or adequate.
To become whole, you have to integrate the aspects of yourself you suppress, alter, or reject. To do this, you have to accept yourself unconditionally.
Unconditional acceptance isn’t easy. You might not accept particular characteristics for just reasons, but the shame around these features causes your need for external validation. It’s also lowering your self-esteem, confidence, and professional and personal success.
To accept the aspects of yourself that are difficult, you have to practice self-compassion.
Self-compassion is the act of being kind to yourself.
Self-love can’t exist without self-compassion.
Mindfulness is a discipline of self-compassion. You can’t accept the thoughts and feelings you’re not aware of.
Periodically throughout your day, take inventory of how you’re feeling.
Ask yourself, “how am I feeling?’
Regardless of the answer, validate your internal experience: “It’s OK. It’s normal to have these thoughts and feelings. Everything’s OK”.
“It’s OK” eliminates the shame and judgment around your inner experience and allows you to accept it unconditionally.
Becoming whole, self-compassion, and mindfulness can seem very technical. Theological understanding and techniques are useful, especially in the beginning. But I’ll exemplify what it feels like “energetically” to be internally validated or whole.
Energy and Healing
I’m not the biggest spiritual person or a fan of the subject, so I’ll use “energy” and emotion interchangeably.
When you’re externally validated or carry a lot of shame within your soul (so spiritual), you feel anxious, timid, alert, stiff, and emotionally heavy.
When you begin to become internally validated and release shame, you’ll feel peaceful, content, confident, excited, and emotionally light.
So, focus on shifting negative emotions without force to the positive ones.
Forcing your energy would look like “positive thinking” or feeling like you need to change your current inner experience because it isn’t “right” or useful.
There are moments and situations for positive thinking or controlling your emotions. But again, the intention is more important than the action itself.
Positive thinking to alter “negative” thoughts or feelings causes more harm than good.
You can healthily alter your emotional state by letting go of resistance to what is and allowing your energy to flow like a wave.
Self-compassion and mindfulness will help you reconnect to positive emotions and use them as a reference to base your internal experience.
You’re on the right path if you:
- Feel comfortable around the person you’re attracted to
- Don’t over-analyze your words or behaviors
- Express yourself freely
- Don’t feel the need to “do something” to get them to like you
- Realize being “normal” is OK
- Express your true thoughts and feelings
- Say yes and no with ease
- Set boundaries
- Part-take in hobbies without the other’s approval
- Engage in dialogue that resonates with you
- Answer questions that feel right to answer
- Want to explain yourself
I knew (or know) I was on the right track when my general “energy” was more fluid, light, and graceful, and I wasn’t trapped in my head over-analyzing what I should say or do.
When I see a girl I’m attracted to, yes, I still get nervous, but I don’t judge my anxiety and try and change it. Accepting my fear is accepting myself.
When I do this, I feel more calm and confident. Also, by letting the fear dissipate, I allow old approval-seeking behavior to wash away.
I can hold a genuine conversation and make it playful and light without effort because that’s how I emotionally feel in my body.
Another sign I was making progress was when I let go of trying to get every girl to like me.
I don’t feel the need to force a connection because I don’t need to “get her” to prove anything to myself. I don’t need her to feel good about myself.
Instead, I’ve become the buyer, not the seller. I’m subtly screening her to see if she’s right for me.
My fear of rejection is minimal because I’ve realized I’m not meant to be liked by every girl, and I’m not meant to like every girl.
The Juice is Worth the Squeeze
Fear, anxiety, and stress don’t have to be the common feelings associated with dating and relationships.
Also, rejection and heartbreak don’t have to be common occurrences in romantic life.
Once you heal inner wounds and repair your relationship with yourself, dating becomes what it’s supposed to be — fun, exciting, and full of love.
Be kind to yourself. Accept yourself unconditionally.
“I’m feeling X (emotion), and that’s OK.”
“I’m X (attribute or characteristic), and that’s OK.”
“Everything’s going to be OK.”
Unapologetically express yourself and connect with people you’re meant to connect with.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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