No matter where you are on the dating continuum, it’s always a good idea to step back and take stock of your readiness. So, if you are already in the dating pool, or if you are thinking about dipping your toe back in, or if you are worried that you may never be ready to take the plunge into the deep end again—take a close look at where you are.
This will call for a close analysis of your motives, your emotions, and your attitudes towards putting yourself out there and connecting romantically with other human beings. That’s what dating is, and when you think about it, it really is a pretty big deal! No one blames you for having qualms or concerns. Even if you don’t have any, I still advise you to take a deep breath and figure out what is going on inside you.
Are you dating for recreation or to find your ideal match?
The first step to successful dating is to figure out what you want from the experience. Why do you want to meet someone? It sounds like a simple question with a simple answer, but it isn’t really. There are often many factors influencing your decision to date and not everyone comes from the same place—and that’s okay. Do you want to start dating because you are lonely? Because you want to have some fun and enjoy life? Or maybe because you are ready for commitment? Whatever your reasons are, being clear about what you want and why is the key to feeling satisfied with the result of your dating journey.
How do you feel about putting yourself out there?
Do you feel confident and optimistic or maybe a little hesitant or nervous? If the latter, how can you translate that (understandable) uneasiness into a positive, self-assured outlook? You can focus on your uniqueness, your special “you” identity, and the wonderful things you can bring to a relationship. If you have a hard time doing that, try this trick. Think about someone who really knows you well, and loves you. Your best friend. Your mom. Your kids. What would that person say about you, if asked? Be honest and let the imaginary other person wax poetic about how wonderful you are. Now, believe what you hear, own it, realize it is all true! A strong, certain knowledge of both your inside and outside self will give you the confidence to enter the dating pool seamlessly. And remember—what is on the outside reflects the inside—your intentions, wishes, beliefs, and sense of yourself. Use body language such as your smile, an open posture and eye contact to convey confidence and readiness to meet and connect. Even if you have not totally mastered the confidence yet, you can use your behavior and body to manifest it. Act it and it will come! (See my blog titled Do You Speak Body Language).
Are you afraid of rejection?
This topic deserves a paragraph of its own. Whether you are already dating or just hoping to, fear of rejection could be getting in your way. This is a very natural fear, but one you do not have to fall prey to. “But rejection hurts!” I can hear you saying. “How can I not fear that pain?” A tiny adjustment in your outlook and beliefs about rejection is called for. Realize that no one can make you feel rejected without your permission. Your disappointment over the end of a relationship or the failure of a relationship to get off the ground stems from your own beliefs about why you were rejected. Whatever the case, the reasons given, the reasons implied, the fears you have about rejection, there simply may be no “why” at all. Even if there is one, it’s the other person’s why, not yours. It does not need to touch you. Hard as it is, don’t take it personally. Doing so is like willingly ingesting poison. If you can resist taking it personally, you will not be harmed. Be philosophical about it. What you offer simply does not fit what that person is looking for at the moment. Someone can easily decline romantic advances for logical reasons (geography or schedules), for illogical reasons (hair color or the Zodiac) or for no reason at all. The key (worthy of repeating): do not take it personally.
Are you over your ex?
There is no formula I can offer to calculate the perfect amount of time between relationships. Everyone adjusts differently. But the magic word is time—give yourself plenty of it. Use it to evaluate your previous relationship, and learn from it, so you won’t repeat the mistakes of your past. Use it to know you are okay, so that you have something genuine to offer the lucky person who gets to date you when you’re ready. (See my blog titled Love Laboratory—How to learn from past relationships.)
Are there emotional, physical or financial issues holding you back?
The key is to let go of your baggage so it doesn’t keep weighing you down. You may not even be aware that you are hauling so much around inside you. Look inward and try to figure out what you need to release. Do you have scars that need to heal? Unlike physical scars, emotional scars are much more susceptible to our intentions. Look closely at the kind of hurt you feel, and use whatever method works for you to soften, loosen and finally release that hurt and heal that scar. It might be forgiveness of yourself or another. Or maybe a change in your view of yourself from unworthy to worthy. Or an attitude shift that allows the relationship glass to appear half full for a change. Do you have fears that hold you back? In addition to the fear of rejection (discussed above) you may have fears about finances, security, or change (see below). Maybe you just need to give yourself the freedom of a little time to make sure your past is firmly in the past before giving love another chance. Ask yourself what you might do differently in a new relationship? When you answer this question you can say goodbye to your baggage and hello to a wonderful new relationship.
Are you ready for change?
Change is no doubt one of the scariest things for most people. Fear of change is fear of the unknown. Whether it is a change in how you live, what you do, or what you believe about yourself, when you let fear in, it holds you back from living the life you were meant to live. To be brutally honest, if you want to date again successfully, you may have to change some of your perceptions and beliefs. Perhaps you will have to start believing that you are lovable. That you are not a victim. That you have a great deal to offer. You may have to set aside your “story”—your beliefs about why you don’t have the relationship you want. Put on a new pair of glasses through which to view the world, and yourself.