With a lifetime of conditioning, people-pleasing, and trying to be liked, one day I realized you have to be yourself when dating to attract Mr. Right. So many people begin to ask "who am I?" especially in the dating world because you gotta answer that question in so many ways - by filling out your online dating profile, during typical getting-to-know-you conversation, and as you're trying to determine if who you think you are is a good match for whom you think is the person across from you. Being ourselves has become a lost art in a world where it seems like being someone else is the only way to get ahead. But I promise you, that’s only what it seems because in the long run being someone else always has negative consequences. A few downsides to facades are:
- Some people can tell you have one right away; and the ones who can't will be super upset when they find out. I can't tell you how many times someone breaks up after a few months and tells us, "But they weren't like that at all when were first dating."
- They're tiring to maintain on a body, mind, and spiritual level. Especially you’re spirit is going: “Nooooo! Come this way!”
- They’re basically impossible to maintain. Inevitably, you’re going to hit a breaking point. But the breaking point might not be pretty. It’s probably gonna be more like an explosion or an implosion - and the severity of it depends on how long it's been going on. I see it all the time in my group work at a mental health hospital. The explosive ones are the people who throw something across the room right before screaming, “I quit!” The implosive ones are the people who start to consider which of their suicide plans will actually work.
- They’re not satisfying. When you’re applauded for being something that you just kinda faked your way through, it feels flat. What's even worse is when you're not applauded for faking it. It's like, "Fuck, I just put all this effort into contorting myself into what I've imagined to be someone else's standards and still didn't get shit out of it."
- They don't give other people permission to be themselves. If I pretend like everything's fine every time you hang out with me, but really I'm going through something difficult - I'm unconsciously communicating that it's not OK for you to be vulnerable or imperfect either.
- They make you more susceptible to codependency or enmeshment. If you've been in the pattern of people-pleasing or conforming, you'll likely lose yourself in a partner. Like when someone asks how you're feeling, you'll say, "I don't know" while turning to your partner to ask, "How are we feeling?"
So many of my clients describe losing track of their essential self. When they ask their friends for advice, they'll say:
"Just be yourself when dating."
Inevitably these types of questions arise: How do I know I’m being myself? How much of myself should I be?
Here's the short version of my answer: I believe that some of us actually have to practice being more of ourselves.
Being yourself is loving yourself...and there's little that's more attractive than someone who loves themselves.
It's a pretty funny answer if you think about it. We need to practice being ourselves? Shouldn't that be like the most natural thing ever? Turns out - not so much.
In order to practice, I've keyed in on these 6 things to try. Don't get bogged down now. Many of our clients have had amazing strides in self-worth and confidence from just doing 1 or 2 of them. I personally have done all of them and know it was the way I attracted the love of my life.
So, here 'goes the longer version of my answer:
1. Leave your work hat at work, or better yet - stop with the work hat period. OK, OK, some jobs might require a little less swear and a little more “the customer’s always right.” But I still think those are old-fashioned points of view. I’m not saying to be a fuckin’ dick to customers or use profanity when it’s shit-lickin’ unnecessary - but I don’t think we need to talk like Ned Flanders either. Sometimes I speak with a customer service person and think, “I wonder how they speak with their family, friends, and lovers.” So how can you de-role your work self? Three things that I do:
- Spray some essential oil water in my face. It’s like BLAM! Transition! I'm outta here!
- Shake it off, baby! I’ll shake my hands and arms really fast. Sometimes I’ll just shake my whole body.
- When I get in the car, I crank up the tunes and start singing. I'd imagine that anyone who uses a different voice at work could use a little dusting off of the ol’ vocal cords to get back to home base.
2. Find safe places to play around and push edges of emotions, expression, movement, and learning new skills. Sometimes we can get really rigid in our self-concept, and it’s felt really healthy to me and my clients to mix it up! Some ideas are ecstatic dance, dance lessons, acroyoga, improv groups, hiring a coach to teach you organization and cleaning skills, voice lessons, personal training, toastmasters groups. Each of these can introduce you to new ways of being that might actually leave you feeling more balanced, capable, dynamic, and more... yourself. I've absolutely loved ecstatic dance - like Rhythm Sanctuary and Movement Mass- where I can rekindle the goofball part of myself. Any of the ideas listed can also be fun if you want to expand into your own version of “masculine” and “feminine” energies. I’ve found that it’s such a gift that both Chris and I have such a diverse range of being that bends the traditional gender roles. We equally clean, pay, initiate, feel vulnerable, and hold space; as opposed to me doing all the stuff women are supposed to do and Chris doing all the stuff men are supposed to do. So if you never cook - try a cooking class! If you tend to have flowing, delicate movements - pick up a boxing class! If you don't know how to organize or clean shit - hire a professional who can teach you!
3. Practice being yourself with people who feel safe and comfy to you. If you read this article and set out to be yourself by expressing your deepest shame to your curmudgeonly mother as a starter - she’s probably gonna reaffirm all the reasons you withhold your truths in the first place. Go to friends who are compassionate. Find new people you can ask for feedback to get a sense of your impact on them as you try on new ways of being. Check out different meetup groups and support groups. See if there’s a local T-group, Circling, or Authentic Relating community, or other conscious relationship communities in your area.
4. Question your default answers. Default answers are the ones for questions like: What’s your favorite color? You can also tell you’re giving a default answer when you say, “I’m the type of person who’s like this.” Default answers imply that you haven't changed overtime, which isn’t true. We shift in little and huge ways consistently our whole life. A great example of this was about a few years ago when a date asked me: “What’s your favorite flower.” To which I responded immediately because it’s been the same answer since I was a kid: “Orange roses.” I must have made a strange facial expression after I said it because the person who asked was like, “Really?” And I was like, “Actually. No. I don't think that's my favorite anymore. I don’t know what IS my favorite now. But I know that’s not it anymore.” After that conversation I set out to casually assess flowers as I came across them to find out what kind does it for me. I still actually haven’t figured that one out yet, but it’s fun to know that I’m flexible, dynamic, ever-growing, ready for whatever new desires and ways want to emerge from me.
5. Don’t let your family and long time friends hold your identity in a time machine. A client the other day told me that she talked to an old friend about her current dating life. She told her that she’s been feeling really confused because the guy doesn’t meet a lot of her typical criteria for a partner. When her friend heard the job he has and that he lives with two housemates, she said, “Sarah, you know how you are. You always rush into relationships and get attached too soon. He’s not an 8. You need to end it now.” Well, I haven’t known Sarah as long as her friend, but I can say that I have witnessed tremendous changes in her. She is actively being more present with herself and more mindful in relationships. She doesn't need to hear limiting beliefs from her friend about how she used to be. It's just not true anymore.
Up until she got some dementia, my Nana would still send me rocks every year because I collected them as a kid. Unfortunately she stopped sending them right around the time I got super-hippied up and started putting rocks on a meditation altar in my room. So, there’s a nice example of the possibility of changing our ways and then changing back again. We’re allowed to change! Whatever identity our loved ones have concretized in their minds do not have to hold us back!
We've had several people describe the difficulty speaking with family, friends, and potential partners when they don't want to get married or have kids or do other things they expect. I talk about my experience here.
6. Start to notice when you have an impulse to withhold or suppress your full expression. Just noticing the impulse could make you aware enough to evaluate if it actually feels good to withhold. One of my favorite things to do is to notice the impulse to withhold and then to actually share the fact that I almost withheld it: “I was just going to say this, and then I stopped myself because I was afraid you’d think less of me.” But only say that if you’re actually gonna tell them what it was! If you do tell them, it's like a double whammy vulnerable moment. I’ve found my relationships deepen, and people tell me they love me even more after I say stuff like that.
7. Quiet time with yourself. Whether you call it meditation or alone time. Whether it’s a full hour of sitting in a particular posture or taking 10 minutes to pause at the top of a hike. I’ve found that closing my eyes can help me to go inward. Just to see what it’s like to be me right now. I notice my breath, any sensations, my heart space. I feel my feet on the ground, my spine rising up. I give myself the time to feel my pure beingness. Personally I like to do a longer sitting meditation in the morning followed by a spattering of 1-5 minute meditations as the day progresses, and then I also hold the intention to be mindful as much as possible. These practices translate over to my not-alone time in the sense that they allow me to create space between my impulsive, but perhaps conditioned, not-really-me reactions. And within that space, I’m able to take a breath, feel my heart and respond as my true self. Shit, I’m not perfect at it. But even when I’m not “perfect” at it, I’m able to notice.
I've experienced so many super duper important benefits from these ways to be myself more, but the one I'll stress here is that "just be yourself" was the best way to attract the right partner. Why? Because being yourself is like the easiest, most convenient filtering system. Ever.
If a person can’t handle the real you - might as well get that clear ASAP. Now, of course, you’re not gonna vomit every trauma, every insecurity, and weakness over tea on your first date. The point is that being yourself is about not withholding when it goes with the natural flow of the conversation and you feel aligned with expressing it.
So, go out there and let your messy, awesome, perfect, sexy, weird light shine so your person knows how to find you!
P.S. Just for the record - I know I'm not perfectly "myself" all the time. Example A - I would never use the phrase "Mr. Right," but it's got good SEO. Does my honesty make up for it?