How online dating helped me regain my self-confidence
My experience in dating had been pretty conventional. I met potential suitors through friends or in class. Although I did not have a uniform physical “type”, I tended toward slightly introverted intellectuals, who could make me laugh, but also had the ability to teach me something. At least, this is what I told myself.
In reality, I accepted what was offered. Compared to my friends, I was an awkwardly late bloomer, whose first kiss at age fifteen resulted in a collective sigh of “finally” among my peer group. For as long as I could remember, I was the friend—the main character of Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops on my Guitar”. My relationship self-esteem had been deflated so low that when Valentine’s Day rolled around my sophomore year in high school, I sat in another seat when my regular homeroom desk had a flower and note waiting. It never crossed my mind that it could be for me. Cut to a string of nice-but-not-so-right-for-me boys, with wondering eyes, half-hearted commitment, and inklings that I was never quite good enough.
As I matured, by all outward appearances I had grown more confident. School? Aced it. That internship I coveted? It was mine. Friends? I had an amazing circle surrounding me. I was becoming more comfortable in my own skin, and excelling in all areas of my life except one—dating. Even as I my braces came off, and my skin cleared up, and I grew into and embraced my curves, I could never get rid of that voice in my head which told me that I was lucky that someone, anyone, would want to date me. It wasn’t until a two and half year relationship (in which I had spent every minute questioning my worth) ended did I realize how little I thought of myself.
Newly single, working a job I hated, and in a town where my only friend had been my ex, I decided that something had to change. It was then that a not-so-confident girl decided to do the scariest thing (to me) imaginable—online date.
At the time, online dating wasn’t the casual, omnipresent, no-big-deal thing it is today. One of my co-workers was convinced that I would meet up with a serial killer. Another said that I wouldn’t meet any quality men. Undeterred, I set up an online profile with the care and effort of submitting a college application, and pushed send.
I was scared at first, worried that no one would be interested—that it would be rejection on a higher scale, via an email I could re-read over and over. Yet, taking control of my profile was like taking control of myself. I always used pictures from within the last two weeks, didn’t hide my disinterest in “athletic adventure” dates and put myself out there—no filter. I had been so focused on rejection that I had never stopped to realize that acceptance, for who you are not who someone is trying to make you to be, feels amazing.
My confidence soared. When I showed up for dates, I didn’t feel shy or embarrassed, because I had been completely honest about who I am. Each date would produce more self-reflection, and I grew to understand, and love, myself.
Not all of them worked out. There definitely were times when the spark wasn’t there, or someone had misrepresented themselves. Sometimes, a date would be a cool person but we didn’t link romantically; yet because we had shared interests, we became friends. Then I’d meet their friends, and suddenly I had a packed social calendar, and had become the most confident and comfortable with myself that I have ever been in my life.
This confidence trickled down into the rest of my life and I started making decisions based on what was good for me, and not around what everyone else thought. When I moved a few years later to live closer to my parents, I again found myself in a town where I didn’t know anyone. Happy with my past experience and, for the first time, with myself, I decided to give online dating another try. A few months in, I met another online-dating skeptic—my now husband!
[Image courtesy Fox]