On dating and self-acceptance.

I’ve been taking tentative steps toward dating again lately. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, but have been wary of doing. My life isn’t put together like I think it should at this point of the game. I’m still job hunting, still living at home. It’s hard to explain both of these when you’re on the older spectrum of twenty, even in this crap economy. The ‘what are you doing with your life’ portion of any dating website makes me wince, but I know, honestly, that really isn’t my only hangup.

Anxiety ruins a lot of things, especially severe anxiety. That little part of me that feels good about myself is one of the first things that went, leaving me questioning why anyone would want to be my friend, nevermind date me. I look at the mirror and see my imperfections and that’s about it. I assume that’s all anyone who wants to meet me will see as well, so it becomes a battle of ‘why bother’, which is disheartening to say the least. I’m getting better at combating the negativity that plagues me, but it’s hard to tell yourself you’re worthy of love and friendship when you spent years having trouble convincing yourself you’re even worth being alive. The years I could’ve been spending learning how to grow as a person with other people around me was stunted, and I feel, in a lot of ways, still unequipped to be close with people.

My inexperience builds on my fear and my fear builds on more fears, until it’s just a mess of uncertainty. I used to think, if only I had work, I’d be okay and feel good about myself. If only I were skinnier, I’d be okay and feel good about myself. In the end, I think the thought is flawed – it’d certainly lift my self-esteem some to feel like I am being a productive member of society, but I know that work and appearance aren’t really all there is to a person’s character. My self-hatred is a deep seated one, one where I don’t think people would like me as a person because of my problems and my hang-ups, and that’s something I’m trying to learn isn’t true with my therapist.

can-stock-photo_csp5304582Because I at least know the thinking is warped. When I get over the hurtle of being around people – and it’s always that first hurtle I trip on – I like to think I’m good company. I try to be empathetic, I try to make people laugh, I try I try I try. I wish I didn’t have to consciously realize how hard I’m trying, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that at least for the time being, things will be a little harder for me than it would be if I didn’t have a mental illness. And it’s worth the uphill battle, because I do want friends and eventually someone to spend my life with. Both involve me having to force myself out to gain, and while that’s hard, exploring the world around me is a gift in its’ own right.

One day I hope I can, without a second thought, decide that if someone doesn’t like me based on superficial reasons like looks or the fact I struggle with this fear monster at my back, it’s their own problem and I’m better off without that sort of negativity around me. For now, I treat it like a mantra, something that if I tell myself enough, hopefully one day I’ll wholly believe that and not be so hard on myself when I hit walls and some ‘friends’ leave me behind instead of waiting for me. The funny thing is, I have had friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin, it’s just focusing on them and not the ‘failures’ that’s the real trick of it.

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2 Responses to “On dating and self-acceptance.”

  1. I’m going through a very similar journey right now. Social Anxiety has been with me since childhood and I’ve recently decided to open myself up to dating again. It isn’t easy, is it? Always having that voice in your mind trying to tell you what the other person is thinking, even though in reality most of those impressions are projections rather than provable fact. I find it helps to try and stop allowing “me/I/my” language from invading my thoughts so much during those encounters, and simply enjoy getting to know who my date is.

    • That’s pretty much exactly what I’m trying to do, even during these initial attempts at just messaging people on dating sites. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked myself out of messaging people before, never even giving them a chance to look over my profile and see if they want to reply back. I’ve talked myself out of meeting people the exact same way, all because of my ‘assumptions’ of what will happen. Of course all the things I chickened out on could’ve went wonderfully, but I wouldn’t know now! Thoughts like that actually propel me now more than anything else, how many missed chances I’ve allowed because I’ve literally been my own worst critic. I wish you well on your own endeavors – as you said, it really isn’t easy at all to break out of the habit of assuming the worst.

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