Do you believe we send out vibes to others around us? I do. I believe our moods and how we see ourselves affects how others interact with us. If I believe there is something wrong with me, I’m probably going to believe other people think the same thing. If I don’t like myself, I’m more likely to think others will reject me too. It may make me afraid of dating or getting close to someone. If I’m shooting off this vibe of “Please don’t look at me, I’m gross”, do you think that is going to attract the opposite sex? No, they most likely will be put off by my nonverbal cues of insecurity.
If you haven’t dated a lot in high school or college it is easy to start thinking there is something wrong with you. I work with students who are depressed because they haven’t been in a serious relationship yet. When someone feels depressed it is hard enough to get out of bed, so it is no surprise that it is also hard to put on a smile, act friendly and send out a positive vibe to all those potential single people out there to date. It is one of those crazy cycles. Like how can I get work experience unless I have a job, and I can’t get a job because I don’t have any work experience. The same is true for single people who may feel depressed. It is hard for others be attracted to them because of their mood and because people aren’t attracted to them, their mood becomes worse.
The longer this cycle goes on the more depressed people feel and the more fear they have that no one will ever want them. The fear comes from not feeling good enough. The fear may have started in the past from hearing people tell you that you are stupid, or fat, or ugly. It is hard to believe someone would see something different in you if this is what you have been told in your past. Or if you have been sexually abused, you may be afraid that if anyone found out they would never want to be with you. Many people have demons inside of their heads telling them they don’t deserve to be loved. It only reinforces the fear of being in a relationship with someone. The truth is everyone deserves to be loved, but it can be hard to believe it for yourself.
So which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Do you need to get into a relationship first to feel good about yourself? Or do you need to feel good about yourself to find a someone to date? It does happen that a depressed person meets someone who sees through all their negativity and loves them in spite of it. This can be a huge confidence booster to find someone who sees how beautiful you are even with all your flaws. This relationship may help you to learn to love yourself.
However, I do believe YOU have more control over learning to love yourself even while you are single. You can get away from anyone else, but you can’t escape yourself. Others may not always be there for you, so its very valuable to learn to be there for yourself. You can start by deciding whether you want to work on accepting yourself for who you are, or if there are things you want to work on changing to feel more confident. It takes time, but you can learn to diminish those negative voices. I encourage students look over a list of positive characteristics and mark which ones sometimes describe them. Most students are amazed at how many great qualities they already have, but don’t give themselves credit for. I then ask students to focus on those characteristics several times a day. You have to put positive in, to get positive out. It’s easier said than done. Changing your thought process is hard, but over time it can have a big impact on how you see yourself.
I also encourage students who are afraid of being alone to take the initiative to reach out to others. Start somewhere easy like being friendly to strangers. Practice when you are out at Wal-Mart and greet the person who checks you out. Be friendly to gas station attendants, waiters and waitresses, and other random strangers. See how they react to you and you may find that a lot of them respond positively to the attention. This will encourage you and hopefully give you more confidence without much risk. Again,it helps to start somewhere less intimidating. When you feel a little more brave, then look for someone to say hi to while walking across campus. Ask someone in your class how they are doing. Have a goal of making at least one person smile each day by giving them a genuine compliment.
The best way to meet others is to show interest. Start by just being nice and ask them something about their self. Don’t start by asking a complete stranger on a date. That will be too hard to do if you’ve never done it. Build your way up to that by just being friendly and trying to make other people feel good around you. As you build confidence, then start to notice people you may be attracted to. Be friendlier to them and see how they react. Again, if they show interest by continuing the conversation, then find more opportunities to talk to them. If they don’t show interest (give you one word answers, don’t ask you anything back or ignore you), then simply move on to the next person. Don’t be afraid of the rejection. It is normal and doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. Not everyone is going to click with you and that is okay. The more people you interact with, the better chance of finding someone you do click with. It does take time and practice.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You may need someone to encourage you to not give up or keep you accountable to your goals. Tell someone you trust about your fears so they can help you fight them. The only way to defeat fear is to face it head on. It takes work to be a more positive and initiate conversations with others, but it may be worth it to chase the FEAR of dating away.