These tips are so common, we accept them as fact. In truth, they may actually work against you.
By Erika Jordan — Written on May 22, 2023
Photo: Volurol / Shutterstock
As we struggle to date effectively, we are inundated with a steady stream of generic advice like “Be the best version of yourself” or “Be confident” and “Be happy on your own, first.”
These phrases tend to create confusion — that’s because they’re so vague.
What is the best version of yourself? Most of us are only confident some of the time. What are we supposed to do when we are not feeling confident? How am I supposed to love being alone when I have been alone for the last 10 years? Is it really so bad to want a partner, anyway?
I’m going to look at these generic bits of dating “self-improvement” advice here and break down what they mean — and why they have become myths.
Here are three standard myths of self-improvement that don’t actually help you with dating
1. Become the best version of yourself before looking for someone new
Let’s start with what the best version of you looks like. Everyone will have a different definition of what that is but being the best ‘you’ comes down to becoming a version of yourself that you are happy with. Be a version of yourself that makes you feel at peace with the path you are on. It is important to remember that bettering yourself does not lead to a final destination, but onto a chosen path and it is not as simple as it seems.
Of course, I will feel dread at the thought of having to do five more years of school, but that does not mean I should quit going to school? No, it does not.
I should instead focus on the end result. How will I feel when I finally get that degree? How will I feel when I can introduce myself as a doctor? Discomfort is often required to reach a goal. The path of least resistance is not the universe guiding you to success. It is you avoiding struggles for temporary comfort.
What to do instead: Take the time to sit with yourself and picture yourself living your goal. Not only is visualization a powerful tool but it will help you clarify what you want and prevent you from wasting time pursuing what you do not want.
2. Be confident
We know confidence is attractive. As a matter of fact, it might be the most attractive thing about a person, often serving to overcompensate for various shortcomings. However, we cannot always be confident. A truly intelligent person realizes they know don’t know everything. We do not want to lie to a potential partner and pretend to be someone we are not, but we still subscribe to the “fake it until you make it” mindset.
The unfortunate thing about insecurity is its domino effect. If I tell my partner every day that I worry about them cheating on me, I plant a seed in their mind. Perhaps they will reassure and comfort me the first six or seven times but eventually they will grow tired of my mistrust. Often times this leads a partner to cheat, believing, “If I’m going to do the time, I might as well do the crime.”, when perhaps they would not have, had I not given them the idea.
I am not suggesting you ignore all your insecurities and put on an act. I am merely suggesting that you choose your words carefully. Let’s take into consideration the apology. An insecure person will often be apologetic, saying things like, “I’m sorry I’m in a bad mood today.”, “I’m sorry my hair is a mess.”, or “I am sorry the chicken is over cooked.”
What to do instead: If my partner has been helping me more than usual, instead of saying, “I’m sorry I’m so much work,” I could say, “I appreciate you taking the time to finish this project with me.” Rather than saying, “I’m sorry I talk too much,” I say, “Thank you for listening, I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.” If I am five minutes late to lunch, I might say, “thank you for your patience” or “thank you for waiting.”
Another common and problematic phrase is “I’m sorry I’m so messed up.” A better thing to say is, “Thank you for helping me,” or, “thank you for your guidance.” A slight change in wording can make a huge difference.
3. Be happy on your own, first
“Be happy on your own.” is one of my least favorite pieces of dating advice. Should we love ourselves and enjoy spending time alone? Yes. But nothing is more frustrating than spending 10 years alone only to have a close friend inform you that the reason you have not found anyone is because you are not enthusiastic enough about being alone.
Being alone can be wonderful. As an introvert, I love being alone because I need it to refuel. I binge watch Netflix or turn my bathroom into a spa and pamper myself. But expecting someone to be enthusiastic about spending another birthday alone or wanting them to be happy that they have no family on Christmas is taking it too far.
It is okay to be sad and lonely but there is a difference between someone who cannot be alone with their own thoughts for five minutes without self-destructing and a person who truly enjoys being alone but also want someone to share the ups and downs of life with. Humans need one another because we were not designed to be alone indefinitely.
What to do instead: You do not have to wait for some imaginary time in which you will healed and happy, skipping through a field of daisies. Yes, you should enjoy your alone time, but it is also healthy and perfectly normal to crave a partnership. It is absolutely possible to be actively working on yourself while also seeking companionship from a partner.
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Erika Jordan is a leader in the field or digital romance and online dating, an internationally acclaimed Love and Relationship Expert, NLP practitioner, author, media personality, and the creator of The Art of The Pickup, a 6-week course on approaching women with confidence.