(That “radio station” chatter that plays in your head and tells you to stay put until you get perfect.)
Did you ever read Anne Lamott's wonderful book, Bird by Bird?
It's mostly about writing. But the lessons Lamott shares apply to every risk-taking, creative act imaginable. Including dating and the quest for relationship.
Her comments about Radio KFKD made me laugh—and they come to mind often when I'm standing on the brink of new experiences that (gasp!) might just lead to rejection.
My own Radio KFKD was all about twenty-five pounds of “curviness.”
I never had many worries about weight. I had four babies and managed to lose all the baby weight each time. But for whatever reason, my transition to singlehood put me on a weight rollercoaster. (And no, not all of it due to horrible stress—some of it was just plain fun.) There was a six-month period when I convinced myself it'd be a fabulous idea to stay out late several nights a week with new friends–eating velveeta-beslobbered nachos and drinking beer.
Yay—just like college!
Except…my body was twice as old now–and my metabolism was like, “What the…?”
Nonetheless, I was actually feeling quite fine about myself.
And not worrying too much about the muffin-tops overflowing my jeans or my outgrown bras. I was just…curvier, that's all. Who wants to be all bone and sinew like those women who spend hours in the gym, anyway?
Then a very insensitive (male) acquaintance tossed out an offhanded comment about my “weight problem.”
And suddenly, there it was, lodged in my perfectionistic little head.
I have a WEIGHT PROBLEM.
Oh no, I must fix it. I can't date and act like I think I'm all CUTE and stuff. I have a terrible, awful, WEIGHT PROBLEM.
I stepped on the scale and saw this horrendous, earth-shaking problem confirmed.
In hard, unforgiving numbers.
And I resolved to put my social life on hold until I'd lost 20 of the 25 lbs. the potato skins and Coronas had cushioned me with. Hired a trainer, got up at 5:15 each morning to get to the gym, etc.
But then, as I worked and worked to lose a measly 1.5-2 lbs. per week, it dawned on me that it'd take a solid four months of soul-crushing, early-morning labor to shed those stupid pounds. I didn't have the patience for that, and I really do like men.
So…restlessness won out, and I just started dating anyway.
Guess what I found out?
Lots more men said they found my curves sexy than not. (Not that I found all of THEM attractive. But it wasn't as though all of the decent guys were like, jeez, girl, hit the gym and lose some weight, will ya?) And most men I met didn't comment at all on weight–but did comment on my smile. And the fact that I am really easy to talk to.
Here's how I look at all of that, two years later.
It was simply one chapter of my journey. A mere (curvy) blip on the screen–not some permanent aspect of my character. Perhaps the extra weight made me appear less beautiful to some people, but hey, there will always be SOMETHING about you that some other people find sort of unappealing.
Oh, and guess what else I found out?
The mere knowledge that I was moving each day toward a personal health and fitness goal got me walking taller and wanting to invest in myself. (Yeah, like even to the point of buying one fantastic, flattering, size-14 first-date ensemble from Nordstrom–that I promptly gave away to charity as soon as it was hanging loosely on me.)
And dating on your own terms really just boils down to self-confidence. The more you have, the less your little human flaws and physical quirks matter. (Or even occur to you, for that matter.)
The quickest path to confidence through slumps and ruts, is, I find, daily exercise.
It's a fine, mysterious, wonder-drug, that release of endorphins.
Regardless of what imperfection is nagging at you, 30 minutes a day of brisk walking or jogging or elliptical-ing will make you feel much less imperfect. And, I predict, a whole lot cuter and younger.
And once you're taking care of your body, it's a whole lot easier to find the energy to tackle other self-improvement projects. (For your own joy and sense of accomplishment, not just to look pretty when meeting strangers.)