By Erika Ettin
Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dating coach Erika Ettin encourages all of us to stop judging ourselves to harshly. As Ettin points out, oftentimes, the person judging you isn’t your friend and isn’t your colleague … it’s you and only you.
Tribune News Service
I was really hungry the other night, so when I met with some friends (not best friends, but not just mere acquaintances either) at 8:00 p.m., I decided to order a flatbread pizza. I didn’t realize they had all eaten dinner already, so I was the only one ordering food. Oops! At that point, I had a few options.
Choice 1: Forget about ordering. No one wants to be the only one pigging out at the table. I must have some frozen Trader Joe’s dumplings at home.
Choice 2: Order the pizza but feel self-conscious the whole time for eating all alone.
Choice 3: Order the pizza and eat it in all its deliciousness, down to the last cheesy bite.
Another time of self-doubt: I really loved my old apartment building, so I decided to buy the five people who work in the leasing office holiday gifts. I bought them all a pretty coffee mug (each got a different color) with some candy in it. But, when it was time to give them their gifts, the special green cellophane wrapping paper I had ordered online hadn’t arrived yet.
Choice 1: Give them the gifts late, only after the wrapping paper came.
Choice 2: Give them the gifts on time, but apologize for not having wrapped them.
Choice 3: Give them the gifts sans wrapping paper but with a big smile because you know they’ll appreciate the gesture.
We all feel self-conscious about various things, our bodies, our intelligence level, our relationship history, our job, anything. When talking about these topics that surely cause some anxiety, remember that no one knows how you feel about anything until you tell them. Oftentimes, the person judging you isn’t your friend and isn’t your colleague … it’s you and only you. Let’s look at how this relates to dating.
A client of mine had been married for 16 years. He’s 42 and is now getting back into the dating world again for the first time since he met his ex-wife. He feels self-conscious because he thinks women will wonder why he was married for so long before getting divorced.
Whenever someone asks him how long he was married, he gets uncomfortable and shyly says in an embarrassed tone, “I was married for 16 years. We tried to work it out, but unfortunately, we couldn’t.” This leads his dates to then question what kind of relationship he had and whether he’s still pining for her.
As this client said to me on the phone recently, by working together, we’ve shined him up a bit. We practiced his response when future dates ask this inevitable question. I told him that by framing it in such a melancholy way, no one has any choice but to feel sorry for him. He could instead say, with a smile on his face (even if he has to consciously contort his mouth into one), “You know, I was married for 16 years. I obviously never thought I’d be dating again!” Then, when he’s ready, and only then, does he need to share with anyone the details. If he doesn’t make a big deal out of it, then his dates won’t either. He had to learn that the only person judging him was himself.
Let’s say someone asks you on a date what your hobbies are, and you want to tell this person that you enjoy making pottery, playing cards, and doing the daily crossword puzzle.
Choice 1: “I have some kind of nerdy hobbies like making pottery, playing cards, and doing the daily crossword puzzle. I know they’re not that exciting.”
Choice 2: “I have a few hobbies that I like.” And then change the topic.
Choice 3: “I love making pottery in my class, but I also love playing cards and doing the daily crossword puzzle at home. I find them all so relaxing in their own way!”
The choice is simple in all scenarios: No. 3. So get out there, be yourself, and remember that the only person judging you is you.
(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating)