As a child, family members would always comment on how confident I was.
I saw the world as possibilities and new discoveries.
However that gutsy girl grew into an adult, with a soft heart who has loved and hurt deeply, and even taken a hit on their own sense of self.
What happens when an ex partner knocks your confidence?
For me this started four years ago.
We dated for three years.
In many ways he was a fantastic partner - just not fantastic for me.
We struggled to communicate feelings and sometimes we struggled to understand each other’s point of view.
This meant I was often hurt and questioning myself - both sexually and emotionally.
Having a partner tell you that you’ve gained weight and they no longer find you sexually attractive, to the point where they can’t stay 'hard' for you when you get intimate, feels, well...
Is there a female version of the word emasculated?
Because that was how I felt!
Like my identity as a woman had been struck with a fatal, confidence-shattering blow!
It didn’t matter that it was only a few kilos from a busy few months at work that had seen my exercise time diminish.
It didn’t matter that my girlfriends had told me he was an idiot.
And, it didn't that I could easily lose the weight.
My confidence was knocked to the point where I began to doubt myself!.
The realisation your self esteem isn’t what it used to be
It was such a strange feeling leaving the relationship and realising that not all men saw me in the same way that he had.
The first time I noticed a man checking me out was in a cafe.
I remember looking behind me and thinking no one was there, then double checking, and looking back to him confused.
Newly single me struggled to understand why he would even be looking at me in the first place, much less smiling and now approaching!
This feeling of not being worthy of interest, of questioning the motive of their interest was new to me.
Dating with self esteem scars, was a very scary space. And I wanted to barricade myself away from the world and defend the walls like a medieval knight.
Sadly, this wasn’t a healthy place to start from.
Know your baggage
We’ve all been hurt in obvious and subtle ways by our ex's, sometimes without them even realising it.
It isn’t a blame game. It isn’t about right and wrong. You are entitled to how you feel.
But you are also responsible for how you work through that hurt and whether you choose to bring it into your next relationship.
Coming to a place of peace and not necessarily forgetting the hurt, but letting go of the anger is a crucial step before you begin dating again.
That new guy you just met doesn’t deserve to be immediately pegged as a player.
Especially after two dates and just because he cracked a joke with the waitress, which reminded you of the way your ex used to incessantly flirt with every girl he spoke to.
From my experience, starting angrily or bitterly never ends well.
Don’t punish the next person for your ex’s mistakes
Wanting to 'test' your new love interest is not surprising and somewhat understanding.
Russy is always telling me to remember that, "dating is noting more than a screening process after all."
But there’s a difference between wanting to see how a man responds in certain situations, and purposely pushing them away, causing fights and setting 'sh!t tests' to see his reaction.
One comes from a place of respectful caution and the setting of your standards, the other a place of fear.
Not believing that this guys could be interested in you and therefore being in a perpetual state of defence is like planting flowers in gravel.
It isn’t nurturing and It isn’t giving the possibility of a relationship a good place to start.
You risk writing their story in your head, and planning your exit strategy before you’ve even started.
Trust that you are worthy of interest and desire.
Be gentle on yourself
Right now you may feel a little like a crab without a shell.
You’re exposed and you may feel naked and raw.
The walls haven’t been built back up yet, and the world is a scary place when your confidence is low.
Knocks feel a little harsher. You bruise a little more easily.
The rawness of believing in someone, trusting them with that tiny, little, fundamental organ we call a heart and having it bruised again is unspeakable.
It’s ok to feel a little delicate, a little scared, maybe even vulnerable.
No one expects a soldier to return to the front line the day after a serious injury.
And when they do, it may take time to build up to their original stamina, and that’s ok.
It shows a power to be able to feel intensely and still return risking more hurt. Many won’t understand the depth of this strength, but you do and that’s all that matters.
Take time to nurture your soul before returning to the dating scene.
Come to terms with the hurt you have felt and begin building that confidence up by starting with forgiveness (for both to yourself and them) and actively enjoying being yourself.
You can still be a strong, independent woman and work through self esteem issues.
Self-awareness + actively growing = healing
Dating is far more about you than others. And reflecting on your feelings during this stage is crucial.
During dating you may feel yourself reacting to situations a little more strongly than you usually would.
Your biggest ally here is self awareness.
I still remember bursting into tears the first time I started dating after my ex, when the guy I had just started seeing was late to confirm our dinner plans.
He had just gotten back from an overseas flight that morning and had called that afternoon to say he was going to unwind a little but really wanted to have dinner together later.
When I hadn’t heard from him by 7pm I ordered the greasiest pizza I could find, downloaded Bridget Jones’ diary and cried into my Riesling convinced it was over.
He didn’t care, he didn't even call to cancel and any potential romance we could have had was probably all in my head.
Damn it, he called at 7.30pm to apologise and say he’d taken a nap because he hadn’t slept on the plane and overslept and was I still keen to grab dinner...
Clearly I needed some serious self reflection on why I had jumped to this conclusion.
Well, in a nutshell...
Take the time you need to heal. look after yourself, invest in activities and joys that fill your self-love tank and remember...
you're not alone on this dating journey,
i'm on it too, i'm learning and finding my way, and Russy and his team are somewhere in the mix too.
Coming into dating from a good place will give you the best possible chance of success.
Remember to #DateDifferently.
P.S. I know dating can be hard and it can sometimes feel like its more of a mind f*ck then you actually signed up for.
If this is how you feel right now, the have a quick read of Russy's
Dating Detox Guide.
It might help get your head in the game. Download it here.