Last week I wrote about the importance of being authentic, and how that can be different than “just being yourself.”
However, this past week I’ve had several conversations with clients that have inspired me to write about another aspect of authenticity: how do you remain authentic in the midst of so much dating advice telling you to go here, do this, don’t do that, turn right, turn left?
It started when one woman emailed me to ask, “With all the dating advice out there, how do I know which advice to follow? It’s really overwhelming!” I responded that obviously I’m the only expert worth listening to…totally kidding!
Here’s what I actually told her:
“You need to be willing to think, experiment, use what works, and throw out what doesn’t work. In other words, cherry pick. Many ‘experts’ think that most people don’t like to use their brains, and so they will say, ‘Look it’s so easy, just follow my 3 easy steps!’ knowing that many people will be seduced into the idea of being told what to do.
A very clear example of this is in diet. One person clears up allergies, acne, loses weight, and has more energy by following a certain diet. So they tell other people about this diet, saying, ‘You must eat these things, but not these other things.’ A few other people also experience improved health on this new diet. Fantastic!
Then comes along a person who follows the same diet and becomes malnourished or even sickly. What? You mean the diet doesn’t work? Is it a scam? Outrage, outrage!
Or maybe it’s because different people are different (in other news, water is wet).
There is nothing more damaging to your authentic self than paint-by-numbers dating advice. This is true whether or not the techniques ‘work.’
Actually, it’s truer when they do work. If a magic line or routine makes you get more dates than you did before, you are much more likely to attach to it. Eventually, this backfires because your confidence is in the technique, not in yourself. I believe the scientific term for this is putting whipped cream on shit.”
This brings me to another conversation I had this week. A man called me and said he needed coaching on “how to be less quiet.”
When I asked him, “What for?” he responded that he had recently heard another dating expert say that women tend to think a quiet man is angry or upset, and he doesn’t want women to think he’s upset when he’s just being quiet.
I told him that I wasn’t going to do that since, well, it’s totally fine to be quiet sometimes.
Yes, you need to talk with people to flirt, but it’s not that he was shy or nervous about talking with women. He just thought there was something wrong with him for being a quiet person–because of some dating advice he heard.
I hear this kind of thing all the time. Men asking me to teach them to be “more outgoing,” or “less nerdy.” Women asking me to teach them to be “less expressive and opinionated.” Yes–it’s the 21st century and strong, intelligent women are voluntarily trying to learn how to be less so because someone, somewhere told them that that’s how they will get more dates.
Of course, if someone is really struggling, a good piece of advice can give them the insight they need to change something. Then they can start getting positive results.
For example, it’s true that sometimes women think that, when a man is quiet, it’s because he’s angry. And if the man doesn’t know what’s going on and the woman doesn’t know what’s going on, they will probably have a conflict. Or at least, they will not be able to connect with each other very well.
Then, if one or both of them learns this idea, they gain insight into the situation. Now they have the ability to work through the conflict, or even better, maybe with this new insight, there is no more conflict.
There is a point where dating advice can turn from insight to dogma. Sometimes this comes from the giver of the advice, and sometimes it’s simply the way whoever is listening interprets it.
The insight is: sometimes when a man is quiet, a woman might perceive him as angry with her even when he’s not. Huh, I’ll keep that in mind next time a woman thinks I’m angry when I’m not.
The dogma can become: I can’t be quiet around a woman, because she will think I’m angry. So even when I feel like being quiet, I must force myself to talk and be outgoing. Shit, I’m being quiet right now. Talk! Say something clever. Dammit, I can’t think of anything. This would be so much easier if I could just be quiet and listen to her, but then she will think I’m mad at her, since that’s how women think…
Yep, nothing like a tailspin of anxious internal dialogue to help you along in the dating world.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again until I am blue in the face: there is no piece of dating advice (not even the pearls of wisdom dispensed by yours truly) that is going to make you more attractive than being your authentic self.
Here are some traits of dating dogma:
- Do’s and Don’ts (Don’t text him back right away. Keep him guessing).
- Words and phrases like never, always, or every time (Never talk about having babies on a first date).
- Generalizations like “all men do this” and “all women think this” (Women play with their hair when they are attracted to a man).
Actually, here’s a fun experiment: try breaking all the dating rules you’ve been following and see what happens (and please share your stories if you do this)!
Changing and growing are not always the same thing. Changing who you are to please others (which IS what’s happening when you are following an arbitrary dating rule to get more dates) is usually a step backwards. Growing yourself as a person, on the other hand, only serves to bring your authentic self out more and more.
You might feel awkward and like you don’t know what you’re doing all the time. That’s called flirting. It happens to everyone, including me. The bottom line is, though, no one is as much of an expert as you are in the moment.
What does that mean? It means that if you are flirting with someone, you and they know more about that moment than anyone else. No matter how many books they’ve read. Or how many books they’ve written. You will always be the best expert on your actual flirtations and interactions. On every date that you have.
The advice that you hear is only here to offer insight so that you can become more of an expert on your own dating life. This is not as easy as being a sheep, but it is more rewarding, more authentic, and definitely more attractive.