I'm giving internet dating another chance.
I've tried it before, and although I got a good bad-first-date story out of it, I also came away with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Which is why it took 2.5 years for me to give it another shot.
Even though I was the one who turned down the suggestion for a second date, the whole experience with online dating did absolutely nothing for my self-confidence, especially when it comes to meeting new people.
However, I've been playing with a new idea this summer, and in the process decided it was high time to test it out in scarier circumstances.
See, one of the many reasons I enjoy teaching is that I feel attractive when I'm teaching. Not all the time, mind you - teenagers make sure of that. But most of the time, especially those times when I take a risk on a Sudden Brilliant Idea and it does, in fact, turn out to be brilliant. And when I'm there with the kids and it's a good lesson and they're into it and into me, I feel fantastic.
It's about confidence. I've long been aware of how far being confident can get you in life. (A lot farther, in fact, than being right will get you.) I can be confident about a lot of things, and yet, for some reason, I am horribly not confident about myself. In particular, people's early impressions of me.
Okay, do you remember what it's like to stand in a crowded cafeteria with your lunch tray with no friends in sight and yet an immediate need to find somewhere to sit?
That. That situation right there. That reaction I have of "I don't know anyone; therefore, I have nowhere to sit because no one wants me to sit with them." That certainty of rejection before there's even a question. That's my instinct, my assumption, my belief.
I have all kinds of guesses for where it comes from for me, but I am surprised to find that my thinking at 30 hasn't changed all that much from my thinking at 10.
Sometime this summer, though, I started to quietly fight back. It wasn't a sudden realization like "Blam! I'm awesome!" Nope. Instead, it's like a new outfit I keep trying on in my closet secretly.
I'm practicing being confident.
Not just in those easy times, like when I'm teaching or I'm with friends who already make me feel awesome. No, I'm taking risks that must seem microscopic to others but are actually leaps across huge chasms for me:
- I meet someone new and as we do the preliminary small talk I practice saying to myself, "Of course they want to know you! Why wouldn't they want to know you? You're awesome!"
- I walk in late to Sunday School yesterday and find that the seats are all taken. The friends that I can spot are all up against walls or in the middle of rows. I fight the instinct to turn around and wait out the class in the foyer. Instead, I walk to the stack of chairs in the back and carry one over to the end of the back row, next to one of the more popular guys in the ward. He does not, as my instincts tell me he will, recoil in annoyance that I sat next to him. He smiles at me and mouths, "Welcome back," before turning back to the teacher.
- I wear a giant hat with a freakin' bird on it to my brother's wedding. And I rock that hat.
- I see an actor I recognize from the play I saw the night before walking in my direction. I don't pull out my cell phone or find a sign to be interested in while not breaking stride. I make eye contact and smile with all the power of "I'm an award-winning playwright, I meditate with monks in Thailand, and I'm wearing heels with bluejeans." He smiles, does that quick down-up look-over that guys do, and he says, "Hi," as his smile becomes a real one. "Hey," I say, all casual-like.
- I put on a kinda-scary dress (Rachel calls it a "va-va-voom dress") and go out to the theater in Cedar City.
When I get invited to go to a Cabaret show afterwards, I don't retreat to my hotel room. I say yes.
When I get there and discover that my hosts have saved front row seats in this crowded coffee-house club, I don't find an excuse for us to put a few safety-rows between me and the performers.
And when a performer looks right at me sitting there in the front row and smiles, I smile right back at him, looking all va-va-voom-y.
- When I saw a guy on the dating site who seemed kind of interesting, I don't decide to wait and see if he contacts me first. I double-check the spelling in my profile message and send one of those pre-written messages.
And when he writes back "Thanks, but I looked at your profile and I don't think we'd click," I actually find myself thinking, "You're right - you probably can't handle my awesomeness."
It might be unhealthy, channeling Barney Stintson like that. But then I just cross that guy off my list and send a message to another one who catches my eye.