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Experiences

How Dating Helped My Self-Love Journey

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The blooming flowers. The chirping birds. The buzzing bees. The summer sun. The endless possibilities and infinite opportunities. All this and more awaited me at the precipice of summer. After a long period of hibernation in self-improvement/single-land, I was ready to shed my cocoon, unfold my wings, and soar into the wild world of dating. What I was not ready for was how dating would help to usher in a new era of self-love and personal growth. 

Rewinding back a couple of years, the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak, and subsequent lockdowns, left me with a lot of reflection time. To pass the time I read, I listened to podcasts, and I started to realize just how little I loved myself. I carried so much self-loathing around with me. This realization led to a vow to change, to practice, to take the seedling of self love and grow it into a bright and thriving entity. So I dove deep and spent the time creating a relationship with myself which meant more time with just me, myself, and I. 

I built the bridge for the gap between who I was and who I wanted to be and finally hammered something into place before the 2020 school year began. Now, I still had (and still have) a lot of self-work to do, but I had already made some massive leaps and bounds. I still kept an arm’s length from flirty college students and maintained my role as a straight-shooting-advice-giver for my romantically involved friends. I watched the rise and fall of lust and love, the heartbreak, the anger. I spent a lot of time on myself. I avoided dating until I felt confident enough with myself that I would not get lost in the messiness, drama, and/or heartbreak of a relationship. 

Biding my time allowed me to more confidently discover who I am and what I wanted (or didn’t want) for myself in the dating world. After so much time had passed though, I was mentally strong, emotionally confident, and felt physically attractive. So then, I did what any 20 something year old does when starting to look for a special someone. I downloaded some dating apps and got to swiping. 

The sheer amount of people on dating apps was overwhelming and it took a while to balance and fine tune my communication skills. After spending so much time dutifully cultivating an inner source of self-love, the amount of external validation I was receiving was unsettling. It almost sent me, once again, into a self-loathing tailspin. I had spent so much time only allowing only my own thoughts and affirmations to fuel my self-love, that I neglected the words of others. 

Believing the kind words of others became an “easier said than done” situation. I knew that I wanted to accept compliments and sweet gestures from these various individuals hitting me up and taking me out on dates, but there was a block. It seemed that any and all compliments, when coming from others, were duplicitous and fake. 

I kept asking myself how to control this flood of external praise that was threatening to wash my forest of self-love away. It was time to make a game plan. 

First, I slowed down just a little bit, and dramatically reduced the amount of people I was “talking” too. Then, I went back to the basics. Back to noticing things that I liked and admired about myself. I visualized how I wanted the world to see me. But, most importantly, I started to say thank you, to rest in the joy of a compliment instead of immediately deflecting it. 

These little changes and baby steps helped to increase my comfort level with accepting praise from others and helped me to realize the benefits for my own mental health self love. I became more self-assured and more unashamedly myself. 

When people talk about self-love it’s often targeted at a very individual, personal level. But I have found that a truer version of self love is one that exists and thrives outside the boundaries of solitude. Diving into the deep end of dating apps and dating led me to this realization, something I never would have discovered if I had stayed in my (very single) comfort zone. Loving yourself is a choice, a battle, every single day, but the choice to do so can bring an unparalleled level of joy and love into your life, and maybe just a significant other along with it. 

Kayla is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology through the honors college and following a pre-Physical Therapy track. She hopes to travel the world one day and she currently loves to bake and hike in addition to photography and reading.
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