Dating today can be a treacherous landscape. There’s more pressure than ever to appear attractive, to appear desirable. It can be quite disenchanting having to consistently package oneself into the best potential mate; one that has all the right and desirable features and qualities. We’ve all innocently played the game more or less. We subtly try to highlight and accentuate our more enticing attributes while hiding what we perceive to be our less than appealing characteristics.
But over time, this approach to dating tends to makes us feel like we’re a used car salesman. We’re ultimately cheating ourselves and deep down we know it. We know when we’re not always revealing or being true to the actuality of who and what we are. And if we’re acting that way, it’s painful. It’s painful to present a watered down version of oneself, and if you’re like me, then usually it ends in more disappointment and frustration.
Always feeling as though we need to present an ideal image to others is also exhausting. And the truth is, we’re ultimately fooling ourselves if we think we actually need to live up to others’ perceived expectations of us. And we’re definitely fooling ourselves if we think that it’s going to lead to meeting the right person.
It’s part of the beauty of the human condition to have imperfections and flaws. However, it’s ironic that many times the aspects of ourselves that we choose to hide are actually the very source of our uniqueness, of what makes us an individual.
But what would happen if, instead of choosing to diminish our individuality, we took off the armor and were just real with one another?
What if we had the courage to be vulnerable, to be honest about who we are and what we want?
Being vulnerable means we’re willing to risk being ourselves. We’re willing to give up trying to control things that are completely out of our control; how others see us, how much they desire us. We’re willing to let go of trying to convince, to persuade.
Being vulnerable is incredibly scary — we feel totally naked and unprotected. But that’s where true intimacy is born. That’s where the magic happens, it’s where genuine chemistry is created. Being guarded and defended impedes our natural spontaneity and flow — we just can’t connect like that.
We’re all secretly or not so secretly yearning for genuine intimacy, for the barriers and walls to come down. But it’s also one of our deepest fears. And the funny thing is, we think our fear is protecting us but it’s actually keeping us from the thing we desire the most.
If we’re willing to confront that fear and acknowledge it, if we’re willing to admit that we’re afraid, then we can start to move beyond it. Almost paradoxically, usually we find that once we’ve surrendered our fears and inhibitions, we tend to attract more healthy relationships into our lives; relationships that are built on trust and mutual respect, rather than neediness, jealously and self-seeking.
We can only give what we have. So when we’ve granted ourselves the freedom to be just who we are, we automatically grant that freedom to others. Then we can coexist in a relationship that completely allows the other to be who they are, to be imperfect, to change.
When we’ve moved beyond fear, when we’re comfortable with who we are, we’ve essentially become the right person. Usually we’re busy looking for the right person. But when we become the right person, we attract the right person. As the saying goes, we attract what we are.
Now we can really meet another person half way because we’re no longer afraid. When we’re no longer afraid, we date like we have nothing to lose because we realize there really is nothing to lose. The only loss is in shortchanging ourselves to meet the expectations of others. If we’re preoccupied only with impressing someone, winning someone over or any another of the myriad of biological imperatives that subconsciously run our dating life, then we’re not really meeting another person.
So when we meet another human being that is not trying to convince us of their worth, it’s attractive. They radiate a natural self confidence rather than a feigned arrogance. Someone who is comfortable in their own skin, not afraid to show who they really are to the world — we love those people. We love them because they remind us of who we really are.
It’s a great relief to meet someone who is just themselves. Someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. It engenders a certain sense of trust — we can finally be human and imperfect and it’s finally not a problem. If somebody likes us fine, if not, that’s also fine (as if our self worth actually depended on something as fickle as approval).
In the end, there’s really only one prerequisite to finding true love, and that’s being fully yourself.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Because if we have the courage to show our whole self to the world, then we become an individual.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, we all aspire to be individuals. An individual is someone who has risked it all to be themself. And in that gamble they have stumbled upon their first true love—themselves. Now they can love without attachment, without need. They are lovers in the truest sense. They love their freedom. They love their partner’s freedom too.
When we’re vulnerable, it seems like we’re taking a big chance and that’s frightening. We never know if someone will approve of us or not, but that’s the risk, that’s the gamble. It’s a gamble work making though, because deep down we all know the real risk is in never risking anything.