When the cashier at your local Waitrose (who has literally known you your whole life) tells you to get a move on and get married; and when you’re constantly bombarded with Clear Blue ovulation ads online – it’s bound to get a little jarring. Annoyance used to be my go to emotion followed by something a little more raw. All these comments and expectations that I should be at a certain place in my life were somewhat depressing. On the one hand I knew there was no clear path that my life or yours should take, but on the other, I had hoped I’d at least be in a serious relationship by 30! As the majority of my friends settled down and had kids I wondered when it would be my turn?!
Do you ever have those moments when you think ‘is it me’? I’m not thin enough, pretty enough, clever enough etc. I did all the time, and for a long time I just gave up on dating. Ok well someone would have to ask you out to actually be dating, but I’d given up on hoping to meet someone. If there is no hope there is no disappointment. I think what really put the nail in the coffin was dating apps; tinder, bumble, happn, they are all a waste of time. You match, but happn and tinder matches never message you and on bumble where the girl has to message first, guys rarely message back. Excuse me! I’m not here to boost your ego while you deflate my confidence – ain’t nobody got time for that!
Finally I decided to delete them all, forget about meeting someone and focus on work. But then I got commissioned to test and write about Project Love’s ‘Get Ready for Love’ 30-day online course (get £10 off when you use the code ‘amerleyolove’).The company was set up by two female life coaches, Vicki Burtt and Selina Barker, who saw that there wasn’t any love and relationship advice out there that spoke to smart, self-aware women. Women like me, who don’t want to learn ‘how to catch a guy and keep him’ or to follow The Rules (been there, done that). Their aim was to be the antithesis of all the dating advice that plays to people’s fears and insecurities.
And so it began. From the ping of the first email (you get one a day, with workbook activities, and food-for-thought in the form of blog posts, podcasts and videos), it was a real struggle. I was surprised by how much I resisted the process – I felt like a sealed vault that couldn’t be prised open. But eventually, my ‘aha’ moments came, while working on these three lessons…
1 How to handle your ‘shitty committee’
You know that inner voice that loves nothing more than to point out all your faults? I found that on starting this journey, my ‘shitty committee’ had been given free rein. I used my negative beliefs to stop me from even trying to find love. I had to dig deep and work out why. As a child I was taught that I could always do better, that a B+ was good, but an A would be preferable. It left me feeling that what I achieved was never good enough. I started to see how this had affected me; how I’d settled for situations that weren’t what I wanted and men that weren’t right for me, because I had started to believe that I didn’t deserve more. Burtt and Barker challenged me to prove that the negative opinions about myself weren’t true. ‘You’re not lovable’ was met with – ‘I have lots of friends so that can’t be true’. ‘You aren’t pretty enough’ was one I found hard to convince myself was untrue, but I started to notice couples when I was out and about, and seeing that not every pair resembles Adonis and Aphrodite helped convince me otherwise. Some days are better than others, but when I do find myself listening to my shitty committee, I shut it down quicker than I used to.
2 Self-love for beginners
As Oscar Wilde wrote, ‘to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance’. This belief is at the very heart of the course, as Project Love believes cultivating a loving, healthy relationship with yourself and discovering that the love you’ve been longing for was within you all along, will change your fate. This left me rolling my eyes and wanting to skip the challenge. I say ‘challenge’, because loving myself felt alien to me. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I’d been waiting for someone to come along and love me so that I could love myself. Although I had heard it countless times before, I began to realise that if I didn’t believe I was enough and worth loving, I might not find the right person for me. So I started to perform daily acts of love – buying flowers for the house,going to the cinema, having picnics in the park, cooking myself dinner. Small gestures which, as it turned out, were things I rarely bothered to do because I was waiting to do them with someone else. This task permeated into other areas of my life, it helped with my emotional eating, my determination to get fit and I found I soon began to enjoy my life so much more.
3 Opening up to love
Although I had been working through the issues holding me back, dating still scared me. ‘Opening up to receive love requires us to be vulnerable, and being vulnerable means taking down the walls that we have put up around us to keep ourselves protected from getting hurt, being disappointed or being rejected in love,’ explain Burtt and Barker. So, if I had any chance of putting myself out there and actually going on a date for the first time in ages, I had to get vulnerable.
I was set some tasks: ask friends for help, accept compliments, express how I feel during tricky conversations and smile at a stranger. Asking for help was excruciating. I could say I like to do things myself, but that’s not true; I’ve been let down in the past, so rather than risk being disappointed by people again, I just don’t ask. But it turns out I was letting myself down here, because it meant I missed out on experiencing the kindness of others.
Since completing the 30 days, going freelance, and living in New York, I’ve become a huge believer in fate – I’m so much more chilled about everything, including dating. It will happen when it’s meant to.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut when it comes to your ‘love’ life or wonder whether it might actually be you standing in your own way, try Project Love (get £10 off when you use the code ‘amerleyolove’). There will be moments where you roll your eyes at the positivity of it all and wince at the hard truths you may have to swallow, but you’ll soon discover that working on a relationship with yourself will change not only your love life but your whole life!