I’m currently participating in a one-on-one dating advice coaching program. The goal of the program is to prepare me to start dating, for me to feel confident about dating and to enjoy dating. We’re not even halfway through the program and I’m already feeling much more comfortable about dating. My work this past week was about knowing my strengths.
Knowing my Strengths
This assignment sounds relatively straightforward – I had to write down my strengths in four areas: physical, emotional, creative and spiritual. And then to say what I bring to a relationship and what I do better than anyone else.
My coach explained the goal of this was to create an awareness of my gifts, helping to reinforce that belief, “I am a catch!” She asked how I felt doing the exercise. Honestly, I would have struggled with it a year ago. Now, I’m much more comfortable with it and that’s part of how I know I’m ready to date after divorce.
My coach encouraged me to listen to Maya Angelou’s poem Phenomenal Woman – it’s just about a minute long and I encourage you to listen to it. I thought I had done pretty well with my list but Maya’s got me thinking at a completely different level. It’s about ‘radical self-acceptance’ and I’m not there yet. Someone who exudes that to me is Queen Latifah.
I’ve struggled with this in the past for a couple of reasons. One I think is cultural or my upbringing … “modesty is a virtue” is a phrase I remember well. It wasn’t considered very becoming to say you were good at something or at least that’s how I interpreted it. It could also be a British thing. The other one is being with someone for twenty years who didn’t express appreciation for my talents and who reacted to my successes with jealousy and envy. My mistake was to avoid to the issues rather than confront them. And now it just feels like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
I understand now and I’m comfortable that celebrating my gifts is not about being immodest. By saying I’m empathetic, or I’m really good at bringing order to chaos, I’m not bragging, I’m not saying it makes me better than others. What I’m saying is that these are my talents. This is what makes me different. This is what I bring to the table. My coach said,
“If I acknowledge my gifts, I allow others to acknowledge them also.”
She also cautioned against discounting compliments from others. When someone says they like your dress, you don’t say, “This old thing, I’ve had it for years.” You can say, “Yes, I’ve had it for a long time but I always feel great when I wear it.”
My list is now pinned to my Inspiration Board so I can see it every morning and every evening and at the top of it is printed in big, bold letters, “I am a catch.”
I’ve been making some progress on initiating conversations. This week, when I went for a physical therapy appointment there was a gentleman sitting in the waiting room who didn’t look too happy. The office usually has a jar of Jolly Ranchers sitting on the reception desk so as I took one, I offered them to him and said,
“You look like you need one of these.”
He said no at first – he was chewing gum – but then I persuaded him and then my PT call me in for my appointment 😉
Then on Saturday evening, I took my son and a couple of his friends to see the Classical Mystery Tour – Beatles music combined with a symphony orchestra. The gentleman next to me was on his own with two couples and we had quite a pleasant conversation during the intermission. Truthfully, I think he started it but I didn’t shut him down and I felt at ease chatting even though he was at least ten years my senior.
And I did also go to the First Friday Artwalk that my town hosts and I went solo. I discovered a great art gallery where I’ll be doing some of my Christmas shopping.
Seems to me the keys to being comfortable with striking up a conversation with a stranger is firstly wanting to be friendly and secondly having some connection. The latter I’m finding is easier than I imagined after all, the fact that the two of you are in the same place means you have something in common.
My assignment this week is a values inventory which I suspect is not going to be easy. I’ve to pick my top ten from an extensive list and during the process note any emotional reactions to specific values. This is all about knowing specifically what I’m looking for in a partner.
Are any of you following along this process with me? Doing this for yourself? What would you write down as your strengths and what do you bring to a relationship? Is is easy for you to say your strengths? What has helped you feel confident about this?