Ever since I can remember, I've wanted to live an extraordinary life. My visions of that life included trekking across the globe, volunteering for causes I cherished, pursuing a career that made a difference and laughing wildly with my soulmate and friends. So, I bounced around the planet, moved across the country, raised money for charities, invested in friendships, navigated the corporate ladder and dated and dated and dated.
My partner in crime — my future husband — wasn't showing up. I had a few close encounters with potential mates, but for the most part, I was perpetually single throughout my 20s and 30s.
I filled my calendar with events to meet new people, belonged to gyms frequented by singles, dropped by busy cafes to catch an eye and reluctantly joined dating sites. I did my best to keep my hopes high after a heartbreak and my spirit strong when faced with a setback.
My confidence and self-esteem were intact for a long time until the years went by. My friends were having baby showers, and my dates were asking me why I was still single. Frankly, I was asking myself the same thing.
I dug my heels in, and I tried harder to find love. Then at the age of 36, my mentor suggested I take a dating break, an emotional detox of sorts.
"What? Why would I take a dating break now? The pool of eligible prospects in my age range is getting smaller every day. Shouldn't I be doing more to find my guy?" I cried in desperation.
My mentor was right. The actions I had taken to find love weren't elevating me. Instead, they were creating stress, anxiety, self-doubt and more sadness.
It was time to take a leap of faith and go on an emotional detox. My emotional detox allowed me to regain my confidence, trust my intuition and make small tweaks that continue to help me as I navigate life with my husband.
When you meet someone you can't stop thinking about, your mind races with ways to see her again or engage him in a conversation. When that person doesn't respond as quickly as you like or in the way you had hoped, you question yourself for acting too forward or for doing or saying something wrong.
These thoughts manifest in feelings of anxiety, frustration and insecurity, which result in actions you wouldn't normally take or words you wouldn't normally say if you were feeling confident and at peace.
You're meant to navigate life with confidence and peace. With peace comes love and understanding for yourself and your circumstances.
When you feel confident, you're less likely to push hard to make things work. You're also in a state to receive what you're seeking: love.
Getting to a place of confidence and peace sometimes requires an emotional detox. Before getting back to the dating game, here are three steps you should follow:
1. Listen to your body and soul.
Our bodies contain exceptional GPS systems. They emit signals all day long that direct us toward great decisions and our truth. However, most of us rely solely on our logic.
If you've ever had a difficult decision to make, then you've probably experienced your brain making lists for choosing option A or B. When you made the best decision for yourself, your body likely felt lighter, as if a weight had been lifted.
On the contrary, when you made a decision that wasn't in your best interest, your body may have felt heavy. Some people experience sharp pains, have difficulty breathing or feel muscle tension.
Learning to listen to your body's signals of discomfort and ease will help you tremendously when dating and in all areas of your life. You may call these signals your intuition. When you listen, you'll know when to accept an invitation, how to respond to a text and when it's time to begin dating again.
It takes practice to pay attention at first, so I recommend scheduling time throughout the day to be mindful of your body's sensations as you make small decisions. This will help you begin to calibrate when a decision is right for you and when it isn't.
2. Feel all of your feelings.
Taking a break from dating and tapping into your internal GPS system can bring up all sorts of thoughts and feelings, and that can seem scary. Loneliness, disappointment, sadness, frustration and anger are just a few feelings lurking around the corner. These feelings are the reason you may have distracted yourself with anxious dating habits in the first place.
When you lean into all of your feelings, you realize they don't last as long as you expected and aren't as scary as you imagined. Examine why you feel the way you do.
Understanding the “why” behind your feelings is the key to unlocking healthy changes that will positively impact your love life. You'll realize what you like, what you don't like, what you need and what you'll never allow again.
3. Move forward with self-compassion.
After you've delved into your not-so-fun feelings and the “why” behind them, you're ready to move forward with compassion. Acknowledge and celebrate every amazing thing you've accomplished.
Remember, you put yourself out there. You were vulnerable, and you examined your actions. Those are incredible things to celebrate!
With self-compassion comes forgiveness. Is there anything you're holding on to that needs releasing? Do you blame yourself for dating "that" person or for letting things go too far? Maybe you said something you wish you could take back or change?
When you stumble, practice compassion. Self-compassion is both healing and restorative. It will also lead you toward confidence, peace and love.
You'll know when you're ready to get back to the dating game because you'll feel like your amazing self again. When you're thrown a dating curveball, you'll be prepared to rely on your intuition. Welcome your feelings, and be kind to yourself.