There’s no doubt that both men and women share some of the same insecurities, but dating brings out some important differences. From the hundreds of clients I’ve counseled over the years, I’ve uncovered themes in the insecurities among the genders. Though times have certainly changed to the point where men and women are more equal than ever before, sexism is still alive and well, bringing out nasty, invasive insecurities that can make dating pretty stressful in different ways. Check out the insecurities below and ask yourself if you have fallen victim to any of them.
Am I successful enough?
Most of the individuals who have this dating insecurity are men, because they are often told from a young age that having a good job and being a financial provider is what equals a “real man”. Accordingly, I have had many men in my office share the insecurity they feel when asked by women what they do for a living. Specifically, I have worked with many men who felt embarrassed to pick up their date in an old or economy car, or to be financially restricted to take their dates to inexpensive restaurants. No matter how modern we’ve become as a society, deep down, men still want to be the knight who provides financially.
How to deal with it: If having brass-ring professional success is important to you, keep your eye on your goals. Make regular lists with specific professional goals on a monthly basis and check the items off as you accomplish them; take classes, earn the appropriate certificates or degrees, and remind yourself that success occurs over a period of time. Anyone who needs you to have a higher level of success right now – well, you need to let them go. (And they will eat their hearts out later!)
Am I thin enough?
While men’s body issues tend to revolve around wanting to be formidable and muscular, women’s body insecurities skew in the opposite direction. Women are much harder on themselves when it comes to their bodies than men are. I’m always tweeting, for example, about how the media references female celebrities’ weight while men in the same arena get a get-out-of-jail free card on a regular basis. The thinness preoccupation in our society is so severe that many women embark on harsh diet routines that are rooted in deprivation, or take unhealthy pills to speed up metabolism and burn fat. Simply put, this insecurity has got to go.
How to deal with it: The no-holds-barred truth is that if you routinely worry about something, you need to do something about it. In this case, the obvious solution is to exercise. Keep in mind, working out doesn’t have to be done at the gym. Go for brisk walks, keep a treadmill in your home, or do cardio or yoga with DVDs or free online videos. Spending time taking care of your body will inevitably make you feel less insecure about your body.
Am I interesting enough?
This insecurity comes from the annoying popularity contest that starts in junior high and high school, and continues on through college. Popular films – especially romantic comedies – make things even worse. Somewhere along the way, we all got the sense that every sentence we utter in a dating interaction is supposed to be witty and clever, interesting and funny. Men and women share this insecurity equally, especially those who don’t have tons of hobbies or extracurricular activities which theoretically make a person seem more dynamic. A client of mine once said, “I don’t have hobbies, but I feel like I’m supposed to.” It is true that hobbies do make passing the time a little more interesting, but you only need to be as interesting as your partner. And we can’t all be Gandhi, right?
How to deal with it: Remind yourself that the lifestyle one chooses depends on personality and that everyone has a different one. Put another way, it’s about different strokes for different folks. While some men and women have boundless energy and personalities that feed off social interactions with others, understand that a large number of men and women are more content to be home bodies or to live quieter, introverted lives. The point: Never apologize for the essence of who you are. If you’re not interesting enough for a given person, send that person shopping for someone else.
The way to become less insecure is to focus on areas where you feel that you could use improvement and to then do something about it. Focus on the things you can change and learn to avoid overthinking about the things you can’t. The most important goal is to be action-oriented and to catch yourself when you start complaining too much about any deficiency you believe you have. Above all, be nice to yourselves out there in the dating world!
What is your biggest insecurity when it comes to dating?
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.