‘But I Could Be So Much Better!’: How to Date When You’re Self-Improving

online dating when trying to lose weightIf you’re new to online dating, you might ask when is a good time to put up an online profile and declare to the world that you’re single and fabulous and worth getting to know. This is especially the case if you’re not sure you’re at your most fabulous. Shouldn’t you wait until you lose 10 pounds, get Botox injections in your forehead, finish your first triathlon, tone your arm muscles, do something about those bags under your eyes, wax your back hair, get a few more business clients and earn more money?

Yes, it’s slightly terrifying to put up a profile representing a snapshot in time when you’re on a constant journey of self-improvement. You can’t add a little bubble over a recent picture of you at a family reunion that says, “I’m 20 pounds heavier here than I’d like to be, but I just bought a book of gluten-free recipes that I’m going to try next week. I’m hoping that I’ll be thinner by the end of the summer and can fit into that pink strapless sundress I wore to a friend’s wedding. Guys love it!” You also don’t have the opportunity to say, “I lost an important account this year, and it’s kind of taken a toll on my self-esteem. But I’m a hard worker, and I always bounce back. And well, I want to explore my options for going back to music school. Sigh!”

If we all waited to lose a few pounds or make more money before we dove into the dating waters, we’d be a pretty lonely bunch. At some point, you just have to put on your best date sweater and show up and say “Here I am! Yes, I have cellulite and credit card debt, and I really would like to do something about that mole on my neck. But I really wish you’ll like me anyway.”

There’s something hopeful – and perhaps endearing – about the human spirit’s desire to always be better. But don’t let the quest for perfection wreck your dating life. Here are a few tips to make the most of the present you, even if you’re working on a better version:

1) Distinguish between life’s ups and downs and major transitions.

Sometimes we carry around a few extra pounds, and sometimes we look really good in white jeans. So your plans to start a juice cleanse next week aren’t a good reason to wait to date. But if you plan to undergo a drastic change – say, signing up for weight-loss surgery that will radically change your appearance – then it might make sense to hold off until you have a consistent sense of who you are. The same goes if you suffered through a soul-rattling layoff and are thinking of relocating to a new city.

2) Embrace your flaws.

Often what we consider imperfections are what people love most about us. So bring on that muffin top or receding hairline! Besides, the quickest way to connect with someone is to expose your vulnerabilities. The key is in how we present them. If your date asks why you don’t want to try the Tuscan garlic rosemary sourdough pretzel, you can keep it real by saying “I’m trying to drop a few winter pounds so I can wear my favorite summer dresses.” Worried about being judged for your career path? I’m willing to bet that most matches would empathize with this statement: “I’m in between jobs right now and am doing X, Y, and Z, but I didn’t want to wait until I had the perfect situation to try to meet someone special.” I’m also willing to bet that your dates would be so thrilled to have a honest conversation with someone who is taking responsibility for his or her life that they would happily join you for picnics at free music festivals over expensive dinners or trips.

3) Take pride they loved the “before” you.

If you do manage to achieve your self-improvement goals, it’s a comforting feeling to know your match was attracted to you when you weren’t as improved. It’s proof that in the end, people generally love us for who we are – no matter how much more fabulous we think we could be.

Can you relate? Have you been waiting for a ‘better you’ to start dating?

About the Author:

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate and Salon.

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