I’ve put on weight since I last dated. How can I build my confidence and establish a new dating life?

I’ve put on weight since I last dated. How can I build my confidence and establish a new dating life? 1

Real attractiveness comes from more than how a person looks, writes advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith. Remember to apply this knowledge to yourself

Venus at the Mirror by Peter Paul Rubens, 1615E16M9G Venus at the Mirror by Peter Paul Rubens, 1615
‘Attractiveness has very little to do with raw appearance.’ Painting: Venus at the Mirror (1615) by Peter Paul Rubens. Photograph: FineArt/Alamy

I’ve been single for seven years now after previously being a serial monogamist. I’ve been very happy that I’ve taken this time to work on myself alone and find out what I want, so I’m in a much happier place now.

I feel ready to start dating again but have no confidence thanks to putting on weight since I last dated which I’m struggling to lose. How can I build my confidence while trying to improve my health and establish a new dating life?

Eleanor says: Your experience here gets to the heart of something modern dating makes it very easy to forget: attractiveness has very little to do with raw appearance. I think we can overlook that because so many of the faces we encounter daily are still, frozen – pictures on Instagram, or flat posters on the side of a bus. It makes it perilously easy to miss that real attractiveness lives in how a person moves, talks, carries themselves. In a word, it’s how they live.

In some sense we know that already – most of us have had the experience of being driven wild by someone who doesn’t tick the magazine boxes, or discovered that someone notably beautiful turns out to be kind of sparkless. We all know you could 3D print a mathematically symmetrical face and stick it on a perfectly proportioned body and still find the resulting animatron less attractive than someone who’s warm, mysterious, charming or funny.

But though that’s how we find others attractive, we tend to forget it about ourselves. We go back to evaluating the flat, still version of ourselves in a mirror or a picture. We never get to see the animated expressions or mannerisms that might light other people’s fires.

Try not to make that mistake when you’re prepping for a date or trying to feel more confident. Don’t see yourself as a rigid object, like a cutout in a museum being evaluated by people with tape measures. Imagine yourself instead as what you are – a person, with stories and laughs and the ability to invite someone else into your world. Especially don’t make that mistake about what you weigh, a fact which shouldn’t dare make you feel sexless.

It can really help build that animated confidence to put yourself in situations and outfits which make you feel most like yourself. People can tell when your real self shows up – they tend to like it. Don’t worry about orchestrating dates you think other people would expect, or dressing how you think others would or should. Give yourself the things that make you feel like you. After all, that’s what you’re hoping someone will fall for.

All that said, some amount of rejection is inevitable. In even the few years you’ve had off the dating scene, you can expect to find massive divergences in people’s expectations about who talks to who first, what each gesture “means”, what can be done without causing offence – or even how much it matters to cause offence.

The best principle for dealing with the occasional sting is to remember: they’re just some person. You wouldn’t defer to other people’s verdicts about anything else they’d spent a maximum of a few days thinking about, so don’t listen to other people’s judgments about you when they’ve only known you that long. An opinion about you formed by a functional stranger is about as useful as medical advice on a bathroom wall: it’s not.

You deserve to have fun in the dating scene. Start by relating to yourself with the same principle we use for others: attraction responds to peoplenot just bodies.


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