How to date with courage and confidence

As I write this, I’m preparing to host a dating workshop for young adults with cancer. This isn’t my usual audience and I’m rather daunted by the prospect. But I’m also clear on what I’m going to say: that anyone who is looking for love can benefit from solid foundations, a strong inner anchor, healthy self-esteem, emotional resilience, a good dose of trust and bags of faith.

Let’s start with the foundations. We need a strong sense of self and a healthy relationship with ourselves in order to date successfully and form a committed relationship with another. Without these foundations, we are prone to fall for the first person who crosses our path or we’ll give up on dating at the first hint of rejection because it hurts too much.

Which brings me on to the inner anchor. We need to have something to hold on to, something to help us to feel grounded, rooted and secure. God can be our inner anchor, but I also like the idea of building up our emotional core so that we feel solid inside. I particularly like the concept of an inner oak tree. Imagine your core is like a tree. Is it strong, able to withstand any shocks, like a sturdy oak? Or is it weak and spindly, easily blown to the ground?

How can you grow your inner oak so that you are more emotionally resilient? We could start with the basics – good nourishment. Are you fed and watered? Do you get enough fresh air? If not, do you need to look after yourself more? And how about your roots? Are you well supported and connected? How can you strengthen your network and feel part of a supportive community? And how can you dig deeper into your faith so that it can steady you when things get tough?

We’re likely to be much more successful at dating if we go out there with an inner oak tree inside, rather than a core that’s turned to mush.

When it comes to self-esteem, I hope it’s obvious why dating without self-worth is a bad idea. I know this from experience. I’ve dated when I haven’t felt good about myself – falling for men who didn’t value me or respect me, accepting crumbs, accepting less than I deserved. And I’ve dated with healthy self-esteem too and I’m pleased to say I’m getting married to a lovely man this June.

Self-esteem comes from doing estimable things – things that are worthy of great respect. So what estimable things can you do this week? How can you treat yourself as a valuable person? Can you make sure you take your lunch break at the office or leave work on time to get to your dance class or to that date you keep putting off? Can you get to bed on time and switch your phone off so that you’re not glued to the screen? Can you speak your truth or stand up for yourself, with family, friends or in your workplace?

When it comes to trust, it’s difficult to date without it. I was 43 when I finally committed to the man I’ll soon marry. This relationship had been a long time coming. If I hadn’t trusted that I’d eventually find love, I would have given up a long time ago. But because I trusted, I kept growing and developing. I kept learning more about myself, my dating patterns and my relationship history. And I kept changing those patterns so that I could find love.

I trusted that I would get there in the end. I trusted that the men who didn’t want to be with me weren’t right for me and that I’d meet my life partner when the time was right. And it worked. Do you trust that love will come your way? Do you have hope or are you down on dating? How can you build more trust?

Along with trust, I had faith. Faith that I was moving in the right direction. Faith that I deserved to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Faith that all the personal development work I was doing would yield fruit. How much faith do you have? And if your faith is wavering, how can you give it a boost?

The final thing that I’d like to say in my workshop for young adults with cancer and I’d like to share here with you is that it’s important to have fun with dating, to enjoy it. Let’s get out there. Let’s experiment. Let’s practice. Yes, at our own pace, stopping and resting when we need to, but let’s muster our courage and our confidence, flex our inner oak tree and head out on a date.

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