Home Dating Behaviour Case Study : When Your Outside Matches Your Inside

Case Study : When Your Outside Matches Your Inside

written by Mel Schilling, Psychologist

This case study is a particularly personal one.  It’s about ME. 

Those who know me, know that I spent my entire 30s as a single woman.  I travelled, built my business, worked overseas and had a great time living my independent life.  It wasn’t until my late 30s that I started to notice all my friends coupling-up and the nagging loneliness started to set in. 

As a single woman, I had built up some walls of self protection.  You know the ones, the barriers that you believe keep you safe from the outside world?  Those walls served me well for a while, I wasn’t interested in a relationship and everything about my manner represented this. 

In fact, friends gave me feedback that every time a man came near me, it was like I had a flashing neon sign saying ‘Back Off!’ above my head. 

I had developed a pretty tough exterior, the image of an accomplished business woman, a woman who didn’t need a man, an abrasive and not very approachable woman at that.  I dressed in a business-like manner (even on dates) and I would communicate in a way that gave nothing away.   

One time I agreed to go on a date set up by my Mum. Her friend’s son was a personal trainer and I thought, ‘at least he’ll be fit, how bad could it be?’ He was lovely, a real gentleman. Rather than showing any vulnerability I quickly turned the date into a career coaching session (my comfort zone) and before we knew it, we were in Borders selecting his reading list. 

#howembarrassing 

Later that night I reflected on the date and realised I was doing everything I could to keep my distance from men. I thought I was ready for a relationship and wanted to be loved, but all my thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviours were taking me in the opposite direction. 

Something had to give. 

After lots of self reflection and conversations with close friends, I realised that the outside persona I was presenting to the dating world did not match who I was on the inside.  I felt like a fraud. 

When I took an honest look at myself, my REAL self, I realised I was sensitive, loving, considerate and vulnerable.  I really wanted to connect with a man who could be my equal in many ways, but who could also be a male, with all the male traits that come with that. 

I was feminine, but the outward impression I created was quite masculine. 

So I made some changes. 

I made my outside match my inside. 

First I changed the way I dressed.  No more power suits, I started wearing soft colours, florals (even a frill or two!).  I completely softened my physical image, wore my hair down and changed my perfume.  Yes, my perfume!  I had previously worn a strong, spicy, almost manly scent and I swapped this for a light, floral, feminine fragrance.  This was the finishing touch that made me FEEL feminine and soft.  Each time I smelt that fragrance I reminded myself who I was and how I wanted to portray myself. 

Then, I worked on my dating communication.  I made a conscious effort to listen more, to remain open without judgment, to ask more about them and to share a little more of myself.  This took some adjustment as I had spent years communicating with men in the opposite way, but eventually it started to feel natural.  And I loved it. 

 I also updated my online dating profile to reflect the real me, and this is when everything shifted.  Within a couple of months I connected with Gareth and we are now 5 years down the track, engaged with a beautiful one year old daughter, Madison. 

I’d love to save you from taking the long road to dating success like I did. 

Take some time out and check in with your inside/outside alignment.  Make a few adjustments if you need to and notice how much more authentic, confident and comfortable you feel on your next date. 

Happy Dating!

Mel x

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