Identity Is Deeper Than Mindset
Do your dates feel like groundhog day?
Do you feel like you keep meeting the same types of guy?
Or do you tell yourself ‘there are no decent guys out there!’
I had originally written this as ‘dating mindset’.
Because – I was wondering ‘how can the smart women I coach change their mindset about dating?’
I was really thinking: action, stepping outside a comfort zone, listening to others, journaling, creating your own scripts…
But none of it quite rang true.
Thinking about recent coaching conversations, I started to wonder – what influences our mindset?
There’s been so much talk recently about ‘changing your mindset’ and the ‘growth mindset’ – but I couldn’t help thinking about how mindsets get created.
It is deeper than a mindset.
From the conversations on the Facebook group, and recent coaching calls – I’m suggesting that we all have a ‘Dating Identity’.
The word identity comes from middle French meaning ‘sameness, oneness, state of being the same’.
Consider that whatever results you’re getting with dating, then that’s your Dating Identity. And your Dating Identity is the sum of all the previous experiences you’ve had in dating: good, bad, and ugly.
We can get very attached to our ‘identities’ because they create stability. They are a set of qualities that are relatively stable about who we are.
More than that though – your Dating Identity starts to inform what you think…about men, dating, being asked out…everything.
Even down to how you feel when you are asked out.
If you’ve had mostly negative experiences – what’s your Dating Identity going to be?
Probably not great.
So then maybe you start to think:
“It’s time for something different. I’m going to get different results with dating. I’m going to shake things up, revamp my profile, go speed dating, listen to my friends…It’s gonna be GREAT”
Try and make big changes all at once, and the pull back to your ‘identity’ or ‘sameness’ will be too strong.
Maybe you change for a bit, but end up repeating the same patterns.
Attachment is the psychological term for the close bond between caregiver and child. (I have a whole post about attachment and a useful book here.)
First proposed by Psychologist John Bowlby, he suggested that humans are born to form attachments with their caregivers – it’s innate – and it has evolutionary value.
Think about it – when early humans evolved on the savannah, unless their newborn babies stuck close to their mothers, they would become food for another animal pretty quickly. This makes a lot of sense now when bringing up children.
Attachment research became a major area. Mary Ainsworth was an American Psychologist who studied with Bowlby. Her big contribution to attachment was creating an experiment to identify different attachment styles.
Her experiment (called ‘the strange situation’) examined a baby’s behaviour in different scenarios with its mother and analysed some key aspects of a baby’s behaviour, namely how they react to: being by themselves, strangers, and reunion with the mother.
She meticulously observed and recorded specific actions from the babies (e.g. crying, exploring, being happy to see mummy etc.) and started to see patterns and repeated behaviours. She grouped these together to propose the following attachment “styles” (I’ve added my humorous simplified explanation):
- Secure = I’m ok with mummy, scared when she’s not there, and I know she’s there to support me
- Insecure resistant (or anxious) = I need mummy now, she better not go, OMG WHERE IS SHE? Oh ok she’s back. Phew.
- Insecure avoidant = I couldn’t care less about mummy, whatever, I’ll be ok (but secretly I’m really scared)Disorganised = how I feel about mummy is all over the place. And I’m scared. I think.
For the Dating Identities framework, I’ve simplified these attachment types on a line from:
Three things to keep in mind as you read this
First – yes our attachment style becomes our template for future relationships
Bowlby called this our ‘internal working model’.
The idea is that if you had a normal, functioning relationship with your mother, you’re most likely to have a secure attachment style and be able to create your own relationship successfully.
In other words – attachment style can predict the kinds of dating and romantic relationships people have.
This might seem like bad news…but read on!
Second – attachment styles are not “bad”.
It has been suggested that each style has evolutionary value – in keeping alert to danger (anxious) or able to be independent (avoidant).
It’s not that they are good or bad. So don’t get hung up on which one you think you might have.
And don’t go over-analysing either – the point of a framework is that it supports effective action!
And third – attachment styles can change over time.
Just because you might have a more anxious attachment style, doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom
One side to all of this – as with most personal development – is self-awareness. It’s not that one style is better than another. It’s more like – when you know your attachment style, you have a choice.
It takes looking into and owning the past in a very honest way.
And then making conscious choices.
BUT – your attachment style is only half the story with your Dating Identity.
A Date Is An Investigation Of A Potential Future
Attachment style gives a psychological underpinning to the way we might choose to date and form a relationship.
And is one part of a Dating Identity.
But it can be a little abstract.
To make it tangible, I’ve combined it with the number of dates you’ve been on.
Every romantic relationship starts somewhere. At that start is a situation where time has been set aside for two people to meet each other. (You can read more of my thoughts about whether it’s a date here.)
At its core – that’s what a date is: two people setting aside an agreed time to meet, just them, to get to know each other.
A date is an investigation of a potential future.
It’s not when the formal commitment to a relationship begins – that comes later.
Without going on dates, meeting a Good Man so that you can share your life with someone is practically impossible.
So for the Dating Identity model I’ve created another line:
Act and Select
I’ve worked with women who say:
“I just don’t meet any nice men”
“I can’t seem to get dates”
“I don’t know how to date”
Or some version of this.
This suggests two things.
- The kind of action that’s being taken is ineffective at getting dates, or
- There is no action being taken to get dates.
It’s about the action.
Equally, I’ve spoken with women who say:
“I don’t have a problem meeting guys…”
“…it’s just they’re all players or narcissistic”
“why don’t men want to commit?”
Or something like this.
- The challenge is selecting not meeting
- There may not be a clear way to select Good Men (i.e. do you really know what you want?)
It’s about the selection.
The bottom line is that finding a Good Man needs a willingness to be responsible for your dating life. This is the other side to all of this – and most personal development.
Acting and selecting needs a new framework so that you don’t repeat the same patterns.
The question is – how?
Can I change my Dating Identity?
Otherwise I think this whole framework would have little purpose.
But it’s less about changing and more about recentring.
Here’s a diagram of the two components of Dating Identity put together, with the names of each one.
Each one has its own ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving – and its own unique approach to dating.
That one in the middle is the Secure Zone where we want to be…
…or – bring ourselves back to being.
Sometimes we get drawn towards our (most preferred) Dating Identity – from our past behaviours.
Think of it like a pendulum that swings in any direction.
The quicker you can deal with the ups and downs of dating, the more you will be able to act freely without:
- worrying about repeating a pattern from your past
- feeling concerned about what to do or how it might be perceived
Recentre Yourself In Two Steps
Getting into that ‘more secure area’ takes two steps:
- Own your current Dating Identity (self-awareness)
- Take small actions over time (act)
Step 1: Own your current Dating Identity
This is challenging because the way you take ownership of your current Dating Identity is to look at what you’re doing, and what you’ve got.
Read the following two examples and see if you can relate.
- What you’re doing: going speed dating, meeting lots of men, going on dates with men who turn out to be players, complaining that there’s no decent men
- Past experience: had a long-term relationship that ended, enjoy flirting, men get attracted to you, but they’ve only been interested in sex
- Results: attracting emotionally unavailable men, at its core – avoiding committing, but seeming like you’re taking action
- What you’re doing: forever tweaking dating profile, replying to lots of messages from men, no actual dates, complaining can’t meet men
- Past experience: had a long-term relationship that ended, been on lots of bad dates, asking out men who say no, end up in a spiral of negativity
- Results: scared to take action
There are more besides these of course.
Being honest with yourself, looking back over your experiences, and thinking critically will start to allow you to take ownership of your Dating Identity.
Step 2: Take small actions over time
This is where you start to speculate about actions you could take to create a new Dating Identity
Each time you take a small action, it’s a vote for the type of person you wish to become.
It almost seems too easy.
But – the small action, taken regularly means a LOT to our sense of self – our identity.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because I go on about it ALL THE TIME! Habit change, habit formation etc. etc. (Yeah I’m referring back to James Clear’s Atomic Habits AGAIN!)
BECAUSE IT WORKS!
Here are some examples:
- Each time you write a page, you are a writer.
- Each time you practice the violin, you are a musician.
- Each time you start a workout, you are an athlete.
Applying this idea to dating. Consider:
- Each time you compliment a guy, you’re a woman who is great at talking to men
- Each time you ask a guy for his number, you are a powerful, courageous woman (regardless of the outcome!)
- Each time you start a conversation with a man, you are a smart woman who wants to meet a good man
It’s A Daily Choice To Keep Continuing
Dating is an up and down/ stop-start experience.
There are days when you feel great, start conversations, and meet great people.
And then there are days where it seems like nothing is going right and you feel as if you’re going to stay alone.
Resilience is about how you come back from challenges.
Knowing your Dating Identity provides a framework for you to understand past patterns.
Taking the small, specific action allows you to bounce-back (or recentre).
This is how progress is made.
“Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits”James Clear
Your relationship status is a lagging measure of your dating habits.James D’Souza, coach – Good Man Plan
What specific, small action could you take consistently to recentre your Dating Identity?
There is no magic want to meeting a Good Man.
Life is not a well-scripted romantic comedy with wonderful ‘meet cutes’ and the guy sweeping the woman off her feet.
Finding a Good Man so that you can share you life with someone is frustrating, messy, annoying, and upsetting.
It’s a daily choice to keep continuing.
But it is worth it.
I’ve adapted this quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s Speech ‘Citizenship in a Republic’.
It speaks to what it takes to make progress – and keep going.
The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer…A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities—all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness…It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong one stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends themselves in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least fails while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.Theodore Roosevelt (Adapted by James D’Souza)
What specific, small action are you going to take?
Have you ever asked yourself ‘Why can’t I meet a good man?’ Discover your ‘Natural Dating Strategy’ find out the answer, and get an approach that’s as unique as you are.