- The idea that women are "too" something for men is nothing new, it's often seen in rom-coms and dating guides.
- Psychologist Meredith Brown says if you find you use the word "too" to describe yourself, that's negative self-talk.
- Recognising and banning negative self-talk, then changing the way you view your single status can be liberating.
It's Friday night and Sam, 29, has arranged a catch-up with two of his best friends at the pub. Two beers in, their conversation turns to weekend plans. While his mates are off the market, Sam is single and tells the boys how much he's dreading going to a family lunch alone on Sunday.
"The last time I saw my [grandmother], she nagged me about being single and reminded me that I'm not getting any younger," he groans. "My aunty then started going on about how I'm too picky after I politely declined to be set up with a 35-year-old woman from her office who still lives with her parents. Maybe I'll just say I'm seeing someone. I mean, it's kinda true; there is this hot girl who asked me out last week, but I haven't locked anything in with her yet... I'm feeling a bit too fat at the moment. I don't want her to see my body and be totally turned off."
Hang on a second. We bet you're thinking that guys don't sit around with their friends talking about how their love handles get in the way of their love lives. You're right; they don't. You see, Sam and his friends are really women, the hot girl (and not-so-hot 35-year-old) are actually guys and the after-work drinks consist of bubbles, not beer. So why the gender change? It's to illustrate the double standards single women are up against.
This anecdote sounds ridiculous when told from a male perspective, so why do women regularly buy into this kind of talk? Why is it that (almost) all the single ladies are so quick to assume there is something wrong with them?
Things single women say
The notion that single women must be "too" something for men isn't anything new; it's been explored in almost every dating guide ever written, not to mention many a rom-com. The flipside of the "too" coin is those defensive single excuses that are parodied to hilarious effect in this video: "I'm way too busy with work"; "Guys are really intimidated by me" and "I'm just too picky".
Either way, the implication is still the same: there must be something wrong with you or your approach to dating, and that flaw is the reason you're still single.
"From a social standpoint, women have been taught to believe that we need a partner to be happy," explains Gabrielle Bernstein, life coach and author of Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles. "The limiting belief that we're not whole without a man is something that plagues most women. Self-attack is a direct response to this. If a woman doesn't feel good enough without a romantic partner, she will blame herself for being single."
This is something that Amy, 28, can relate to. "Most of the time I don't mind being single," she says. "However, every so often I do get depressed about it. I'm ashamed to say it, but in the past I have called my married sister in tears asking if I'm too fat or not pretty enough. I know it sounds like a load of crap, but sometimes I do wonder what's wrong with me."
The never-ending story
This type of thinking is a classic example of cognitive distortion, says psychologist Meredith Brown from Life Works Relationship Counselling and Education Services. Cognitive distortion is a technical term for what happens when our mind convinces us that something false is true.
"We're very good at creating stories about ourselves and labelling ourselves," explains Meredith. "So if we've been single for a while, the tendency is to create an explanation for it. The thing to remember if you find yourself using the word 'too' to describe yourself is that it's negative. It can become a self-perpetuating story. So someone who keeps repeating I'm too independent for guys' could cease to be open to new opportunities and push men away. It's also an over-generalisation that fails to acknowledge that all men are different and will perceive us differently."
So what's a single woman to do? Recognising (and banning) negative self-talk is the first step. The second is to change the way you view your single status. Choose to use it as an opportunity for growth and development. Life coach and blogger Tara Bliss thinks the solo time singledom allows should be embraced. "That's when we get to know ourselves. If you choose to view it that way, being single can be liberating," she says.
And, ironically, achieving contentment within yourself may be what leads you to a great relationship. "I firmly believe the more time women spend becoming comfortable with who they are, the easier they will recognise Mr Right when he comes knocking," Tara explains. "The bottom line will always be love thyself, but romance often enters your life when you're rocking some serious self-love."
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