Back in April of this year, I started Her Blank Canvas to help women who have a similar mindset to mine, accomplish like-minded goals, be a trail blazer, conquer the world, you know... simple stuff. However, very soon along this process, I realized that there aren’t many carbon-copies of me walking around the world, and I needed to broaden the scope on women in general, not just the women that desire to climb the corporate ladder or be a top influencer in their space, but all women. Women that love being moms, single women traveling, women in relationships, you get the picture. I want every woman who comes to our website, events, joins our book club, and listens to our podcast find something they resonate with and will help move their life forward. In addition to that, I want to broaden the topics discussed because there is more to life than solely focusing on one part of your vision. I am in the point of my life where I am completely focused on what I call “The Upgrade,” which is working to enhance every aspect of life such as, career, lifestyle, physical health, social life, etc. However, the one category I conveniently leave out in my pursuit of “The Upgrade" is dating and romantic relationships. Which is coincidentally the areas I have the least experience in, but the most talked about and asked about topic for most women in their early 20’s. I get asked all the time where is my boyfriend, why don’t I have a boyfriend, and in the words of my mother, “I wish you would just get a boyfriend!” She said this to me one day after I talked her ear off for about 30 minutes about my business. I could tell it had been a long and stressful day, but I continued to blabber on talking a million words a minute, something I typically do when I get excited, and frankly she just snapped. I was shocked actually, rarely does my mom yell at me and never has she gotten upset over the lack of romance in my life.
Needless to say, this is a topic I have tried to steer away from in regards to Her Blank Canvas entirely because I dislike the fact that some women feel defined by the relationships they are in, and I do not want this company to turn into a romance blog. Now, don’t think I am immune to dating and relationships, because I am not, it is just never been a top priority for me. I am in my early twenties, graduated from college, have a great career and small business, and have an apartment. Traditionally, dating and “settling down” would be my next step; and eventually, I want that to be a step, but not necessarily the next step. "The next step" seems to be a universal problem for many women my age waiting in limbo between their careers and starting a romantic relationship. I like to call this space, "The Successful Women Complex,” which is the time in a woman’s life where she feels pressured to focus on her career or focus on getting married and starting a family. If a woman is not lucky enough to find her soulmate during college or 1-2 years after college, she feels like she has two options in life:
Type 1: Completely disregard men and convince herself she does not need companionship to “complete” her and focuses all her energy and time to performing well in her career.
Type 2: Becomes desperate to find “the one” and begins to obsessively date until she gets the relationship she always thought she wanted.
Either way, if companionship is something you long for, even if it is only sometimes, neither option will leave you feeling fulfilled at the end of the day, and you will always be in search of what’s missing. Confessing, I fall into the Type 1 woman. I am laser-focused on my future, and I do not have the time to entertain dating or a social life for that matter, but I have always been this way. Ever since I was 6-7 years old, my parents involved me in at least 2-3 extracurricular activities at a time since I left for college. So in my defense, a busy schedule is all I have ever known. However, recently and maybe it is because my 24th birthday is quickly approaching, I feel something beginning to shift. Now, I realize that my future family goals are just as important to me as my career and business goals. I understand, this may not be the case for every single woman out there, but I am confident this is or has been the case for many women before me and probably many after me. I also assume the biggest question for women who have big plans for their future is, how to pursue a romantic relationship, while still focusing on pursuing the dreams they always wanted to accomplish.
Get rid of crappy decades of traditional precedents: It is 2016, not 1916. Although women’s stock still isn’t as high as men ( a topic for another discussion). The role of a woman has changed tremendously! A woman, wife, and mother is the Democratic Presidential Candidate who could potentially be the President of the United States for heaven’s sake! The idea that women cannot be a great wife and mother while pursuing a meaningful career is far from reality now; it is not easy, but there are women in every industry successfully doing just that. So first, you must stop thinking you cannot have it all because you most certainly can.
Be open to changing up your routine: It is not enough to say you are ready for a relationship. You also have to put yourself out there. Go out with friends, meet new people go on dates, etc. If this is hard for you, don’t worry you are not alone. If you are Type 1 like myself, making the transition from a hectic work life to scaling back and creating time in your schedule can be difficult to balance at first. Just focus on doing 1-2 social activities per week and soon enough you will blossom into a working, social butterfly.
Focus on making friends: The moment you make finding a boyfriend the only purpose of having a social life is the time you become Type 2. The purpose is not to go from Type 1 to Type 2; the purpose is to find and maintain a healthy balance. If you meet someone new, and you hit off the first time you meet, don’t automatically assume he is “the one.” 95% he is not, and you fall head over heels for someone you do not even know. The goal is to make friends and keep the relationship platonic for at least 4-6 months while experiencing other scenes and people. The moment innocent flirting goes too far before you can clearly conclude whether this is the right person or not, is the moment you have to start over. There is nothing wrong with being attracted and enjoying one another's company, but that is as far as it should go until the 4-6 month period is over. Trust me on this one.
Take yourself out on dates: Treat yourself to a date every once in a while. To get the relationship you want, you have to consistently show yourself how the person you are with should treat you.
Be honest: If the individual you are interested asks you what you are looking for, be honest. Don’t cover it up by saying you are not looking for anything because then there would be no reason why you went out with them. I suggest expressing that you are not seeking to rush into a relationship, but you are interested in getting know someone and potentially start the process of becoming something more than friends.
Don’t get discouraged and don’t overthink: Don’t give up if dating does not go the way you anticipated. Like everything else, it takes time, and you will learn more about yourself through the process, which is always positive. The best way to stay optimistic when dating is to manage your expectations. That is why keeping the people you are interested in dating as friends for 4-6 months is vital. The less emotionally involved you are during the dating process, the better because you want to make sure you are making proper judgments.
Stay focused: Continue to pursue and focus the things that fulfill you the most. When you are at work, concentrate on being at work and being your best there. When you are with family and friends, focus on them. When you are alone, read a book, exercise, cook, craft, etc. Naturally, women struggle to compartmentalize different areas their life, so staying active throughout the day will help the annoying head chatter subside.
Meeting new people should always be fun, and it should never be a stressful process. As we embark down this path, it should be less about finding someone and more about finding ourselves. Patience is always important, but it may be more critical in this area of life since you cannot control the other person. Remember always to be your genuine self and keep an open mind; you will be an expert in no time.