I was told by some really negative minded people that I would be forever single — no man would ever be attracted to me.
It was easy for them to say it, I was truly forever single until I was twenty-five years old. Never had a boyfriend. Never been asked out for a date. Never been kissed. (I talked about this in detail in My Story.)
As I write this, I smile remembering a close colleague friend whom I worked with for a year when I was twenty-one years old in the Philippines, the year before I left to work abroad. Since leaving my home country, I´ve been based abroad for thirteen years now.
I´m a kind of person who remains loyal to my friends, no matter how long I´ve been separated from them.
I tried for so long to search for this particular friend online. I looked for her on Friendster (remember that social networking site?), then on Facebook, to no avail. After ten years of trying to find her, a friend from my university days was able to help me find her on Facebook. I was so happy! I was thrilled!
But to my dismay, she was not the same person. She did accept my friend request, but she snobbed the two private messages I sent her. She read them, but she didn´t reply. What she did instead was go to my profile picture, which was a solo pic of me, and left the comment, “Hi, I`m enjoying my family life! And you? Just enjoy your single life, have fun.”
I was like, “What made you think I`m still single?”
She didn´t even bother checking my relationship status, or my other profile pictures, before leaving that comment. I was already married for five years by the time she left that comment.
So I gathered, she too expected me to be forever single. But could I blame her?
Here are the reasons why I was forever single and what I did to turn it around:
1. I had poor body image.
When I was a freshman in the university, I stayed in a boarding house compound that was walking distance to our university. There were several houses in that compound, the boys were separated from the girls. I made friends rather quickly in that compound. I even made friends with some senior boys.
But I became very close to two senior boarders — a girl and a gay, both in their third year business administration courses. We would often have dinner together in our shared kitchen. Sometimes, some boys would join us or just hang out with us in the kitchen.
One night, while everyone was chatting on the table, I went ahead and clean the dishes in the sink. I had my back on my board mates, and I was wearing shorts. Suddenly, everyone was quiet. So I turned my head wondering why they stopped chatting.
My gay friend revealed that it´s because the guys were admiring my legs. “They say you have gorgeous legs”, he revealed.
I looked at the guys and they were boyishly smiling. I smiled and continued with the dishes.
When I went to bed that night, I couldn´t stop thinking about what the guys thought about my legs. “So I have nice legs?” I didn´t know. My parents used to tell me about that but I didn´t really pay attention because they´re my parents and you know, parents often say good things about us no matter what, right?
But it was the first time other people had said something positive about my body, and it came from young men. It had a profound positive effect to my body image.
You see, I grew up being bullied for my looks. I was very thin as a young girl and I was called degrading names because of it. “Thin” meant “ugly” to me.
I remember when I was nine years old, I and my family spent our summer vacation at my Lola´s place. Grandma had a huge estate which included a beach. I, my siblings, and some cousins were enjoying the beach when some relatives passed by. They spoke with my parents who were sitting by the shore.
I was curious who those relatives were because I couldn´t remember them. I was skeptical if I should come and talk to them, but before I could make up my mind, they all looked at my direction. The waves splashing on me, my clothes hugging my tiny figure, when I heard my parents said, “Yeah, that´s Yenyen.” (My nickname.)
My relatives replied, with a smirk on their faces, “She´s so thin.”
That´s it. I didn´t need to talk to them.
I was arguably my grandma´s favorite from our batch of cousins, but I didn´t feel that I was. She would pick me up and take me to her place, which was four-hour-drive by bus, whenever my cousins, who lived in a bigger city, would come visit her.
While on the bus she would repeatedly tell me that I should eat more. She´d compare me to my richer, prettier and brighter, older cousin. “You´re so thin and small. Your cousin is a lot taller than you, and bigger! She looks a lot better.”
My grandma was probably just trying to encourage me to eat more so I would gain weight, but the constant comparison to my prettier cousin didn´t help my already poor body image.
And then there´s the constant bullying in school. But I don´t have to bore you about that, I`ll leave it to your imagination.
I felt worse about myself when I became a teenager (fueled mostly by my parents´ bankruptcy, we didn´t have money for clothes), and it continued until I grew into a young adult.
I didn´t need other people to tell me I was ugly, I repeatedly told my poor self that.
When you have poor body image, you constantly have negative thoughts about yourself. And the person who thrives on negative thoughts is NOT an attractive person.
How I Changed It.
That night at the boarding house when the young men admired my legs, I flipped a switch in my brain. I decided to embark on self-discovery. I realized that there must be some positive aspects about my body. I should discover and focus on my assets.
I also decided to listen more to the positive things that people said about my figure.
When I started to zoom in to every positive thing that people said about me, the negative things naturally faded in the background. Doing these had changed how I saw myself. I started to feel better about myself.
2. My low self-confidence about my appearance was a huge “dating block”.
Because I had poor body image, naturally I had low self-confidence about how I looked. As a result, I was very shy towards the opposite sex.
My freshman and sophomore years in high school were the worse; I was terribly intimidated by teenage boys. If a boy sat beside me, I felt very self-conscious. If a boy stared at me, I wished I had a magic wand to make me disappear in a snap.
Needless to say, the boys noticed how I felt about them. I must have appeared an easy prey to them because most boys around me bullied me. The more that boys bullied me, the more that I disliked being noticed by them.
It didn´t help that my parents moved me to different schools every school year. Just when I was finally starting to settle in my new school, I had to pack up again and move.
In my junior year in high school, I found the courage to build up my self-confidence. Only to have it plummet real low in my senior year as I found myself in a new and much bigger school yet again, but with a newly added burden of my parents´ bankruptcy which was caused by their major unwise financial decisions. I (and my siblings) were put through many embarrassing situations due to our lack of money.
Thankfully, despite all the downers, I remained persistent in my studies. I remained an achiever. My ultimate goal was to get out of poverty. And my only ticket was education.
University was much friendlier to me. By my second year in university I had made many male friends — both in and out the campus.
I was already confident in dealing with guys. However, if I liked the the guy, I remained shy and inhibited towards him.
I became popular in the university through my exposure to student politics, theatre and debate competitions. Because I looked confident from the outside, my shyness towards the men I liked came off as being snobbish.
Which (young) man would approach a snob, unapproachable (young) woman?
In my analysis, it was the reason why no guy ever asked me out for a date, or courted me, even if their interest towards me was apparent.
How I Changed It
Unfortunately, it took me so long to work this out. You see, I appeared very confident from the outside — I was stylish, I walked with my chin up, my back straight and my shoulders thrown back, and I was often in the limelight — but deep down I was still VERY insecure of my looks.
The major thing that bothered me were my crooked teeth and open bite. People rarely bullied me because of that, but my teeth was my biggest insecurity. During that time, I could not afford to wear braces.
That insecurity continued until my young adulthood.
When I turned twenty-four, something in my brain flipped yet again. I remember thinking, “If I can´t change this insecurity right now, what can I do to embrace it?”
I decided I had to smile more! I practiced how to smile and how to work with my open bite. I studied which angles are flattering me in photos and in real.
Surprisingly, the more that I smiled the more that I felt good about myself. It boosted my overall self-confidence. And I´m happy to report that smiling made me look attractive to men.
3. I had low self-esteem.
Self confidence and self-esteem are not exactly the same, but they are interrelated. If you have low self-confidence in some areas in your life, your self-esteem may be affected. But that´s not always the case.
You may also have a high self-esteem and yet you have low self-confidence in some areas in your life such as doing Mathematics (not true for me, Math is my major) or swimming (true for me, I can´t swim to save my life!).
In my case, whatever healthy self-esteem I had managed to build as a young adult living in my home country, the Philippines, was hammered down after I moved to work in Thailand. Working as a foreign teacher in Bangkok, side by side with native English speakers of varied nationalities, exposed me to terrible racism.
I was judged not through my qualifications and abilities, but through my race. At least that was the case in my first two years of living there. I fell really low.
I was lonely because I didn´t have my family around. I couldn´t speak the Thai language. I made few (but good) friends, and I struggled to find a high-paying job that truly reflected my skills and qualifications.
While I struggled to position myself in the city, I had a family back home who expected from and relied too much on me. My birthdays came and none of them back home could remember to great me, but every end of the month they were quick to expect my remittance. (Oh, the sad tale of many breadwinner diaspora.)
My self-esteem was hit from left and right at work, and yet every single penny I worked for had to be sent back home. No matter how much I pedalled in the rat race, it was never enough for my family.
And so I felt very alone. No one understood how hard it was for me. No one cared.
My self-esteem almost died. And many times I wished I died with it.
That´s why I longed to have a relationship that would save me from my loneliness and pain. I badly wanted to have a boyfriend who would love me because I didn´t feel loved. (Heck, I didn´t even love myself!) I wanted to have somebody in my life so that I wouldn´t feel so alone.
But because I came from a place of loneliness and pain, I came off as needy to my potential mates. Neediness is a big turn off.
How I Changed It
Building up your self-esteem takes time, but it also takes strong will.
I lost several potential men because of my insecurity and low self-esteem. When a dating relationship didn´t flourish, my self-worth dropped even lower. I would be so hurt and so attached to the thoughts of failure (or what could be) that I couldn´t even concentrate at work.
But just like overcoming my poor body image and low self-confidence, building my self-esteem also started in my mind. Everything starts in the mind.
I read many self-help books. I started to take care of myself. Learning to take care of me was very important because I was so bad in taking care of myself. I always put myself last.
For example, I sent my entire paycheck back home so two of my brothers could enroll to university that semester. Leaving nothing for me meant I had to survive eating instant noodles for a month.
I didn´t hear anything back home after I sent the money so I called my parents to check if my brothers were able to enroll. I found out that my brothers decided not to enroll that semester. My parents used the money to buy an expensive satellite for their TV.
Yeah, it sucked.
But it sucks more if you, the only person that could take care of you, don´t. If others don´t give a sh*t about your well-being, at least you should. You should.
And so I did. I started there.
4. I was raised in a strict, traditional home.
There are many good things about being raised in a strict, traditional home. Most people who grew up with such upbringing turned out well. However, most of them struggle in their dating life.
I didn´t know how to flirt with men because I was told that flirting was bad. I didn´t know how to drop hints that I was interested because I was told that doing so is cheap.
I didn´t know how to initiate contact with men because no high-quality woman does that.
Because I didn´t know the basics of dating, there was barely any option available for me to choose from. I only reacted to whoever initiated contact with me, and because there was no other men in the picture, I would quickly become heavily invested on that single suitor.
Being heavily invested too early puts pressure on the man. That will cause him to pull away.
How I Changed It
I taught myself how to flirt with men.
I taught myself how to initiate contact with men so that I could meet more of them. Guess what? I did the first move when I saw my husband online.
My philosophy is simple: I initiate (the first contact with him), he chases.
And now, eleven years later, he´s sitting right here beside me in our home office, here in Europe, watching a movie in his computer while I finish this would-be monster blog post, and our baby´s asleep in the next room.
I wouldn´t have what I have now if I didn´t teach myself how to flirt.
5. I approached dating with too much expectations.
My dating relationship was doomed at the start because I approached it with too much expectations. When I started communicating with a man, I already imagined what he could become. I rushed to fall in love with his potentials.
I would fall in love even before I`d meet the man.
Instead of me enjoying dating as it was, my heavy expectations killed the excitement, hampered the chase, and pressured the man. Naturally, he would resist, and then pull back.
There was this man that I had a whirlwind online romance with. Since the first day we met online, we exchanged lots of emails in a single day. It continued for weeks. I think it continued for two months. We were already discussing marriage, even before we started planning for his visit to see me in Bangkok.
He wanted to come see me, but the progression of our exchanges was beyond normal. I was already falling in love with him, but he never really claimed me. And then suddenly, he pulled away.
I was so devastated. I was broken.
It´s embarrassing for me to write this now, but my broken heart was too much I couldn´t perform well at work. It was a terrible place to be in.
How I Changed It
As I mentioned earlier, I came from a place of loneliness and pain, and I was hoping that a relationship could save me.
That wrong mentality surely didn´t take my love life anywhere.
So I started working on my self-transformation. I learned to be happy and complete being me. When I met my husband, I was no longer my needy, lonely and anxious old self.
I was happy. I no longer felt lonely after I realized I was never alone anyway, I had God. Through thick and thin God never left me so why should I be anxious of everything?
I was living my life. I improved my social life. I was meeting new people. And I was no longer heavily invested early in our dating relationship.
All these allowed my husband (then suitor) to step up and chase me. And because he had to work for it, when I finally gave him my love he took care of it like a precious jewel.
He rose to become my hero, my anchor, and my soulmate. He became the man I ever wanted to spend the rest of my life with.