How Tinder Helped Me Learn to Love Myself Again

Entering the dating scene can be hard, but once you’re out there you might be pleasantly surprised. This is a story how I began to appreciate and love my body again.

Few people would consider using Tinder as a way to heal self-esteem issues, but after I began dating following my separation and eventual divorce, it became just that: a way to re-examine my views of myself.

I entered the dating app scene newly separated and freshly wounded in the spring of 2018 after a ten year long hiatus. My twins were two, and I’d spent the first year of their lives in pajamas without make-up, and the second year of their lives in the chaos of a deteriorating marriage and the wake of TWO devastating miscarriages.

I’d always considered myself comfortable with my body, but when searching for photos to post on my Tinder profile, I realized I had taken very few full body photos since I’d had my twins in 2016. I obviously had some issues if I was making sure I hid behind people in group shots or only took neck-up selfies. Through trial and error (and some kind men I matched with), I quickly learned to navigate the ins and outs of the dating app scene: what I should and should not put in my profile, what pictures I should and should not include, how to screen out avid inappropriate photo senders and desperate serial monogamists.

But what I discovered in the process is my own sense of my worth and beauty, of realizing that desirability is so much about confidence and less about our perceptions of how we look, and how the “ding” of a match can give us that little bump we may need when we aren’t giving it to ourselves.

When I first downloaded Tinder and created a profile, I was far from feeling very attractive. I had been the one to file for divorce, but who did the filing didn’t matter: divorce meant accepting that my marriage had failed, and I took that personally. My marriage had failed, so I had failed.

On top of that I was a 33 year old mom of twin toddlers. I was also 5’3 and 155 pounds with a BMI of 27.46, which put me smack dab in the middle of the “overweight” category. I was still carrying some extra weight from both miscarriages (I’d been nearly eleven weeks with both of them), and I could find no time to exercise or eat right while juggling divorce lawyers, work, and taking care of my children by myself.

As I considered what to put in for my profile, I was very aware of my age and my baggage. My friends told me I needed to try it out, but I found myself wondering who exactly I was competing with. Were these other women thin? Tall? Blond? Were men just looking for never married women? Childless women? Much younger women? What kind of women did men want nowadays anyhow?

I’d also read an article that said things like the desirability of women peaked at 18 and that “postgraduate education, in fact, made them less desirable.”Being fifteen years past 18 with a Master’s degree to boot, my chances of doing well on dating apps looked slim.

Regardless, I persevered and published my first Tinder profile. It said something along the lines of, “Looking for dates as I’m in the middle of a divorce.”

The first pictures I included were just neck-up selfies. My body looked nothing like its pre-twin pregnancy self and I had no current ones, so I went with what I did have: here’s my face! It’s a good one! I’m even smiling!

I got my first match and started chatting with the guy. After we exchanged numbers, he asked for a full body shot.

“Why?” I asked.

“You never know what you’re going to get on here,” he replied.

I sent him this:

“I’m a mom,” I qualified the photo with.

“That’s a good looking mom,” he replied.

Really? I thought. Look how awkward I look, and I shouldn’t even be wearing those shorts, and that’s a maternity shirt and did I even look to see if there was any food or body fluid on me before taking this?

But, I was surprised to discover, he wasn’t the last one to compliment me.

On my very first “Tinder” date, we exchanged phones to look at what each of us was seeing of the opposite sex. I was amazed by how many women posted pictures from very high angles or had obviously used filters on all of their photos.

“You have to be careful,” my date said after I showed him one. “I’ve been catfished a few times. I wish they’d just shown themselves as they were. They weren’t bad looking, but they had misrepresented themselves.”

“How do I look compared to my photos?” I asked.

“You’re way better looking. You should show off yourself more.”

After that conversation, I had a friend of mine take a full-body picture of me in a work outfit and added it to my profile.

“Wow, look at those curves!” a man said as soon as we matched.

My gal pals encouraged me. “You had twins! You look amazing! You need to post more pictures of you!”

And despite my reticence, my desires to rebut every compliment, I tried to just take their suggestions. Because, honestly, why not? What did I have to lose? This was a dating app. I wasn’t expecting to find my future husband (and realistic expectations are important when you’re dealing with a dating app). I was just hoping to go on a few dates with some nice men who made me feel pretty.

When I first started dating, I’d gone into each one with too many expectations and quickly been disappointed. As I started to go out more, I began to approach it as a way of falling back in love with myself. I dressed up for me. What would I like to wear?I’d ask myself. And because I was doing things for me, I felt more comfortable and more confident. I liked who I was becoming, and if I happened to have a good companion for an hour or so on my date with myself, then that was just a bonus.

The moment I knew I’d come really far was when I let a friend of mine take a picture of me in a white bikini and I posted that to my profile.

In the few months I’d been on Tinder, nothing much had changed about my body. But the woman who had awkwardly posed in that first full-body picture was nowhere to be found in this second one. Choosing to post a picture of me in a bikini meant I was much more confident and secure with myself, and I knew that to be true.

At the end of the day, me being on Tinder had not been about the dudes, but the dudes had been helpful. Plenty of guys had lavished me with compliments in those early early Tinder-ing days and helped to give me enough of a bump to begin thinking that maybe the things they said about me were true. And by the time I met a special someone and deleted my account on Tinder, I’d grown to love myself in the exact way I needed to before entering another serious relationship.

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