These days, online dating is basically just dating. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, OkCupid, Her (great for lesbian and bisexual women!), Match, The League (if you’re accepted — I just was and am ELATED) — there are so many options! These apps have entirely changed the way our society views dating and relationships. Many people have found short and long-term relationships and marriage through dating apps, but if that isn’t necessarily what you’re looking for, hook-ups and friendships can be possibly even easier to find.
Being a plus size woman, however, there come even more challenges than the usual. Since the start of my dating app days, I have learned a lot about how to navigate these apps in a way that is empowering and builds my confidence rather than doing the opposite.
Ignore the Voices In Your Head
“Do I look larger than I am in that photo?” “Will he still be interested in me when he sees me in real life?” “Will I ever find someone who wants to do more than hook up?” I am constantly questioning how people will respond to how I look in my photos, especially in a world where photos on a dating site are so crucial. I can recall meeting a guy from Tinder in real life and him completely rejecting me because he thought I looked different in my pictures. After that, I was terrified to meet up with anyone, changed all my pictures, and basically stopped opening the app. Rather than getting down on myself, I really should have remembered that it was his fault for wanting to tear me down like that. Once I stopped paying attention to my inner dialogue, I started having fun and swiping right on whoever interested me rather than who I “thought I could get.” This confidence worked, too, and led to way more dates!
Unmatch Anyone Who Shames Your Body
Aside from the internal criticism, it is incredibly common for men on these sites to comment on how I look. According to research done by WooPlus, a dating app specifically for plus sized women, 71% of its users say they were fat-shamed on “regular” apps. In a world where 67% of women identify as plus sized, this is absolutely unacceptable. For a long time, I thought that I needed to keep talking or give explanations when men would make negative comments about how I look or dress because I was worried I would miss out on a chance for a date with my “dream guy.” Turns out, my “dream guy” would never tell me I would look better if I wore skinny jeans. Keeping this negativity around would bring down anyone’s confidence, so getting rid of it is naturally a boost. Sure, it hurts to see something like that regardless of how much self-love and acceptance you have, but it acts as a reminder that you are the boss of your own life (and matches!).
Pay Attention to the Signs of Fetishization
There is a big difference between someone desiring your body and loving you for your perceived flaws and them fetishizing your weight. If a match constantly makes comments about your size, asks about specific numbers in regards to your weight, encourages you to eat more or gain weight in an unhealthy way, or refers to you in common fetishizing words, that probably means he or she is a hard no. It is important for someone to be attracted to who you are rather than being obsessed with a specific trait about you. Understanding that these are two different things has stopped me from potentially harmful relationships many times.
I know this is a given, but learning to be myself and finding new ways to share my personality has changed the dating game for me. Finding my favorite gifs to say “hi,” adding all my favorite emojis to my bio, and not being afraid to ask a guy out for Taco Tuesday all allow me to express who I am without the pressure of looks or my weight. If a guy really wants to make a connection rather than a one night thing, he should appreciate who I am over how I look.
Take Risks Without Fear of Rejection
When I first started using dating apps, I never asked anyone out first, and I always waited for the guy to message me first. Bumble definitely helped get over the latter issue, but it took understanding that I have some power too to comprehend how important it is to take the risk of asking someone to coffee or out for drinks. The fear of rejection can get to anyone, especially if you’ve experienced situations like the ones above, but the risk is so worth it sometimes. Being able to go after what I want rather than waiting for it to happen applies to more than just my career, and the confidence that has given me is way more important than any date I’ve ever gotten.
How do you navigate the online dating world? Are there any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments!
This article was originally published on May 18, 2018.