Self-Improvement – An Offensive Term in the Wrong Hands

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Earlier this week, I embarked on a minor war of words with American dating coach Evan Marc Katz, after stumbling over a pretty offensive post which he had written about me.  His post disagreed with an article I had written for the Huffington Post.  I wrote my response here on 30 Dates, and then after several attempts, I finally managed to elicit a response from him, after posting a link to my own response on his blog.

In his response (which I have copied into the comments on my own blog post), he explained that he stands by what he said.  One of the points he adamantly disagrees with is that in his opinion singles ‘should try to improve themselves’ to date.

Having read his response, my skin began to itch, in the way it does when something really irks me, and I can’t quite put my finger on why.  The more I thought about it, the more irritated I became.  Not because of his false politeness – bitching about me, and then hiding behind phrases like ‘I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but …’.  No, what was really pissing me off, was the fact that this apparently happily married man is sitting there, all high and mighty, telling singles they need to improve themselves, to succeed in the dating game.  Not just telling people … but no doubt charging them for this advice.

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As someone who has spent three years single, and who has met countless singles all over the world thanks to this blog, I am SO offended. Not just for myself, but for every single out there.  How dare someone in a relationship tell us that we need to improve ourselves to attract a partner?!  Not only does it suggest being single is a failing, and a product of self-failure.  It also is an acute form of single-shaming, coming from a person who is designed to be helping others and making them feel good about themselves!

There are so many different reasons why people find themselves single!  Timing, work pressures, bereavement, confidence, location … How can someone turn around and suggest that the answer is self-improvement?!

Telling someone they need to improve him or herself to find a relationship is not just offensive, it’s also toxic.  It breeds unhealthy issues with confidence, weight, appearance and self-worth!  If anything, normally the reason people are single is because they lack the confidence to get out there and actively date.  Telling someone she needs to improve herself before getting to that stage is only going to make things worse!

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A few months ago I went to a dating event where the ‘expert’ told women they needed to lose weight, and re-evaluate the way they dressed to attract a man.  I literally had to sit with my jaw clamped shut.  I just found the advice so infuriatingly offensive.  What kind of men were these women meant to be attracting?

If a man only values me for my waist size and the clothes I’m wearing, then I don’t want him in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, self-improvement is NOT a bad thing.

But it’s firstly something that must come from the self.  It’s something we have to recognise and instigate ourselves.  Unless the person demanding self-improvement is your doctor, frankly it’s bloody insulting!  Especially if the advice is coming from a married person, and they are telling you that you have a specific flaw which is the reason you are single!

Secondly your decision to improve yourself should never be linked to attracting a partner!  Because if we believe the only reason we attracted a partner is because we changed ourselves in some way, what happens if that change reverses?

Dating is about finding someone who appreciates and complements you.  Someone who loves you for who you are, and who is inspired and excited by the person your are.  It’s not about fitting a particular mould, and feeling worthless until you achieve that.

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If someone were to ask me the one change singles in general should make to attract someone, I would say it is self-worth.  You need to love and accept yourself before you can expect someone else to love and accept you.  You need to find confidence and happiness in your own skin, so that you’re a fun, relaxed person to be around.  Being told you need to self-improve is literally the complete opposite!  The more aware you are of who you are, and what you are worth, the better you come to understand what you need and deserve in a partner.

A few months ago, I discussed the expression ‘single shaming’.  Frankly, that comment by Evan Marc Katz is one of the worst examples of single shaming I think I’ve ever read … and that’s coming from a supposed dating coach.  Ouch!

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

 

 

3 Comments on Self-Improvement – An Offensive Term in the Wrong Hands

  1. Oh, he strikes again, does he? I had a run-in with that so-called guru when he suggested the only hope a divorced woman with kids had of finding a man was by finding an older one who already had kids…even if she didn’t really like the idea of being a Step Mum because there is no way a childless man would want her! So, his main message is then: improve yourself and settle. Genius.

    • Since I spotted his nasty article about me the other day, more and more people have emerged from the woodwork who’ve had run ins with him, or been really offended by his opinions. What’s really sad is the people looking for dating advice already lack confidence and need encouragement – they don’t need belittling and patronising. It just adds to the idea that being single is some kind of failing, and something you should be ashamed about / trying to ‘cure’.
      xxx

  2. Hi Charly! Ever since my divorce 4 years ago, I have read quite a few dating blogs. I hadn’t really dated since late 1999, when I met my now ex-husband, so needless to say, dating was a culture shock. I actually came across Evan’s blog about your HuffPo article when he posted it and I recall being upset by the tone, but… the thing is, I do agree with him a lot of the time. Evan is right – if you want to meet someone, you have to think of dating with an “economics” outlook. It’s about supply and demand. You have to know you’re “market” – who you want to attract. And the truth is, it is competitive and if you want to attract a high quality guy, it doesn’t hurt to improve yourself a bit.

    We all can use a little improvement, single or married and it is naive to suggest otherwise. As a divorced woman, I had a pivotal moment to take stock of who I was, who I wanted to be, and who I wanted to meet and even though I was pretty great before, the person I am today is a lot better. At the time of my divorce, I was attractive and I had a good salary and a good job. Oh, and 3 kids. I was a good catch, but on paper, if I don’t explain why I’m a good catch, I just look like any other single mom. To make myself more attractive in general, I focused on being at the top of my game in life. On a physical level, I now dress better and learned to put on makeup. I read style blogs, followed beauty gurus. I went to the mall and bought new makeup and clothes and even sexier underwear. That made me look outwardly more beautiful but also gave me confidence which made me more attractive as well. I kept focus on my career and continued to earn professional accolades helped me be even more independent. And, on a relationship level, I have made sure to learn from my past relationships so that I can be more successful going forward.

    I do not take Evan’s advice to mean that singles are inherently flawed (or more flawed than married people, who also could use continued improvement if they want to stay married). Rather, his advice simply means that there are things that I (and other singles) could be doing that are making it harder for me to meet the right person. That isn’t offensive, no more offensive than being given advice on how to improve yourself at work. Even high performers in the workplace can still improve certain things and the same is true in dating. I mean, is it offensive to be told in a performance review that you should improve your visibility in your field? Or that you should take on projects in a new area? No, life is a journey and it is about becoming the best YOU that you can be. And, with respect to dating, if there are easy things you can do to improve, why not do them?

    Also, with respect to the comment posted above, his advice to divorced women with children is spot on… something I learned myself. I have dated men with kids and men without kids. No, I don’t particularly want to be a step mom but… but… but… men with kids are more likely to (1) get me and my schedule, (2) understand children, and (3) be interested in a woman with kids. I have dated men without kids – including one for two years – and the big issue with childless men is that most of them don’t really understand parenthood or what kids are like. A partner needs to understand your lifestyle and if you want a relationship, the odds are, a person who has children will understand you better. Not only that, the pool of people who want to date you are likely older men with kids. A 36, there just aren’t many (any? I have yet to meet one) men my age who want to date a woman with kids. At least, not the kind of guys I want – professional, attractive high earners. A 38 year old professional, attractive, high earner is young enough to attract younger women (than me) with no children. But a divorced man in his 40s with a kid or two who is professional, attractive and a high earner is more likely to want an attractive, educated, independent single mom. That’s just the odds. Sure, there may be exceptions, but that is an accurate generalization of who you are going to attract.

    I don’t think his advice is to “settle” – meaning, end up with a man that isn’t worth anything. Rather, the advice is to be realistic about who you are most likely to attract and don’t pass up a great man because he doesn’t have 100% of what you think you want. Heck, you don’t either. I doubt there are many single men with no kids out there who ideally want a divorced woman with kids either.

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