I RESOLVED TO STOP DATING IN 2018 – HERE’S WHAT I REALIZED

Even though I did a really solid clean up and assessment of my life in 2018, there was still something under the porch of my soul, rotting.

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Read my blog post about this resolution here.

I wondered many times what it would feel like to write this, and let me tell you, it’s nothing like I thought it would be.

One of my many resolutions for 2018 was to avoid dating. I envisioned staying single, by choice, for a whole year. I even went on a podcast called Now or Never and talked about it.

For context, I had gone through a breakup in early Oct. 2017 so I was not in a place where I wanted to date.

As much as the resolution was to avoid going on dates, the underlying goals were to check some things off my bucket list, create a life I love, learn to love & accept myself without validation from a partner and do some soul-searching.

I genuinely feel that I had the biggest year of my life so far and achieved these goals on my own terms. I did things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. I made decisions to build a life I love on my own instead of waiting for someone to come along and do it with me.

Here’s the truth: I did end up going on some dates toward the end of 2018. I had some flings. None of them progressed anywhere, and that’s ok. So I guess you could say I “failed” at face value.

I’m still single, but I do not feel like the same person I was when I made this resolution. I learned so much about myself from each of those interactions. As much as I didn’t keep the resolution to not go on dates, I don’t give a shit. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I know I also said I wouldn’t download dating apps, but I ended up using Bumble (which is MUCH MORE than a dating app — it encompasses friend-finding, networking and dating).

I also ended up working for Bumble Canada starting in August 2018 as a community marketing manager in Winnipeg. Getting a job with a company with such strong values that I believe in so much was a total dream come true, so I feel really good about using the app.

Besides, that’s some Big Dick Energy if you ask me.

I also use it from time to time because I’m human, and when you have the perfect combo boredom and loneliness it’s easy to reach for your phone and swipe through the deck while you’re watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Not the worst thing I could be doing on a Friday night.

In the summer someone I knew saw me out with a guy and made a comment to me about breaking my resolution, and the shame kicked in. Hard. I felt called out. I felt like a failure.

The shame hit me hard that I didn’t plan to recap this resolution. I was so afraid of opening myself up and giving people the opportunity to hit me where it hurts. I thought I couldn’t handle it.

Where does it hurt you might ask? I’m getting to that.

The fact that I didn’t perfectly follow through on my resolution bothered me for a while because when I say I’m going to do something, like go sober for 60 days, I usually follow through. But I quickly found out these feelings of failure and fear were rooted in something more significant.

Even though I did a really solid clean up and assessment of my life there was still something under the porch of my soul, rotting. I knew it, but I wasn’t able to put my finger on it until Dec. 2018 when I started reading I Thought It Was Just Me by Brené Brown.

It was the main reason I decided to not date in 2018.

I was trying to avoid the shame I had internalized from being labelled a slut and ‘the girl with the f*cked up love life’ my whole life. 

I figured if I could avoid dating for an entire year then I couldn’t be shamed further. I could finally grow apart from these labels in the eyes of others. If I could be perfect and avoid dating altogether, then nobody else could call me out or belittle me for my choices. I was trying to protect myself.

Shame is the fear of being perceived as unworthy of acceptance or belonging. The more we internalize shame, the more we feel we deserve it and believe we are inherently flawed.

The sad part is that the only person who was still making me wear that label, was myself.

Previous to this realization about shame, people who met me were always surprised when I called myself trashy. I joked about it, but it came from a place of pain. I stopped fighting it after a while and continued to wear the labels, stitched inside my blazer, even though they didn’t fit with my outfit anymore.

But that’s what happens when you internalize shame. It becomes a part of you, undetectable.

My shame didn’t come from thin air — I’ve internalized it from a decade of comments, remarks, judgment, societal pressure and events out of my control.

I’ve talked about this before on my blog but it’s been a long process building back up my self-worth from nothing and learning to fight for myself.

I am ready to do the work to stop forcing myself to wear these labels going into 2019. I am ready to let go of the judgment directed at me, intentionally or unintentionally. I will no longer joke that I am trash. The resilience that I have built up from this whole experience has made me so much f*cking stronger.

Building strength to combat against shame is a skill, and I truly believe we can learn to not let the shame others throw our way absorb into our being — like water off a duck’s back. But it’s not easy, and it requires support.

The truth is that you can’t put yourself out in the world and be vulnerable without some level of exposure. But is that going to stop you? Or are you going to have the courage to continue regardless? Do you have the strength to know that what they say about you, isn’t who you are?

Here’s what I want to leave you with: the antidote to the poison of shame is genuine compassion and empathy.

Without that kind of non-judgemental support throughout this journey, I don’t know if I would have been able to come out whole on the other end of this. I feel grateful.

This resolution I created around not dating was a surface solution to a much deeper problem, and I’d encourage you to examine your 2019 resolutions and look for signs of shame. Take a peek under the front porch of your soul and see if anything is rotting down there.

Thank you for following my journey in 2018, and hopefully beyond.

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HOW I’M UNPACKING YEARS OF SELF-OBJECTIFICATION

This narrative of “how to be a woman” hung over my head playing puppet master, making me do things I knew weren’t right for me.

When I was 19, I won a booty shake contest at a local bar (specifically, The ‘World Famous’ Palomino Club, if you live in Winnipeg).

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Me at 19 😂 Sweating profusely, wearing a Hollister plaid and clutching the cash I just won courtesy of booty shake Monday at The Pal. Exhausted, six or seven drinks deep likely and ready for an after-bar McDonalds run. I don’t regret participating, but I recognize now that shaking my 🍑 in front of a crowd of strangers and doing things to get them to cheer me on is the perfect marriage of objectification and self-objectification.  Self-objectification is what happens when you think of yourself as an object of others’ desire first, and as a person second. I wrote all about realizing the impact of self-objectification on @whatcomesnext.co this week, and wrapped it up with the things I’m doing in my everyday life to undo the damage. This post took too many drafts and discussions to finish, but it’s out there and I’m proud 🤷‍♀️ Link is in my bio. #tbt #truestory #olderandwisernow #throwback

A post shared by Raegan Hedley (@raegjules) on

Why did I do it? I was drunk, a friend was egging me on and my boyfriend at the time was unimpressed when I said I was thinking about it. So naturally, I did it to prove a point.

But when I was up there, it felt weird and performative. Even with four (maybe even five?) shots of Fireball in my system, I couldn’t reconcile that feeling. But I walked away with a bunch of cash and bought myself a Big Mac so I wasn’t thinking too hard about it.

Self-objectification (SO) is thinking of oneself as an object of others’ desire first and as a person second. 

In simple terms, self-objectification is objectification coming in an incestuous full circle.  

According to a study done out of Eastern Michigan University by Kroon & Perez, “regular exposure to objectifying experiences socialize girls and women to engage in self-objectification, whereby they come to internalize this view of themselves as an object or collection of body parts.”

As someone who attended my fair share of therapy growing up, and went through an eating disorder treatment program, I’m surprised that the first time I heard about the concept of self-objectification was when I started trying to put words around this thing I was feeling and noticing.

Let me paint you a picture: A guy sees a beautiful girl in a crowd. Maybe she’s sitting in the corner, or has an imaginary spotlight following her as she floats around the room. Her personality or character doesn’t matter. Everything else melts away, and nothing shines through but her beauty. He chooses her because she’s a mythical creature who’s MYSTERIOUS!!!! Why? Because we know nothing about her other than what she looks like.

Oh, not to mention the fact that we’ve also been socialized to believe that beauty = goodness of character.

Iliza Shlesinger has a bit in her Netflix special Elder Millennial on the fun scenario I described above.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve shoved myself into a tight dress (the one in the photo below is leather and especially terrible) and hoped somebody noticed me. I was totally oblivious at the time how much I was setting myself up for disappointment.

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Typing that makes me want to light my computer, and my entire soul on fire. Don’t try to tell me that’s not what we’ve been force-fed in movies and TV. That’s what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner growing up; If we are picked out of a crowd based on looks, it means we are valuable and valued.

The danger with self-objectification is that it is associated with a number of ills including body shame, appearance anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Think about how that manifests itself for a second: women who self-objectify put all their value on being seen as a sexual object, then when they finally get to the part where they are supposed to be *~SExuAl*`~and have sex, they’re supposed to shut off everything they’ve learned up until that point and “enjoy themselves and be free.” BUT they are typically so preoccupied with the way their *INSERT BODY PART* looks that they can’t. Even. Enjoy it. (NOT THE FIRST TIME I’VE TALKED ABOUT THIS FOR A REASON)

When I did let good men into my life, there was almost a part of me that discredited them for liking me for who I was as a person. After all, I had been completely brainwashed into thinking the only thing that was valuable about me was my looks, and I found it hard to believe someone was going to give a shit about my personality, goals, dreams and hobbies.

I shrugged off accomplishments and thwarted off feeling proud for YEARS. I didn’t think it all meant anything compared to the cultural currency of beauty.  This narrative of “how to be a woman” hung over my head playing puppet master, making me do things I knew weren’t right for me.

The worst part is — I had no clue.

My self-objectification was so internalized it was totally undetectable. I wanted to be mad at myself, but I know from reading other women’s stories that I’m not the only one.

Not only had I objectified myself, but I knew I had also done it to other women. For example, every time I would worship someone for their body on Instagram without any regard for their humanity.

I actually felt sick to my stomach when I initially started doing research for this article because it felt like too much to wade through. But here I am writing this, so I guess you could say I put on some rubber boots and I’m getting to work.

I don’t regret participating in that contest (being under 20 is the perfect time to do dumb stuff like that), but I recognize now that winning money by shaking my ass in front of a crowd of strangers and doing things to get them to cheer me on is the perfect marriage of objectification and self-objectification.

Once you understand self-objectification and see yourself acting it out, you can’t unsee it.

I’m still coming to terms with the catastrophic damage that years of self-objectification have done. The diet pills, drinking to be less self-conscious, jealousy, following fit girls on Instagram as weight loss motivation and the *all-consuming concern* that someone will see my cellulite.

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2015. Closest I’ve ever come to doing a boudoir shoot and I look so serious. I’m wearing a HUGE pushup bra (I have small boobs, don’t be fooled) and I didn’t want to take off my jeans because I was too self-conscious about my cellulite at the time. Photo by Kanisha Szekely.

When you strip it all away, it’s simply a way of existing in the world. A story we tell ourselves that has been told to us for generations. Awareness is everything. You can contribute to the narrative the media has rammed down your throat, or start to rewrite it.

For me, this isn’t in line with who I want to be, so I’m ready to let it go.

I read in a Psychology Today article that learning about SO reduces its impact (thank goodness), and they suggest that we actively work to…

  • Override self-surveillance (e.g. sitting a certain way to look skinny, looking in the mirror constantly to check yourself)
  • Reduce our contact with sexually objectifying media (e.g. stop reading appearance-focused magazines)
  • Reduce contact with sexually objectifying people or groups (e.g., discussing another woman’s appearance with your friends because of something they posted)
  • Choose clothing based on comfort
  • Challenge sexual objectification when we hear it or see it
  • Decline to participate in demeaning the appearance of ourselves and others
  • Counter critical self-statements
  • Compliment on things other than appearance
  • Cultivate sustainable ways to affirm our worth

Learning about SO helped me find the missing puzzle piece in understanding why my self-esteem was non-existent for most of my life. I’ve gotta say, it’s actually kind of a relief to know what to call it now.

I know it’s going to be a struggle. I know I’ve stumbled already. I know it’s worth it.

The most interesting thing about me has nothing to do with the way I look, and if there’s something I’ve learned in my self-love journey I know I’ll never be satisfied with a well of validation that always runs dry. I have a feeling the next time I get on a stage to prove a point, it’ll be empowering. Not objectifying.

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2014. Winning a community radio award. This photo captured a spark of genuine pride.

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