By Stephanie Yeboah
In a world where being thin is still seen as a beauty ideal, navigating the dating scene as a plus-size person can be intimidating and make you feel self-conscious or anxious. But I’m here to tell you that having a plus-size body isn’t a negative at all; your body is worthy of admiration and respect, and having the confidence to know that you deserve love and the relationship you want is absolutely vital in knowing your worth when dating.
As a plus-size woman with lots of dating experience, I’ve learned that the most successful way to approach dating is to begin with high self-esteem and getting in the right frame of mind. Below are just a few of my tips for keeping your self-confidence and self-love levels up when online dating.
Always upload full pictures of your body
Upload at least one full-length pic of yourself so that your prospective date can see what you look like in your entirety before meeting in person. This might seem like a generic tip that applies to anyone who’s online dating, but it’s something I always recommend for plus-size women especially. We may be tempted to only upload photos of ourselves from the chest area upwards, with our stomachs sucked in, or showing certain angles that reflect a more ‘acceptable’ shape. For a while, I would never upload photos sitting down because I felt the angle emphasized the extent of my fatness. I eventually realized that if I were to meet someone in real life, they would end up seeing what I looked like sitting down.
Not only will uploading at least one full-length picture of yourself prevent any awkward in-person situations, but you’ll also get better matches. After all, you’re looking for someone to build a relationship with — and you don’t want a relationship that’s going to force you to keep up a pretense. The person who is right for you will match with because they’re attracted to your body, not in spite of it.
Ignore the negative voices in your head
You’re just about to upload an amazing photo of yourself when all of a sudden, a voice inside your head whispers “do I look too big in that? Will they still be interested once they see me in person?” I’ve been there, and while at the time it seems like our brains are only trying to protect us from potential rejection, it’s important not to listen to that inner monologue. The people interested in your body will be the ones that want to match with you!
To help keep that negative voice at bay, try to quell any self-doubt by focusing on your agency in this situation. So rather than worrying if someone will like you back, concentrate on finding someone who accepts you—and rather than paying attention to who might possibly match with you, turn your attention to the people who you’re genuinely excited to connect with. Ultimately, this mindset can lead to more dates with people who you’ll click with, and make swiping on whoever interests you a lot more fun. So upload the photos that you like the most, and ignore worrying about how other people will react to your body: that’s their problem, not yours.
Don’t waste time on someone who shames your body
For the longest time, I was so worried about missing out on the opportunity to find my dream guy that I would put up with snide, critical comments from dates. I even went so far as to apologize for my body and make excuses for how I looked. But it turns out that any guy I’d want to date would never tell me that I’d look better if I lost 40 pounds, if I had a more hourglass-shaped figure, or that I’d “look and feel healthier” after a few sessions at the gym.
Learn from my mistakes: You don’t have to put up with a date making passive-aggressive or negative comments about your body. This could take the form of a match implying that you need to lose weight, saying you would be prettier if you were smaller, or bringing up the other types of bodies they’re attracted to. If this happens, instead of being made to feel guilty about your appearance, you can either inform them such comments are unwelcome and unnecessary, or politely end the date early. Also, know that body shaming isn’t allowed on Bumble. If someone makes derogatory comments about your appearance, body shape, size, or health—or uses fat-phobic language on or off the app—you can report them and the person will be given a warning or be banned from Bumble.
Know when you’re being fetishized
This can be a very tricky space to navigate when you’re plus-size, as there’s a difference between a fetish and a preference. Sometimes a certain body type is someone’s preference, and that’s great! But when someone makes a body type the object of their sexual desires and doesn’t have the same care for the whole person, that’s fetishization—and if it’s non-consensual, it can feel dehumanizing.
For those who don’t want to be fetishized, it’s helpful to be able to know when someone is only with you for your body. Pay attention to how the person makes you feel. Do they pay you sincere compliments that make you feel good and are about more than what you look like? Or do they offer compliments that make you uncomfortable and are entirely focused on your body? Do they sulk if you mention losing weight? Are they asking you for specific numbers around your weight or size? If so, you’ll need to do some careful consideration, both in terms of yourself and the other person, to know what’s really going on here. If it’s fetisihzation and you’re not into it, know that it’s not okay, and you should feel empowered to end the relationship to protect your mental health and self-esteem.
Lastly, do NOT settle
Part of keeping up your confidence is knowing your worth, which means that there’s no need to talk to someone you’re not excited about just because you think they may be the only one who will show interest in you. If you’re not attracted to the person approaching you, feel free to politely tell them that you’re not a match and move on. It took me a while to believe that someone who would like me for me would ever come along in this lifetime (and trust me, I was very doubtful), but eventually, just as I started to get used to the idea of being forever alone, someone popped up out of the blue!
The bottom line is that you’re a hot commodity who is deserving of a partner who you’re attracted to and who makes you feel good about yourself. Getting on Bumble being unapologetically yourself in all your plus-size glory and knowing that you’re worthy of the right kind of attention will not only enhance your online dating experience, but it will also help you find a special connection.
Photo credit: Fordtography by Kaye Ford