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10 Things We Learned From Starting A Female Dating Collective

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Every month, BUST.com shares a post on behalf of It’s Not Personal, a female dating collective based in New York. This month’s feature is by the project’s founders Sara Radin and Vanessa Gattinella.

In March 2016, we officially launched It’s Not Personal, a collective creating opportunities for women to share their dating experiences without judgment. The project was born out of an in-person break-up, a shared love of writing, and a wealth of dating experiences. In the past few months, we’ve hosted several workshops, giving women a chance to use their own experiences as creative inspiration. We’ve also collected over 100 international submissions for our growing anthology, and we have many big plans for the year ahead. With it being a new year, we decided to share some of the valuable lessons we’ve learned since launching this community:

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1. Using art and writing to express your emotions is cathartic.

Following a short-lived relationship and unexpected breakup, I started writing poems about the guy who had ended things with me, as well as other men from my past. As I put pen to paper, a dark cloud cleared, and I began to feel a wave of clarity and acceptance come over me. Ten pages of poetry later, I was able to let go of past lovers, find learnings in earlier experiences, and feel an immense sense of gratitude. When I realized how cathartic it was to express my emotions through writing and share it publicly, I realized I had an obligation to give other women the same relief. Now, almost a year later, our global community is growing at an exponential rate because this is not only a healthy activity, but it’s also fun as hell.  —Sara

2. Sometimes it really isn’t personal.

I used to think the saying, “It’s not you, it’s me” was a load of crap until we started this project. The thing is, sometimes it really isn’t personal. Often there are forces beyond someone's control that keep them from being in the right place for a relationship. While this is by no means an excuse for someone treating you poorly, the worst thing you can do is try to convince yourself how the wrong person could've been right for you or blame yourself for not being enough for them. The reality is that whatever held them back from loving you would've held you back too. It might take some time, some tears, and some beers, but I promise you will soon realize that person wasn’t right for you either. – Sara

3. Even the worst date makes for a good story and learning experience.

In our BUST December post, we featured an essay from our contributor Roxy Hearn. Following the end of a long-term relationship, Roxy experienced what was arguably the worst first date ever. It started at a strip club and ended with her needing to replace the 50 pairs of underwear that her date quietly stole while she was sleeping. But the underlying message was triumphant: through her new panty purchases, Roxy found she had a unique opportunity to reinvent herself. She wrote, “There was so little I could control, in my romantic life, as well as other parts of my life. But what I could control was how I rebounded.”

We’ve all had bad dates, bad flings, and some bad relationships. In fact, we’ve received tons of submissions confirming this statement. But in most of these stories, with every misstep, there was a lesson to be learned, and the contributor walked away from a negative experience stronger and wiser than they were before. – Vanessa

4. Every heartbreak is an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Someone ripped your heart out and stomped all over it. Now what? Use it. You heard me, use that shit and re-invent yourself. The first step is to let it out: Bawl your eyes out in the bathtub, throw back some shots of tequila with your girlfriends, take your time to heal the wounds. And then when you’re ready, pick yourself up off the floor and invest all your energy back into yourself. Take up a new hobby, start a passion project, or launch the business you’ve always wanted to create. Now is the time to be selfish and do things for you. The hardest part is starting somewhere but I promise you will find yourself along the way. One day, you’ll look in the mirror and be proud of the bright and shiny person you’ve become. I bet you'll like her even more than the old you. — Sara

5. You have to give yourself time and space to heal.

The worst thing you can do after a break up is beat yourself up over not being over it quickly enough. No matter the length of the relationship, you can’t rush the grieving and healing process. So quit telling yourself you should be over it already! You are allowed to be affected and emotional. Repeat to yourself: "My feelings are valid." In order to move forward, you must work through those emotions. Let yourself really feel them. The sooner you realize this, the easier it will be to keep pushing forward. — Sara

6. Pay attention to red flags.

This is the oldest rule in the dating guidebook, but it bears repeating. Each one us carries baggage, and if we’re over the age of 17, there is a 99% chance that we are sporting at least one red flag. That said, my dating past is filled with more than a few guys who carried so many flags, they could have collectively banded together to start a champion color guard team. So many of us witness these warning signs and trade our powerful intuition for a temporary good feeling, only to wind up getting hurt in the end. Trust yourself. Listen to your gut. And for good measure, let me remind you that when you inevitably doubt yourself and ask your girlfriends, “Am I crazy?” No, you’re not. – Vanessa

7. Stand up for yourself.

Speaking up doesn’t always come naturally to me, particularly when it comes to relationships. However, I’m learning, and this project inspires me daily to prioritize and strive for honesty in my love life (I wrote about it on BUST a few months ago). I’ve been motivated to reflect more deeply on what I should expect from a relationship, and then figure out how to ask for it. I’ve stopped dancing around the absolutely annoying “What are we doing?” and “What does this mean?” questions with partners, leaving less time for the wrong people and more time for the right ones. Honesty can be scary, but I’ve realized that I’m not only brave but also worthy of it. — Vanessa

8. There’s somebody out there who has gone through something similar.

As part of our project, we’ve been hosting monthly workshops at New Women Space, a community center for women in Brooklyn, NY. Our workshops bring women together from all walks of life, and often, those who may not have met otherwise: Women who crave community and connection. At one workshop, a young woman shared a collage she created about a recent break-up and the struggles she experienced in the aftermath. After she finished sharing her piece, another participant approached her and said, “I was right where you are last year. Here’s how I dealt with it, and here’s how you can get through it, too.” It was a sweet moment and so perfectly represented the community we have worked hard to build. And the experience spoke to a greater truth, that there is always someone out there who has been just where you are, and made it through. Find her. — Vanessa

9. Stop letting in those who don’t value your worth or time.

There are over 8 million people living in New York City, where we live, and there are over 300 million people living in the US. There are too many people out there to let anyone who does not truly care about you take up any of the space in the wonderful, dynamic life you’ve created. This holds true for all relationships, but especially for dating. It can seem tempting to settle for someone who treats you like an afterthought, just so you can have someone at all. But in the end, those relationships leave us feeling insecure and inadequate. There are better people to fill your life with – friends, co-workers, members of a cool new club you found. Why waste time tolerating subpar behavior when you can experience the love and support of others? There are people out there who will value you: your words, your quirks, your entire being. Find them and enjoy the magical experience of being treated like you matter. — Vanessa

10. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.

For years, I put a lot of my energy into dating because I assumed being single meant I was a lost soul. After years of ghosting, missed connections, and major upsets, I realized I wasn’t going to find myself in other people. I started investing more time in finding out who I am and what I want out of life. Ever since I made that change, I’ve stopped seeing being single as a negative thing, I've started appreciating my singledom, and I've been making the most of my alone time. Today I have a stronger sense of self because I now better value myself as an independent female building my own fempire. — Sara

Sara Radin is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn, NY. Full time, she is the Youth Culture Editor for WGSN, where she consults global brands on consumer trends for Millennials and Generation Z. Outside of work, Sara is the co-founder and creative director of It's Not Personal, a female dating collective and growing anthology based in New York. Check out BUST's monthly column with the collective here. Follow Sara on Instagram.

Based in NYC, Vanessa Gattinella works in online media by day and writes poetry in her spare time. She is a co-founder of It's Not Personal, a global collection of art and writing inspired by the female dating experience. Follow her on Instagram. 

Laura Supnik is a Brooklyn-based illustrator specializing in simple-yet-refined whimsical doodles. Currently studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Laura loves to explore the city, travel, and sketch. Find more of her work here: www.laurasupnik.com and www.instagram.com/laurasupnik

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This essay is shared in collaboration with It's Not Personal, a growing anthology and collective that creates opportunities for women to share their dating experiences in a positive environment. The project aims to progress society's conversations around singlehood, relationships and everything in between. For more information, be sure to follow It's Not Personal on Instagram join the Facebook group, and send art and writing submissions to itsnotpersonalnyc@gmail.com. 

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