And not in the way you think! (Probably. I wont assume that I know exaaactly what you’re thinking, but I’ve been @’d enough times on Twitter to assume you have some preconceived notions.)
Being on The Bachelor wasn’t some life goal that I had as a child or something. I mean, I guess I remember being 12 and thinking “I should add ‘be on an episode of reality TV’ to my bucket list” because I thought it would be a weird life experience (I wasn’t wrong), but I always assumed it would be a short stint on survivor (survivor – my mom’s favorite show growing up – and short, because, have you met me?), or end up on some weird local reality game show (I guess this could still happen! Fingers crossed!) – But, I was too much of a hopeless romantic (and a feminist to boot!) to assume that someday, I would set out on a journey to date a man I barely knew alongside 27 other women. But there I went, and am I glad that I did!
Changed by the Women:
Being a contestant on The Bachelor comes with the stereotypical connotations: that you are vapid, lacking morals, and overtly dramatic – but this was not at all my experience. My experience was that of being surrounded by a heightened group of women (including two recent Bachelorettes, Clare and Andi) – intelligent, kind, interested, interesting, fun, determined, and multi-dimensional. In setting out to date The Bachelor I suddenly found myself surrounded by women that I both respected and was completely intimidated by. They seemed free, and self assured and in control. Being in their company alone changed how I viewed myself – to be cast along side of such an extraordinary group of woman (and as their equal?!) made me feel proud and want to be the best version of myself. So this is the first change in me, I leveled up. And once you are out of this environment, you don’t just shift back to your old ways. You are changed. And the women of this show changed me for the better. You can learn more about some of the brilliant women that I shared the Bachelor Mansion with on some of their very cool sites: Renee, Cassandra, Sharlene, Kelly, Lauren and Andi.
Changed through Dating:
On to the dating, which was the part, in the beginning, I was least comfortable with. I had had boyfriends before this show. Great sweeping loves, in fact. But I was never comfortable in the actual pursuit of a man; I was more of a “pine after a man alone in a journal and hope that someday they noticed me” kind of gal. This odd ~lingering around~ dating strategy had worked out for me a few times, I guess, but that wasn’t going to cut it here in Bachelor land where you had little time to court one another.
I was both in a group and on my own with Juan Pablo, our Bachelor, and if I were to decide that if he and I were meant to be together, I was going to actually have to take action to figure it out. Both with him, but also within myself.
So there I was, actually putting in effort to have real conversations, make real time for us and making time for me to be fully introspective after our experiences together to take stock of my feelings. It was in these moments that I realized the reason I had always taken a back seat to this style of dating was because to take action was to feel vulnerable – if you were to try and they STILL didn’t like you, it hurt a lot worse than never trying at all. But, what I learned about myself here surrounded by cameras, was that I felt bold and brave in my vulnerability in a way that I never had before. This changed how I viewed feeling vulnerable in a profound way – one that is still with me today.
Changed by the Process:
One of the most frequent questions I am asked about the experience I had was if it’s possible that people could even fall in love on a “show like that.” And the answer is a resounding YES (see more of the FAQ’s here.) Now, I did’t say that everyone falls in love, or that I ever felt like I was in the ball park of feeling love, but having been through the experience, I know that it absolutely can happen. How do I know this? Other than the dozens of happy #BachelorNation couples that exist out there, I know how the sausage is made: through meaningful experiences and talk therapy (basically.)
You wonder why The Bachelor is one of the longest standing, favorite shows on TV? It’s because they know what they’re doing people – and this is especially true dating aspect of the show. Every single date is centered around meaningful experiences, giving the people on those dates a reason to actively do something new, to laugh, to share stories, to have a connection. For example, count the number of meaningful experiences on just ONE date with me and Juan Pablo: (1) We took an hour long road trip to Pasadena listening to Latin music and dancing (2) we walked around town chatting and window shopping, stopping to get authentic Venezuelan Food (3) we both bungee jumped for the first time together (4) we had dinner and drinks and discussed our families, hopes and fears (5) we were surprised with and danced to a free concert put on by country star Billy Currington. Now, think about how many dates in “real life” that would have encompassed – perhaps 2 weeks, maybe 2 months of dating? All of this happened in 24 hours.
This style of dating taught me two things – First, oh hell yeah you can fall in love on this show and, second, experiences (especially those filled with adrenaline!) expedite connection and can help you create real, lasting relationships even in short periods of time. I took this aspect of the bachelor back into my day-to-day life, seeking out experiences with those I hoped to love to really test the waters early!
Changed by the Interviews:
Beyond going on dates, the second largest part of anyone’s experience on The Bachelor is something the insiders call “ITMs” – this is short for “In the Moment” interviews. It is you, talking about your feelings, as close to or shortly after you experience said feelings. The most interesting part (and weirdest part to learn) is that these “ITMs” are all done in present tense. So, although you are always talking about what just happened (in the past) you are always reliving it aloud as though it is currently happening. So for example, my “ITM” 3 hours after we were surprised by Billy Currington didn’t go “I heard electric guitars behind me and I turned around and saw a concert stage” instead I said, “As I sit in my chair, I hear guitar sounds behind me and I turn around and I see a FREAKING concert stage!”
What this method of speaking is doing (beyond getting correct sound bites for the footage shot earlier in the day) is getting the speaker to re-live the experience again and narrate their feelings as though it is happening to them again. Reliving an experience like this is setting your brain up to reinforce the feelings you had (this in psychology is called “Capitalizing”). You are literally propelled back in time to get another dose of your brains chemicals which heightens the experience. Helping you to really pin point what you were feeling in each of those moments. What was also happening, at least for me, is that I was learning how to articulate very clearly what was going on inside of my head, what I was thinking, how I was feeling, the questions I had, the worries or doubts. It made me practice being introspective. It helped me to really parse through my own narrative, looking for my feelings. After doing this for 50 days, 3-5 times a day, I got really good at knowing myself. Knowing how I was feeling, why I was feeling that way, and how to talk about it. It also showed me how healthy and good it can be to talk about what you are feeling, and do so regularly. What a beautiful thing to have the space and time to practice!
Changed by Bachelor Nation:
Finally, seeing yourself date and kiss and cry on national TV is an extremely surreal feeling. It’s like watching a scrap book come to life, but realizing that everyone else is also watching and not sitting with you to get the “story behind the story.” Having millions (literally) of people watch me stumble through life like any ol’ 24 year old, helped me learn to not be ashamed of who I am , or the feelings that I have. It was (and is) liberating! People will have their opinions of you, no matter who you are! I was called names and praised by hundreds of people in the same 10 minutes. But, I learned over time, that to be myself, whole and true, was the best way to be. I could try until I was blue in the face to make everyone like me, or I could sit peacefully with the face that *I* liked me. This was the most profound and hardest change to make, but I am so glad that I did.
So, in short, I was changed for the good from this once (or twice) in a lifetime experience.
I took away such great lessons from being on The Bachelor:
- When surrounded by great people, use it as inspiration to level up!
- Taking action for what you want often means you will feel vulnerable, but being vulnerable is one of the most powerful and brave things you can do
- Yes, it is possible to really fall in love on the Bachelor (or anywhere for that matter!)
- Experiences (especially great big experiences) help to form deep connections
- Reliving experiences afterwards can often elevate the emotions (aka let yourself reminisce and day dream every now and again!)
- Talking about your feelings regularly is helpful to decode them and can also be very good for your emotional state
- There will be millions of people in the world willing and ready to tell you how silly or wrong or stupid you are, but you’re the only one who gets a say in who you are and what your feelings are
After The Bachelor:
Since the bachelor I, of course, have stumbled, not listened to my own learnings or just straight up made the wrong choice even when I knew the right one. But I always found my way back to my center where I held this earned wisdom near and dear. The part of me that says to take action, go try something new, tell him you love him if you know you do, and be proud of who you are. These teachings have lead me well and have helped me to a man that is the one I went on the journey for. And, even in this life-long relationship I have settled into, I still have to remind myself that just because I found him, doesn’t mean I ever get to stop doing my half of the work and living what I learned on The Bachelor.