If You're Nervous About Dating, Here's How To Feel More Confident
My super-strict parents weren't the only reason why I didn't date in high school — it was also because I thought dating was terrifying. Interacting with a crush always made me feel tongue-tied and dumb. I couldn't imagine talking to someone I liked on the phone, so how could I possibly sit across a table from them and somehow eat and flirt at the same time? I eventually conquered my dating fears in my 20s, but it wasn't easy, and I still battled plenty of dating anxiety. It's natural to be nervous about dating, and though it takes some time to become comfortable, dating confidence makes a huge difference.
I'm not sure exactly what made dating seem so scary, but I think it was a fear of the unknown. I imagined worst-case scenarios that involved me knocking over drinks with my elbow, or sneezing in my date's face during the goodnight kiss. I worried about running out of things to say, or failing to make the perfect impression. But as author, speaker, and psychotherapist Dr. Nancy Mramor previously told Elite Daily, you have the power to "decide your own outcome for a success with social anxiety management." Here are some tips managing anxiety and boosting confidence while dating.
Shut Down Anticipatory Anxiety
Anticipatory anxiety is basically a fancy term for fearing the worst. Rather than imagining potential success, you worry that asking out a crush is going to end in inevitable failure. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy, my friend. If you decide that you suck at dating and that any date you go on will be a disaster, then this might eventually become the truth.
Counselor and relationship expert David Bennett previously suggested to Elite Daily that positive visualization is a great way to dispel those bad thoughts — and, of course, you should try to imagine a scenario where everything goes well, not terribly. "I suggest mental rehearsal as a way to boost confidence," Bennett said. "Many people feel insecure because they run every possible bad outcome in their head related to an event, such as, 'What if I run out of things to say on a date?' ... Once you do this, you'll find that not only are most scenarios not that horrible, but if you practice how you'll handle them, you'll go in with more confidence." Goodbye, worst fears. See you never.
Lower The Stakes
Another old habit of mine: deciding that if a date didn't go well I would end up alone forever. When I started to date, every dinner and bar meet-up seemed like something of great consequence. A bad date felt like a personal failing, and I would wait several months before venturing back out into the dating scene. But I'm going to tell you a secret: You might experience less-than-perfect dates every now and then, and that's OK. That's normal.
According to dating coach Evan Marc Katz, you aren't doing yourself any favors by going into a date with an agenda. "The best thing you could do on a first date is not to spend half a second worrying if you're going to get a second date," he previously told Elite Daily. "Assume the answer is yes. Assume that the person sitting across from you likes you, is attracted to you, and wants to date you." If you see dating as a high-pressure task rather than something potentially fun, you'll spend more time worrying about results and consequences than feeling good in the moment.
Change Your Perspective
It's tempting to go into a date with the attitude, "I want them to like me." You might feel like you're the one expected to perform, and that the date's success rests solely on you performing well. I'd be so worried about making a good impression that I didn't consider the fact that my date would be making an impression as well. I forgot that I could potentially be the one who wasn't wowed by a date.
As celebrity dating and relationship coach Laurel House previously explained to Elite Daily, "There’s no reason for anxiety if you reframe your feelings into an attitude of, 'I’m interested to see if I’m interested.' So many daters give their power away and place too much weight on the other person liking them." Dating is not all about being judged — dating should also give you a chance to assess potential matches. So don't put so much pressure on yourself, because dates involve two people trying to make a good impression, not just one.
Challenge Your Inner Critic
With dating comes the possibility of rejection, and if a date goes poorly or someone turns you down for a date, you might start questioning your worthiness. Rejection can cause you to look inward and wonder, "Am I not smart enough? Am I not interesting enough?" Try to remember that you don't really know the people you're dating, but you do know yourself, and you know yourself far better than those dates do.
Bennett explained how self-critical thoughts can warp your idea of how potential dates may see you and, consequently, how you see yourself. "Cognitive distortions are unhelpful and illogical thoughts, and when you meet new people, your brain is sending them out en masse," he said. "For example, thoughts like, 'They think I'm weird,' and, 'They won't bother calling me back,' are two distortions."
House also pointed out that allowing rejection to override your sense of self does major damage to your confidence. "While those fears and insecurities might be taking hold of your mind, thoughts, and therefore attitude and confidence, the truth is that you don’t know [potential dates] well enough to know if they are worthy of it," she said. "Remember who you are, what you stand for, what you have to offer and bring to the table. And then bring it!" Being rejected says nothing about your character, and your success in dating says nothing about how worthy you are of being loved.
You can associate dating with judgment, embarrassment, and rejection, or you can see dating as an opportunity to shine — it all depends on your mindset. "Your personal standards are the only ones that matter in the long run," Mramor emphasized. "If you fall short, be kind to yourself, see what you could do differently, and try again." Dating may scare the crap out of you, but if you pick a date spot you're familiar with, put on your favorite outfit, and remember these tips, your confidence will make dating feel far less daunting.