Dating is anxiety-provoking, whether or not you have an actual anxiety condition.
The idea of putting yourself out there to be scrutinized and sized up by new people is hard to deal with. We come to terms with our dating “market value” and where we stand in the pecking order. It’s not surprising that people often feel like commodities.
The competitive app dating scene is rife with weirdos, opportunities for awkward conversations and infinite unknown factors, adding fuel to the anxiety fire. It makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. It stokes any insecurities you have about yourself and what you bring to the table.
We wonder if others will find us attractive and interesting enough. We question whether or not we'll ever find someone who is a good match, and someone we can fall in love with. When we do meet someone with potential, we hope that we’re dating the right person for us. We hope they will continue to like us and show up once we reveal our flaws and imperfections.
The truth is that it takes courage to be open to the possibility of finding new love and opening ourselves to potential partners. The risk of getting hurt and disappointed is real. Coupled with the typical ups and downs of pursuing a new connection, it can make the bravest us throw in the towel early in the dating game.
If you’re single and looking for love, it’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable and worried about embarrassing yourself. Concerns about getting favorable responses and putting our best foot forward are normal. Butterflies in our tummy and sweaty palms is the body's natural response to unusual situations.
Most of us feel a little nervous but if it gets overwhelming, it can sabotage your ability to connect authentically and confidently. It can make the process of dating onerous and complicated to the point that people may back out all together. Unless you have an anxiety disorder, which you should address with a professional counselor, there are ways to manage regular dating stress.
All it takes is a change in perspective and the use of simple stress management tools. Dating can actually be a fun and enjoyable process if we’re willing to shift our attitude. It does not have to be scary. Here are some ideas on how you can make your dating experiences more fun:
Know that even the most seemingly confident people who seem to “have game,” struggle with doubt when they meet someone new. Nobody is 100% confident about all facets of their dating persona, and grapple with self-doubt—and you’re no different. It’s okay to admit this to yourself and do what you need to do to feel better. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques when you feel worrisome thoughts cropping up. It helps to acknowledge your strengths and develop confidence in what you have to offer. Getting clear on the product of you will make it easier for your true personality to shine and attract a partner who genuinely appreciates that.
Dating can be frustrating because of the disappointments and uncertainty. The good news is that it doesn’t need to be that way. A simple shift in attitude, called cognitive reframing, will change that way we look at what’s happening to us, and consequently, how we experience it. Coming from a place of curiosity as you meet new people will make the journey more interesting. You can learn something new from everyone, including the people you date. Each one will have a unique perspective to share. Having a sense of humor as you encounter all the strange and quirky characters helps too. As Charlie Chaplin suggested when he said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot,” taking the long-view will make the experience more fun.
Watch out for the negative self-talk that makes you “read into things” too much and imagine the worst-case scenarios. If you’ve had an unlucky spell of meeting jerks it’s easy to fall into this trap. If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole, refocus and bring your attention to the present moment, focusing on the good parts. Take note of all the good jokes, interesting exchanges and the laughs you’ve had during your interaction. Visualize success and believe you’re getting closer to finding the right one. Be open-minded and have faith in the process.
Putting the spotlight on your match is effective in taking the weight off your shoulders. Instead of getting stuck in your own self-consciousness and worries about how you’re being perceived, you place your attention on them. Listen to their words, notice their gestures and body language and eye contact. Ask them lots of questions about different aspects of their life and what they’ve got going on right now. People love to talk about themselves and your genuine interest in them will make them appreciate you more.
Keep your initial conversations light and flirty. Avoid weighing it down with traumatic, negative and dramatic events and news (unless it’s on top of everyone’s minds.) This doesn’t mean that you have to fake smiles and act Pollyannaish—the goal is to have fun getting to know each other and come across as someone who is growth-oriented and good to be around, even if there are challenges looming in the background. Offer things about yourself that are interesting to know and that you’re excited to share, and encourage them to do the same. Sharing your passions and what gets you going is a sure-fire way to stoke the flames of attraction.
Ready to start having those fun and positive conversations with that special someone?