With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the topics of romance and relationships are nearly unavoidable. Couples are holding hands in the streets, heart-shaped candy is everywhere you look, and sappy romantic comedies are on repeat. If you’re a romantic at heart, maybe you enjoy the season of love. But for people who are single, Valentine’s Day can be difficult.
It’s no secret that dating today is much different than it was, say, 30 years ago. Dating apps are the norm, ghosting is a real threat, and many people lack proper dating etiquette in general. Even if you’re actively seeking a partner, the process of dating can seem like just another chore in your day-to-day life.
Anxiety Around Dating Today
Dating is uncomfortable for everyone to a certain degree, but it can be a real burden for people who suffer from anxiety. It’s somewhat understandable because you’re meeting a new person, in an unfamiliar place where there are many unknowns, and that can be nerve-wracking.
Data shows that anxiety affects nearly 40 million adults in the United States, which is over 18 percent of the population. Of that 40 million, roughly 15 million men and women suffer from social anxiety, specifically. Social anxiety is a type of anxiety that causes people to avoid social situations for fear of judgment, embarrassment, being the center of attention, as well as fear of interacting with strangers.
Four Tips for Dating with Confidence
Having anxiety around dating is completely normal. After all, making a good first impression is important, and it says a lot about the other person. But if anxiety is holding you back from your love life, there are ways to get more comfortable with unfamiliar situations and boost your confidence.
1. Plan for the date beforehand
If you struggle with anxiety, you probably like to have a plan before going into certain social situations. So before your date, make sure you agree to the time and location a few days in advance to avoid stressful last-minute planning.
If certain decisions trigger your anxiety, choose what you’re going to wear, what food you’re planning to order, and even what topics of conversation you want to have before the day of the date. Do as much planning as you need to before the day of, so you can walk into your date feeling self-assured and confident.
2. Be optimistic
Remember that, at the end of the day, dating should be fun! After all, you’re meeting a potential partner, and that’s an exciting prospect. We’re all biologically prone to want to be with someone, but it shouldn’t be a stressful experience. Studies have actually shown if you shift your anxiety into excitement, you’re much more likely to appear confident.
Instead of focusing on all the hypothetical things that could go wrong on your date, think about all the amazing things that could happen. You might have an undeniable mutual connection with this person, and want to continue seeing each other. Your mindset going into the date is how you’re going to come off, so being optimistic can help raise your self-esteem and your confidence.
3. Focus on the other person
People with anxiety tend to focus on the things they are doing wrong, or how their actions are being perceived by those around them. Instead of looking internally, make sure you’re giving your attention to your date. Ask them about their job, their upbringing, what they like to do for fun, their favorite restaurant, or other light-hearted conversation starters that you can both contribute to.
Always remember that people love talking about themselves. If you’re a good listener, you’ll be set up for success.
When you’re on a date, the most important thing is the discussion you’re having—and your date feels the same way. Chances are, they won’t even notice the small things you might be self-conscious about.
4. Show off your true self
One of the most common pieces of dating advice is to simply be yourself. Don’t try to put on someone else’s persona, or behave differently than you would around other people. If you try to be someone you’re not, it will come across as obvious to the other person. The only way you’ll know if you have a real connection with your date is if you’re being your authentic self.
If your date is talking about their antique car collection, don’t pretend to be a car fanatic yourself. Instead, express curiosity and ask him questions, like how long they’ve had the collection for, or which car is their favorite. Don’t be afraid to open up about yourself, and your interests. Remember—you’re both getting to know each other, both people should feel comfortable sharing the things that make them unique.
Bouncing Back from Rejection
Unfortunately, not all dates end up becoming a serious relationship. One of the reasons why dating can feel like a daunting process is because finding a partner usually doesn’t happen on the first date. You might have to deal with several rejections before you find someone who you connect with. This is why it’s important to not focus on the outcome but congratulate yourself for putting yourself out there.
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, dealing with rejection can make you feel like dating isn’t worth it. So learning how to bounce back from rejection is a useful skill. It’s important to remember that sometimes, two people just aren’t compatible. If the person you’re dating decides to walk away, it’s probably a reflection on them and their situation, rather than something you said or did.
In the face of rejection, make sure you’re putting your energy towards yourself, rather than dwelling on the negative. Getting rejected doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough or worthy of love; it simply means you haven’t found the right person yet. Spend time with friends, travel, or pick up a new hobby to better yourself and maintain a positive mindset.