Nobody likes anxiety. Sometimes it feels best just to hide from it, or avoid it. Sometimes we just want to step around situations that induce anxiety. Don’t poke the bear for fear it wakes up and pulverizes you. The instinct makes sense, but it is nonetheless an instinct that you must learn to override if you are to reap the best of what life can offer. That includes solid relationships.
The best relationships are ones where you can be completely yourself with that person. However anxiety has a way of making you self conscious that you don’t even remember who your genuine self is. So it is definitely not coming through to the other person. Also with romantic connections this is true. And it may in fact go double for romantic connections, in terms of the importance of authenticity. If you can’t be yourself due to anxiety you will find yourself very constrained when dating, and it will be very hard to make a genuine connection.
Here are some ways you might overcome your dating-anxiety.
Avoid Mind Reading
We easily slip into the “I know they are thinking” mode. No! No you do not know. At best, you are making an educated guess. Far from sucking not to know what people are thinking, it an actually be quite liberating. Remember ignorance is bliss? It does sort of imply that you are ignorant of something bad. What I mean with ignorance is bliss is that wouldn’t it be horrible to have to know all your thoughts and al your date’s thoughts too? So don’t pretend to. Because you don’t. You don’t know they hate your hair, think you are stupid, or don’t like your band’s name. Let things flow. And breathe.
Resist the urge to compare your life choices and other things of that nature to your date. In short, don’t be so damn judgmental. Not of yourself. Not of them. If they like you then they are going to like you for an amalgam of coordinated reasons totally unknown to you. And the method of examining you and with what standards are also totally unknown. So comparing your job to theirs is irrelevant because they are a distinctly different human from you with different life experiences. But also because for all you know she could care less where you work.
Nobody Can Tell
Can you imagine how many thoughts you can cram into a fifty second period? And the backlog, the history of all those thoughts is also quite complex and could probably be dissected in a therapy session over years without running out of material. So what is the chance that all THAT is showing up on your face? None. Most of the time people have absolutely no knowledge of what is happening with you. You have more control than you realize. You can show people exactly what you want them to see with a little effort. I would advise against becoming sociopathic of course. But rest assured that they don’t know that you thought this and this and that.
A lot of anxiety can be traced back to expecting way too much from a date, or from a person. This sounds bleak, but it shouldn’t. Again, the very opposite, this should be a liberation not a sacrifice: Expect very little. Not just from dating but from everything and then you have so much room to be pleasantly surprised.
Focus on Them
Don’t think so much about yourself. Whenever you feel yourself drifting towards yourself, either in your thoughts or in the conversation consciously return the focus to your date. Not only is that charming (provided you don’t 100% focus on them) but it takes a lot of pressure off of you. More often than not people love to talk about themselves so if you are even a halfway decent listener then you’re good to go.
This is different from focusing on them in one key way. Focusing on them is often about what image you are creating for yourself in the eyes of the person. This is important, to be sure, but only to an extent. A great way of lessening anxiety is to be genuinely enjoying yourself. Allow yourself to stop scheming (because, lets be honest, you can use whatever word you want to describe anxious overthought on a date. But more often than not its suspiciously similar to scheming.) and genuinely revel in the joy of acquiring new life experience. nurture your curiosity of the person and their experiences without thinking what each separate thing they say can be related to your current goals.
A Little Prep Isn’t Bad
You can come prepared with a few questions or talking points. Don’t plan out your night. Then you’ll replace dating anxiety with performance anxiety. But you can plan a few things. An outline, if you will. Additionally, you can do something very relaxing before your date. Whatever that is for you: Take a bath, go for a run, play with your dog or listen to a soothing album are all good choices.
Confront the Truth
First dates are always awkward in some way or another. At least 99 out of 100 times they are. So, with that in mind, it is okay to feel a little nervous. Also, be realistic, and understand that your date is also nervous, and is also worried about looking awkward. In that respect, you two are kind of in this together.
This is cliche I know, but practice truly does make perfect. If you keep going on dates the anxiety will lessen more and more. Conversely, if you never go on dates and only go very seldom then that date will likely be filled with anxiety and confirm you in your belief that you can’t date. Then you don’t go on a date for ANOTHER 6 months and have the same experience when you do. That is a very vicious cycle.