Social anxiety can make dating tricky, or if I’m honest, it can make it a nightmare worthy of a Stephen King novel.
As someone who feels uncomfortable being the centre of attention, my performance on a date was never going to be Oscar-worthy. After all, as Carrie Bradshaw famously said; “first dates are just interviews, with cocktails”.
The fear of saying the ‘wrong thing’ or coming across like a loser was all consuming for me. Thoughts such as “you’re acting weird, say something interesting,” would circulate through my brain, like a bully taunting me.
These thoughts have made me act in peculiar ways over the years. Some of my closest friends thought I was an ‘ice queen’ when we first met, because social anxiety used to dictate my behaviour. For example, if I really liked a person (either in a romantic or friendship way) I tended to be aloof and avoid eye contact. It came across as though I was bored, but it was actually anxiety.
However, you don’t have to be a slave to social anxiety. Over the years I’ve picked up some tips that can be very useful on whilst dating.
1. Be honest
To be clear, I don’t mean that you should admit you have social anxiety as soon as you meet. Be honest and more assertive about the choice of venue. For example, if they suggest bowling, dining in a restaurant, or something else that makes you nervous then say so. You don’t have to go into too much detail, just something like, “actually I’m not a fan of that,” or “I’d rather do this if that’s ok?” Having social anxiety is hard enough without feeling uncomfortable in your surroundings.
One of the positive things about dating apps, is that they give you the option to meet lots of new people. If you find the dating scene nerve wracking, then why not build up your confidence by going on a few practice dates? Just be mindful of the notorious ‘hook up’ sites and always ensure your safety above everything else.
Playing mental games such as, ‘how many girls names can I think of beginning with the letter A,’ might seem primitive, but it’s a great way to distract the brain and reduce negative thoughts. Phone app games can be good too.
4. Text a friend beforehand for encouragement
I usually say something like “I’m freaking out… please tell me how amazing I am!”
5. Arrive a little early
No more than ten minutes so that you can acclimatise to the venue and get comfortable.
6. Do some belly breathing
To keep the butterflies under control.
7. Dress confident, but comfy
A first date is NOT the time to try out a new hairstyle or makeup look. Chances are that it’ll go wrong and only increase your stress levels. Just keep it simple. Choose something that make you feel comfortable but confident. Try and do this one night in advance, to avoid the whole furiously attacking your wardrobe at the last minute.