How to Overcome Your Fear of Dating
Sometimes, the prospect of dating can feel similar to the prospect of going to your work acquaintance’s birthday party – it seems like a great idea at first, but when the day arrives you’d rather chew your arm off than follow through. When I first started dating (London, 2009, pre Tinder), as in going on real dates (not watching movies with a guy from your class in high school), I found the concept terrifying; ‘What if he doesn’t like me? What if I say something stupid? What if we have nothing to talk about?’. When we don’t know what to expect from a situation, it’s easier to mentally prepare for the worst case scenario than the best. I overcame my dating anxiety after some trial and error, and since I started dating in London where dating is a big part of the culture, I was eased into it by people who grew up knowing how to date in the same way we grew up knowing how to cross country ski. I’m not saying British people are better than Scandinavians (heaven knows they have their flaws), I’m just saying that we have a thing or two to learn from them when it comes to dating. The same goes for the Americans, they know that a date is just a date and simply see it as an opportunity to get to know someone new and have a fun time.
I’m not saying it’s unnatural to get nervous, I get nervous too – I’m just saying that putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, envisioning worst case scenarios or focusing on your own insecurities is not the ideal way to approach a date. Dating is simply about meeting a new person in order to figure out whether you like each other or not – it’s not something you can control or decide the outcome of in advance, so why spend time stressing over it?
We’ve created a little guide that will hopefully take some pressure of your shoulders if you’re suffering from a case of dating anxiety, and make the preparations, as well as the actual date, a fun experience rather than an anxiety ridden one.
Don’t Take It Too Seriously
Us Scandinavians have a little tendency to take things a bit too seriously when it comes to dating – even prior to the first date. Take a second to remember what is actually about to go down: you are meeting a person who you have never met before (presumably, in these Tinder days) and who has never met you before. There is no guarantee that you will like him/her or that he/she will like you, that is essentially what you are about to find out on the date. Dating is literally just two people meeting up to see if they have anything in common, and if you don’t, it’s no big deal and completely normal. Although it can be disappointing if a date doesn’t turn out the way you expected it too, it’s not a personal failure – it’s just another experience to learn from. It’s a date, not an interview for your dream job – relax and have fun with it. If you do like the person – great. If you don’t – be polite, be kind, try to have a good time, make an excuse to leave if you have to and move on.
Don’t Say Yes To Dating Activities You’re Not Comfortable With
People like doing different things, and it’s only natural that people will suggest different types of dates. If you’re not comfortable with a hiking date, a coffee date (yawn), a shuffle board date or a bowling date – suggest something you are comfortable with instead. If you’re already stressed about going on the date in the first place, the last thing you need is the added pressure of having to impress your date by excelling in some random activity or finding yourself in a setting you’re uncomfortable with. If “having a drink” feels more comfortable than indoor climbing with a random person you’ve never met – suggest doing that instead.
Personally, I prefer the good old “having a drink” – especially for a first date; that way you’re free to make up a polite excuse and leave if you need to – without having to awkwardly make your way out of your climbing gear and tell your date you have explosive diarrhea and need to go. If you’re worried about the date stretching out and not being able to leave, tell your date in advance that you have pre made arrangements after the date to put a time limit on it – you can always “cancel” your plans if you’re having a great time.
Make An Effort To Feel Comfortable About Your Look Before The Date
It’s a good idea to feel comfortable with the way you look on a date, especially if you’re nervous. Don’t try out any new makeup trends, don’t put on an outfit just to impress the other person and never try to be something you’re not. If you’re going on a date with a surfer and you’re not a surfer, don’t show up to the date in daisy dukes, Vans and with half assed beach hair. If you’re going on a date to a fancy place and you don’t feel comfortable wearing heels, don’t. “Uncomfortable” is not a feeling you want to bring into the date before it has even started. If you’re a “jeans and a tee” girl – wear that, if you’re a “dress and heels” girl – wear that.
I love getting ready and dressed up for dates, and I always aim to set aside enough time to do my hair and makeup and figure out what I feel like wearing, which is typically any trousers that make my legs look long, a cute top, heels and a leather jacket – regardless of where I’m going (there are exceptions though – I obviously wouldn’t wear that to the beach). It’s a look that makes me feel comfortable, and as long as I feel good about myself I don’t really care what anyone else is wearing. Go for a look that makes you feel like yourself – you’ll be more comfortable and relaxed, and able to focus on your date rather than your insecurities.
Don’t Place All The Pressure On Yourself
For some reason, we tend to worry about the other person not liking us. We focus on our own insecurities and self perceived flaws, and completely neglect the fact that dating is a two way street – you need to like them too, you know. Dating is not about you being perfect – it’s about finding out whether or not you are compatible with a person you’re about to spend some time with. Stop putting all the focus on yourself, dating isn’t about perfection, it’s about compatibility. Are you expecting your date to be perfect? Probably not (If your answer is yes, I can’t help you). Shift the focus from your insecurities and think about all the things you have to offer instead – you’re probably a pretty great catch. Instead of trying to impress your date by pretending to be perfect, focus on learning more about him/her to see if you think they’re a good match for you. You want someone who’s right for you, don’t you? If they don’t like you for who you are, it’s not a good match anyway – move on.
Stop Worrying About Not Having Anything To Say
Stressing about things potentially being awkward or not having anything to say will only make the experience uncomfortable on your end prior to the date. Try to be present in the moment and listen to what your date is saying, and then ask questions accordingly – this will make the conversation flow easily and is a great way of showing your date that you’re interested in what he/she is saying. I’ve been on dates where I’ve had to lead the whole conversation without being asked a single question in return, and I’ve been on dates where I’ve been the audience of a one man’s show. Both were awkward af, but both were great experiences. Most of my dates, regardless of whether we were a match or not, have been a walk in the park. Most people go into dates wanting to get to know the person they’re meeting and will make an effort to achieve that. If your date is a match, you’ll have plenty to talk about, and if not, maybe you won’t – who cares? You’re probably never going to see them again anyway (that’s a lie, Scandinavian cities are small and you’ll probably bump into them again – but at least you won’t have to talk to them). Scandinavians tend to have this irrational fear of things being awkward, when in reality, awkward situations make for the best stories and teach you how to cope with uncomfortable situations in the future. Embrace the awkwardness, ladies.
Keep Your Mind Open
I believe the key to a great date is keeping an open mind and not building up your expectations in advance. The odds of meeting the love of your life on a random Tinder date are slim – don’t go into the date expecting to find true love, but rather to have a great time and getting to know a new person. I’ve met people on dating apps that I realized was not a romantic match the second I met them, but who I still keep in touch with today. Don’t get disappointed if the person isn’t exactly like you imagined, but aim to get to know him/her and have a great time – just because you don’t want to give birth to their children doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun time with them. People are interesting, look at dating as an opportunity to learn something new.
I’ve been on many dates; fun dates, boring dates, batshit crazy dates, dreadful horrible dates, insanely awkward dates and breathtakingly amazing dates. I’ve driven into the Malibu sunset in a convertible listening to Simon & Garfunkel, but I’ve also escaped through the backdoor of a bar when I said I was going to the restroom. That’s what dating is like; you never know what you get and anything could happen. Would I like to erase some of them from my memory? Yes. Have I learned something new from every single one and had an insane amount of fun? Also yes.
Have fun, relax and remember that the worst case scenarios always make for the best stories. Dating is nothing to be afraid of.
[Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections in the comments section]