Dating is hard, full stop. The process of meeting someone new, getting to know them, and in all likelihood having to repeat that process until you meet The One is a pretty daunting proposition. It’s more than just the time investment; the process of letting yourself be vulnerable with strangers is something most of us just aren’t comfortable with.
Sometimes, though, it may feel like you’re the only one who’s having trouble navigating the dating world. You may be fresh out of a breakup and feeling exhausted by the idea of trying to meet someone new. Or maybe you just don’t date very often, and putting yourself out there is confusing at best and overwhelming at worst.
Still, there are some things to keep in mind that may make the process go more smoothly. Here’s a roundup of some of the best ways to keep your confidence from sinking as you dive into the dating pool.
It’s not just you
This one really is key: no matter how difficult you find the process, know that everyone out there finds it difficult, too. The number of people who find dating to be a totally stress-free process could probably be counted on one hand. Everyone has at least one or two aspects of themselves that they wish could be a little bit different.
So in that sense, you’re dealing with a more level playing field than you might expect. Everyone is nervous, and almost everyone is worried about looking awkward.
What makes each person feel nervous is different. One person may be nervous about their weight or hairline, while another person may be nervous that they’re not a great conversationalist. Some people simply may be nervous because it’s been a long time since they’ve been on a date, and they’re a little rusty and wondering what it is they’re “supposed” to be doing.
Of course, it is possible that your date notices and disapproves of whatever it is you’re nervous about. It’s also possible that you don’t hit it off because of another reason entirely — something you never even considered. It could be something significant, or it could be something shallow.
But remember: none of that is within your control, and even if it was, it’s a sign that your date isn’t the right person for you.
Likewise, you may find something about your date that doesn’t cause a spark for you. None of this is about judgement; this is about two people figuring out if they click or not.
So with that in mind, as counterintuitive as it seems, let the fact that it’s tough for everyone should help you relax and have a good time.
Don’t date for the sake of dating
You may feel obligated to treat dating like a numbers game and date as many people as possible — especially if you’re online dating. If you’re paying a subscription fee, you may feel like you need to get your money’s worth to justify it. Or there may be so many people swiping by that you start to wonder if maybe you’re being too picky.
But it’s not to your advantage — nor is it respectful of other people’s time — to date just for the sake of dating. In terms of staying confident while dating, going out with someone who you know in advance you won’t mesh with is a recipe for disaster. If you’re spending the whole night trying to find attraction or common ground where there is none, you’re always going to feel like dating is an exhausting uphill battle. Don’t do that to yourself.
That said, don’t demand perfection. The whole point of dating is getting to know someone.
Using the idea of being selective as a defense mechanism against giving someone interesting a chance won’t serve you either — and if you do wait for that one-in-a-million profile before you meet anyone, you risk setting up unrealistic expectations. Be sure to find the balance.
Know your worth
If you’re not confident in yourself to begin with, being confident while dating is nearly impossible. Everyone has at least one area of their life where they’re not fully confident, and that’s fine. In fact, it’s healthy to recognize that you’re not perfect or that there are areas where you have room to grow.
But there’s a difference between being humble and having low self-esteem. Neither is a sin, but if you’re concerned that you have low self-esteem, that could keep you from making the connections you need to make to have a healthy relationship. Changing your view of yourself won’t happen overnight, but it’s worth the work.
What do you do well? What are you proud of in your life? Recognize your strengths and talents, and use those to ground you as you navigate the dating world — and life in general.
Some of what might make you nervous about dating is figuring out how to proceed once you’ve made a date. While you can’t map out every possible scenario, one way to keep your confidence up is to do a little pre-date planning. Going out to dinner? Check out the restaurant’s website or a review site like Yelp in advance.
Take a look at the menu, find out if there’s a dress code, and find out in advance if the place you’d like to go is likely to be too loud for first-date conversation. Knowing what to expect may help you relax and stay confident.
…Or live in the moment
While it’s a tall order, you might be surprised at how many of your dating worries will go out the window if you can put your worries to the side for a bit. When you focus on everything that could possibly go wrong, you limit the room you have in your mind to think about the things that could go right. If you can yourself to stop from overthinking, you may find that your confidence in yourself is more than you thought.