For those who suffer from social anxiety, dating can seem like a daunting task! What’s meant to be an enjoyable experience oftentimes turns into a torturous endeavor! The inherit issue with dating is that, at it’s core, it is a social experience. It’s also an evaluative experience, where your date may be scrutinizing you to see if they want to spend time with you again. Both of these things can fuel social anxiety. Below are 5 tips to improve your chances of success at dating, and potentially increase your enjoyment of it!
1) You don’t have to say or do “the right thing”
When you consider approaching someone that you are attracted to, do you worry about needing to say “the right thing” in order to get the conversation going or to maintain it? The reality is that there are potentially many valid ways of starting a conversation or keeping it going. Typically when interacting with a close friend or family member you probably don’t worry about saying the right thing or starting off a conversation correctly right? When it comes to dating its better to say something (even if it’s not the most perfect topic) than to hesitate and say nothing because of overanalyzing.
2) Don’t trust all of your thoughts
Folks that suffer from social anxiety tend to be very self-critical, and in turn assume that others will judge them in a similar way. That may not be fully accurate though. Naturally we all have different ways of perceiving other people and the world in general, so plenty of other people likely view you in a more positive light than you view yourself! Here’s a tip: as a meditation exercise try sitting in a quiet place for several minutes, close your eyes, and visualize your thoughts coming and going in your mind, like clouds traveling through the sky or leaves flowing down a stream. Just observe the thoughts, and don’t engage with them. Remember, thoughts are not real objects, and they don’t always need to be believed!
3) Use Positive Self-Talk
For a lot of folks who think about dating what tends to naturally come to mind are all the negative aspects of it, as well as their own self-criticisms. That’s not very motivating to make the move and to talk to someone! The same way that you would encourage a friend to pursue what they want, offer encouragement to yourself. What does that look like? Well, you can spend a few minutes considering past positive dating experiences that you have had. Perhaps think about the times that you have interacted with new people in your life and ended up having a good connection with them. Consider times when others have complimented you in some way, perhaps by saying how kind, attractive, and/or funny you are. Try dwelling on these things for a while instead of considering all the ways your dating attempts can go wrong!
4) Get outside of your head
While planning and problem solving certainly have their place, overdoing it can lead to a high anxiety level. People with social anxiety can be very good at analyzing (although at times in a distorted way), but tend to experience difficulty with just being in the moment. During social interactions you may find yourself worrying about what you should say next, or how you appear to other people at that moment. Try this: During a conversation with a friend or family member attempt placing all of your attention on the other person, perhaps on something visual (such as their eyes), the sound of their voice, or something else that you notice at that moment. Trust that you will naturally know what to say in conversation. When your mind wanders back to yourself, simply redirect it to whatever you have chosen to focus on (something outside of yourself). Then try the same thing during a dating situation.
5) Think of dating as a fun experiment
It can seem natural with dating to think of it as being a big deal, and potentially very embarrassing or upsetting if things don’t go well. However, remember that you do have control over how you perceive situations. You can choose to view dating as an experiment, just an exercise to see what happens. Whatever results you get from your attempts are not necessarily a reflection of you. You can choose to view them as the results of the social experiment you just conducted, and which you can learn from. Next time you find yourself overanalyzing a dating situation, just remember that this is a fun experiment, and it really does not matter much if things don’t work out.