You’ve scored a first date, but every time you think of it approaching, your stomach jolts with adrenaline. You’re excited, sure, but also nervous. What if you make a fool of yourself? What if you don’t know what to say and there’s too much awkward silence? What if they think you’re boring? What if you get food stuck in your teeth?
Step 1: Stop playing the “what if” game!
There are a million “what if” scenarios you could torture yourself with, but what good will that do for you? “The truth is, nobody is perfect” advises professional matchmakers Kelleher International.
If you spend time worrying about all of the negative possibilities that could happen, you’ll psyche yourself out before you even have the date.
Instead, try focusing on all of the positive things that could happen. What if you have the best hair day ever on the night of the date? What if you feel totally confident in yourself? What if your date is really sweet and funny? If you look for the positive, you will feel more positive. If you feel more positive, you’ll start feeling more confident and at peace.
Step 2: Embrace your inner awkwardness.
Sure, maybe you’ll stumble over that crack in the sidewalk as you’re walking into the restaurant. Maybe there will be an awkward silence or two. Maybe you’ll say something dumb. But honestly, it’s all about the attitude you have about your flaws. For example, let’s say you do stumble while walking, and you almost trip. It’ll be a million times more awkward if you act super embarrassed about it than it would be if you laugh at yourself and make a joke about it.
Embarrassing moments are way more embarrassing if you act embarrassed. This is where the “fake it till you make it” advice really comes in handy: laugh off the awkward moments even if you’re embarrassed, and you’ll look (and feel) a hundred times more confident. Plus, you’ll make your date feel more confident too. They are probably worried about their own awkwardness, so if you embrace yours, you are giving them permission to embrace theirs, too! For more tips on dealing with awkward situations, check out this article: Top 10 Uncomfortable Situations and How to Deal with Them
Step 3: Prepare some conversation starters
One of the most dreaded things about first dates–especially for those with social anxiety–is wondering if you’ll run out of things to say, or worse, not knowing what to say at all. No one likes to carry the conversation all by themselves, so help the date along by thinking of a handful of conversation starters before you go. Think outside the box. “Some weather we’re having, eh?” isn’t exactly an opener to stimulating conversation.
While most first dates will go over the standard questions about jobs, family, and “so, what do you like to do?”, try to think of some more in-depth or interesting questions to ask if the standard ones fall flat. Try to get them to tell funny or interesting stories about themselves. Good conversation starters will make the date feel more personal and less like a job interview.
Step 4: Get familiar
Pick out what you’re going to wear so you have one less thing to worry about. If you already know what the plan is for your date, go to the location of the date and get familiar with the environment. It may sound silly, but if the location feels somewhat familiar before you go, you’ll feel more comfortable. That way, you can spend more of your mental energy on your date and less on unfamiliar surroundings or worrying about your outfit.
Step 5: Focus on your date
Anxiety tries to steal your attention and make you focus on your feelings of fear and panic. Decide beforehand that whenever you feel nervous, you will do something to ground yourself and refocus on your date. It could be taking a quiet, deep breath, or having a soothing, confidence-boosting mantra to repeat in your head when you start feeling anxious. It could also be a physical object, like a special ring or a necklace that you can touch as a reminder that there’s nothing to fear. Whatever tactic you choose, practice using it right away so you can already be familiar with it by the time your date rolls around.
Step 6: Meditate
Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. If you know nothing about meditation, don’t worry. It’s not complicated; all you need to do is set aside some time–even if it’s just a few minutes–to breathe deeply and try to quiet your mind. Focus on your body and what each part of your body is feeling. Doing this shifts your focus from racing thoughts to body and mind awareness. It’s grounding and relaxing, and it can “reset” your mind, helping you focus more on the present moment instead of worrying about the future.
Step 7: Have a plan
If you suffer from panic attacks or worry that your social anxiety might seriously hinder your ability to have fun and relax on your date, then it will help to have a backup plan. For example, you might tell a friend or family member to stay close to their phone in case you need a pep talk or you need to be picked up. If you plan ahead, you’ll be less likely to worry because you’ll find comfort knowing that a loved one is standing by in case you need them.
If you have social anxiety, planning ahead is extremely valuable. Having a positive attitude and being prepared might not magically cure your social anxiety, but it will definitely help you stay more in control. The most important thing to remember is that your anxiety does not define you. You are an incredible person, and, just like everyone else (including your date), you’re not perfect. Let your personality shine through, and you’re sure to feel more comfortable!