Dating Without Feeling Totally Inept

09.03.2017 |

Episode #9 of the course Overcoming social anxiety by Eileen Purdy MSW, M.Ed.


Tired of being single because of this social anxiety crap? This will get you started in the right direction.

For some of you, the process of getting through a date seems impossible. For others, you can’t even imagine actually going out on a date in the first place. You break into sweats and feel nauseous just thinking about it.

“What if I swipe right and no one else does?” “What if I go on a date and they like me?” “What if they don’t?” “What if I have a panic attack or start to cry?” “What if I don’t have anything to say and they think I’m boring?” “I’d rather figure out how to be lonely than deal with rejection.” Do any of these sound familiar?

The reality is that many people have these thoughts, even if they don’t have anxiety. The difference is, with anxiety, those thoughts often stop you in your tracks. Meanwhile, those without anxiety usually continue forward despite these scary thoughts. Nonetheless, it can be helpful for you to recognize that these thoughts are not uniquely caused by your anxiety. Getting anxious before a date is something that even people without anxiety deal with. Ok, so that brings a little relief and perspective, but my guess is that you’re probably looking for a little more. Here are six more tools for your toolbox.

1. Set realistic goals for yourself. According to Joyable, “If you view a date as an opportunity to learn more about another person and have fun—rather than as a mission to find a life partner—chances are you will be less anxious.” Setting realistic goals for yourself (e.g., I only have to show up; I only have to go on one date with this person) can calm some of those dating nerves.

2. Practice. Research shows that one of the most effective ways to decrease anxiety is to gradually face what you are afraid of. If you experience social anxiety around dating, start small by initiating conversations with a barista you find attractive or by giving a stranger a small compliment.

3. Conversation starters. Being prepared with conversation starters will help ease your mind and give you confidence when talking to others. Here are a few good ones: What do you like most about living here? What is your favorite show on Netflix? What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current job?

4. Keep breathing. If you’re on a date and the conversation does come to an end, resist the urge to say anything self-deprecating or something about your anxiety. Smile and let there be quiet. Silence is not an indication that the other person is thinking something negative. If you encounter silence, focus your attention on your breathing. Remember, slow, deep, and rhythmic breathing will get you through awkward times most gracefully. This is usually a nice time for a smile too.

5. Keep perspective. Being single isn’t a scarlet letter, and you’ve done nothing wrong. You’ll meet your person at the time you meet them. It’s hard to know why things happen the way they do until we can look back on our lives and make sense of different situations.

6. Label your self-judgment. When you feel yourself being self-critical regarding why you’re single, label those thoughts false alarms. And then turn your attention onto something else that doesn’t have anything to do with those thoughts. Seriously, at the point you are feeling significant stress and loneliness around being single, you’ve created some pretty negative thought patterns that aren’t serving you. Those critical self-judgments are false alarms because they aren’t true and your mind keeps sending them. You need to label all those negative thoughts and feelings false alarms in order to disrupt that pattern and create a new, more positive one.


Tomorrow is day 10 already! And although it came fast, tomorrow’s lesson is on why overcoming social anxiety is a marathon and not a sprint.


Recommended reading

Free Workbook: Behavior Can Be Designed


Recommended book

“The Anxiety Toolkit: Strategies for Fine-Tuning Your Mind and Moving Past Your Stuck Points” by Alice Boyes Ph.D


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