e H: First dates can rattle anyones nerves, but if one suffers from anxiety it is something they might want to avoid. It’s normal to feel anxious in new situations like dating, the important thing is to not interpret that nervous feeling as a sign of trouble: with you, your date, or your potential together; it’s just human nature.
How does a person like this even get into the mindset of going on a date? We are wired to proceed with caution in situations where we can’t predict the outcome — and especially in those situations where we think we might get hurt. Rather than going into each date with the mindset that you have to find that one true love tonight, do an expectation makeover: imagine if you saw this date as an isolated event without consequences. Not the be all and end all, not the test of whether it’s worth it, not the test of whether you are lovable. While the big picture is that you want to find love and companionship, the immediate purpose in the moment is to connect.
People who suffer from anxiety may have more frequent anxious thoughts, or more extreme catastrophic outcomes in mind, but the solution is the same either way and it’s all about what expectations you have for dating. It won’t jinx you if you let go of the big goal, quite the opposite: it will free you up to be present, pay attention and enjoy. Whereas the facts sound like this: I have interests, I have things to talk about that I care about. Think of it as the New York Times covering your date rather than The National Enquirer.
Use your true curiosity to find out about the person across from you. Share yours; listen to theirs without worrying about what you’re going to do with it or where it’s going. It’s not really about you; it’s about how everyone’s anxious wiring responds to uncertainty. For instance, your fear may say: What if she doesn’t like me? We think there’s some other skill, some magic material that we are lacking — something special, something right, something amazing. Here are three ideas to help you open up: What was your high school teacher’s advice when you were blocked writing a paper? Remember, like a conversation, the success of a date is a 50-50 venture. Rather than getting derailed with anxious thinking about how you are inadequate or uninteresting or how you can’t keep a conversation going, turn around, get back on track: work together to make it work. It’s just this one date; it’s not the end of dating. Even if you are feeling lonely, it is important to remember that however much you want more love and companionship in your life, you are living your life before this date and you will be living it after. Your interests, your friends, your purpose will be there waiting for you no matter what happens on the date.
e H: How does one manage all the fears and worries? Chansky: Anxiety’s way of preparing ourselves for the unknown is to supply us with rapid fire “what if’s.” The problem is, the “what if’s” are more a reflection of the universal reaction to the unknown than to the specifics of your life. Rather than doing your pre-game huddle with the worst-case scenarios; do a reality check. Again, don’t personalize the universal reaction of anxiety. “Think about how you would tell a friend about the subject.” Imagine this on a date. If you’re uncomfortable — say it — chances are the other person feels the same way and by joking about it, this is how you will break the ice together. Make sure you go into the date remembering this radical thing — you don’t need this to work, you’d just like it to.
So when you start to think –“What if I make a total fool out of myself? Take a minute to jot down four or five things you appreciate most about yourself and the things others have told you they appreciate about you.
You always bring your strengths with you wherever you go, but you’ll feel much more confident and at ease when you bring your awareness of those strengths too.
e H: What if things don’t work out, then how does one handle that? Chansky: Remember that you can’t control the outcome of a date.
You can’t guarantee that it will be great and…importantly…that’s not a reflection on you. The other person has responsibility for the chemistry too.And if it isn’t there, it’s no one’s shortcoming, it’s just not there.That may be disappointing, but it’s essential to have the discipline to resist making up unfounded explanations for why things didn’t work.How a date turns out is not a reflection on your datability, or loveability, it’s about chemistry, and chemistry is a two-way street.Proceed with the same caution about interpreting the outcome as you did about entering the situation at all.Don’t race ahead with conclusions about your apparent failure that don’t have any validity.