Why dating is so hard when you experience social anxiety and how you can make it easier

Why dating is so hard when you experience social anxiety and how you can make it easier

Dating is not easy…

Dating is one of those things that we tend to think we ‘should‘ be able to do because other people seem to find it so easy. But the truth is that dating isn’t easy -and this is true even for people who don’t experience social anxiety regularly. I promise, it’s not just you struggling with dates.

So many of us can get into a panic just thinking about a date… What if I make a fool out of myself? What if I can’t think of anything to say? Will I understand the menu? Will I be judged for the food I order? What if my date thinks I’m boring or doesn’t like me? What will the place be like? Who will be there? What if I bump into someone I know?

So. Many. Questions. It might seem better to avoid dating altogether. This was my favoured approach (as it was to all challenging situations in life). In fact, the mere mention of a date and I’d freak out and blurt out a ‘no‘ before I even had time to consider what I actually wanted.

…but neither is avoiding connection

But whilst avoiding dating stops the panic, it creates an uncomfortable conflict within ourselves. We are wired for connection. We want to love and be loved. But if we are constantly avoiding connection for fear of rejection then it’s hard to imagine how we can possibly get to know someone well enough to start a fulfilling relationship. Our desire for connection doesn’t go away; it might just lead us into superficial, alcohol-fuelled relationships that aren’t healthy for us, or even ‘settling‘ for someone who isn’t right for us.

So what do you do? Simply not avoiding dating seems way too scary. Because then you’re on the date with all the same worries whirling around your head. Silently panicking about what your date is thinking of you and whether the people around you are listening in and judging you and feeling sorry for your date. Yep, I’ve been there too and I know that while you’re stuck in your head like this and imagining the worst about what people think about you, you’re not really showing up in the present moment and making yourself available to connect. Aaaand, as I explain in the video below… this approach can still lead to running away!

The problem with dating


The problem is that the way we tend to date means that we’re experiencing multiple situations we find challenging in one go. For example, people who feel socially anxious often find it very hard to meet and make conversation with someone they don’t know very well; they might panic about speaking where they can be overheard by others; hate being the centre of attention; fear eating in public; freeze at the thought of walking into a room where other people are already seated; feel uncomfortable making eye contact; and be afraid of speaking to a member of the opposite sex. But in dating, all these situations are often rolled into one, topped with a big dollop of insecurity and do-they-like-me-or-don’t-they on repeat in our head.

The go-to date in our culture seems to be a sit-down meal, or at least going out for a drink together, bringing into play all of these fears at once. What’s more is that we often we leave it to the person we’re dating to make all the arrangements, sometimes only finding out on date night where you’re going (imagine the panic you might feel wrapped up in the surprise of being taken to a fancy castle for a meal on a first date!). But is this how it has to be? No, there are no rules about how to dating should be done. So let’s rethink the date so it works for you…

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