Going on a first date with someone you like can be a intensely nervous experience. The more you like them, the more you stress about it, and if it gets really bad you nerves can sabotage both your experience of the date and the date itself.
Most often we don’t get better advice on how to deal with this than “don’t worry so much and just be yourself”, which is just crappy advice. You won’t stop feeling worried and nervous just because someone tells you to, that’s simply not how being human works. Luckily there are more practical strategies that do work. Here are 13 of them.
If you’re really nervous about going on a date you’re probably not very used to dating. This can be solved by going on more dates (speed dating is excellent for practice!) When you have an attitude of dating only to practice and learn you will be way more relaxed – and that relaxation is exactly what makes it possible to really connect with someone.
2. Experience the date
Nervousness grows with overthinking so the more you wonder if this person is right for you, what you’re going to say next or how the evening is going to end, the more nervous you will get. Accept that it is impossible to see into the future and stop trying. Be more interested in the present moment with the other person than in your own thoughts. You do this by consciously focusing on experiencing the date through your five senses instead of thinking about it.
3. Be curious
Nerves tend to make you overly focused on yourself and how you’re perceived, which gets you stuck in your head. Shift your focus but putting your attention on the other person – you know, the one you’re on the date to get to know. Be really curious about them, ask a lot of questions and listen carefully to what they say.
4. Ask the right questions
Questions like “am I attractive/smart/interesting enough?” are completely useless, since you cannot read other people’s thoughts about you – and your worth is not based on what other people think! Instead of questioning yourself, focus on finding out if you think the other person appears attractive/smart/interesting to you.
5. Keep it light
When the nervousness hits it will feel like a lot is at stake even though it’s not. The date will be extremely serious if you think it has the power to decide your entire love life. Of course it doesn’t so release all fears and thoughts about the future and focus on the here and now. Take one date at the time and remember that the only thing to aim for is to have a good time together.
6. Boost yourself
It’s easy to feel inferior if all you can think about is how amazing the other person is. Balance it out by also remembering your own awesomeness. Remind yourself of all your best qualities, what makes you a good date, interesting partner and exciting lover, and how lucky this person is to get to go on a date with you! (If you don’t know the perks of dating you, take a break from dating and figure that out first. Anything else is like applying for a job without knowing your qualifications.)
7. Relax your body
Nervousness is a physical stress response and actually pretty easy to manipulate. Laugh, move your body, breathe deeply, take a shower, meditate for a few minutes or listen to your favorite song before the date to calm yourself down. On the date, breathe slower and lower your shoulders to calm yourself down.
8. Stay present
Nervousness makes you extremely self-conscious but you are not on the date to think about yourself, are you? Save that for later and be present enough to create a genuine connection with the person your have the pleasure of spending time with. Practice mindfulness in your everyday life so you know how to do it on dates as well.
9. Tear down the pedestal
Putting someone you don’t even know yet on a pedestal is a sure way to make yourself feel small, nervous and inferior. But remember that you created that pedestal in your own mind. Someone seeming nice in their profile of the first time you met doesn’t automatically mean that they are right for you. Focus less on impressing them and more on getting to know them, and finding out if you are a good match.
10. Take the pressure off
When someone makes us nervous, it’s most often because we overvalue them and undervalue ourselves. Counteract this by remembering that they are just a regular person, and so are you, and the only thing you’re about to do is spend a couple of hours together to get to know each other. No big deal.
11. Do a reality check
When we really want to meet someone it’s easy to “fill in” what little we know about someone with all of the qualities we want in a partner, even though it might not be who the other person actually is. Then we feel super intimidated by this “perfect” person what we have created in our heads. Be aware of the difference between the person’s actual qualities and the thoughts in your head, and let your date show you who they are. There is no need for you to add to that with fantasies.
12. Try activity dating
When you’re doing something on the date, like bowling, power walking, baking or looking at art you will have something else to focus on than yourselves and each other. This will distract your attention from nervousness and overthinking, and help you relax.
13. Remind yourself that everyone gets nervous
Your nerves don’t make you unique at all. In fact, the other person might very well be really nervous about being on a date with you! Instead of getting riled up by your own jitters, focus on making your date get rid of theirs by being calm, kind and present with them.
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