While many people take on dating as a or even a social experiment, for some the fear of being boring or awkward eclipse their ability to fully engage in dating or cultivate deep or soulful connections. I have worked with many incredibly successful and engaging women who feel anything but that when it comes to dating or relationships. Outside of their romantic life, they are all in. However, they would state that one of their biggest fears is being perceived as or perceiving themselves as boring when it comes to dating.
These irrational fears trump their ability to have meaningful conversations or at times even go on dates or continue onto the 3rd date due to nervousness, rehearsing tragedy, catastrophizing, or daunting self-consciousness. They stay small or don’t show up at all in many parts of their dating or romantic life. Some people with these excessive or irrational fears in social situations have Social Anxiety Disorder. This is very different from introversion or shyness because the disorder often disrupts the quality of one’s life. There are strategies for managing social anxiety, and I share them as related to dating below.
Strategies for Moving Toward Connection and Out of Social Anxiety Therapy
Getting counseling or psychotherapy from a licensed psychotherapist or a credentialed art therapist to help manage your anxiety can be immensely helpful allowing you to work through the barriers that keep you feeling stuck, unmotivated or that you aren’t ______ enough in romantic relationships. Various models are effective at helping people work through social anxiety (e.g., Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Expressive Therapies, Psychoanalysis, Shame Resilience Therapy). Each model of therapy varies from symptom management to resolution to understanding the root cause of the fears. Therapy can also allow you to get to know yourself fully, which is a huge asset in romantic relationships.
When you are in the midst fearing that you are the most boring date ever or whatever fear is coming up, learning to take perspective will keep you grounded and help decrease the anxiety. Perspective taking allows you to step outside of your thoughts and feelings and take the perspective of another. In this dating example, thinking of all of the people on dates in this moment who may be feeling awkward, other, or boring will allow you to see that you are not alone or the only one. This connection to our humanness often will get you out of anxiety, fear and disconnection from yourself and the date. With practice, perspective taking can connect you the humanness of your experience, rather than in the comments of your inner critic for not being perfect. Keeping an a sense of openness or curiosity rather than judgmental self evaluation can also support perspective taking and staying out of the tunnel vision experience of social anxiety.
Learning to Be Present
Whether you are fighting, fleeing or feeling the anxiety, you can access a calmer, more regulated, rational and functional place when you are present. One of the keys to being in the moment is to not fight, flee or judge your feelings or sensations. Our bodies reset to a neutral state when we have given ourselves space to feel the feelings. Many clients I see have anxiety about having feelings. With dating, they fear being boring or not enough even when they aren’t on an actual date. This creates a heightened sense of everyday anxiety and struggle. Their bodies can’t calm down because they having let go of the fear around the feelings or perceptions. Getting in touch with your breath can allow your body to know that you’re tuning and and ready to release. Rather than taking deep breathes, which is often a struggle with the shallow breathing that is associated with anxiety, give a long deep sigh with a audible tone. If you’re on a date, go to the bathroom and close the stall and sigh a few times until you feel the release (your shoulders dropping or feeling your breath regulate). Get in touch with the feelings of being where you are in the moment. You may feel more in control and relaxed and be able to enjoy the rest of the date. There are many other mindfulness techniques that can support you in managing and decreasing the overwhelm.
Social anxiety doesn’t need to rule you or your dating journey. While you might not become the most amazing conversationalist in your romantic relationships, you could learn to feel like you are enough because you matter. With support from therapy and cultivating practices of mindfulness, you can find your confidence and sweet spot in dating. You will be able to own your romantic intentions rather than being pummeled by fears of being the most boring date ever. You can learn to fully show up and have fun in the process of dating or in deepening your connection to someone whom you care about and cares about you. This may even look like giving yourself permission to be you, curious, present, and whatever else you may in at that moment…be it all in or wanting it with your whole heart.