Matt Fernandez, RHMI, MA on Apr 17, 2023 in Mood and Feelings
Do you find yourself in a place where you are seeking a new and meaningful relationship? Are you struggling to connect with others because of the fear of being judged? Are the thoughts that populate your head preventing you from dating? Is it challenging to overcome the intense, unpleasant emotions when you attempt to put yourself out there?
These are all common concerns that many of us, if not all of us, have experienced, are experiencing, and will experience! Our anxiety constantly makes us feel disconnected and isolated from everyone around us. The anxiety flooding our minds and bodies is doing its job... most likely overly doing its job. Taking a risk to allow a stranger into our lives and allow them to meet all of our vulnerabilities (and family) is understandably anxiety-provoking. The "what-ifs" are our amygdala's (the anxiety part of our brain) checklist for us to go through to ensure our future is safe from any life-threatening events or people.
This alert system in our minds that floods us with anxiety is supported by the countless experiences you have had over your lifetime that have left you feeling heartbroken, disappointed, hurt, and much more. Your anxiety remembers how terrible those incidents were for you and ensures we do not have to go through that misery again because the goal is survival. However, dating means we have to take risks, which means danger. Remember: Our anxiety does not enjoy danger. We have to override that alert system within us to move forward to find our one true love. Much easier said than done.
Nevertheless, it is achievable! We have to allow ourselves the opportunities to replace the poor memories/experiences of dating with new ones that are more pleasant at an equal or greater value. You are probably asking yourself, "Well, how do I do that?" I suggest you start slowly. I have listed three simple (even though your anxiety will disagree) healing tools you can adopt into your life that can prepare you for your dating adventures.
Researching information is a powerful tool we can use when entering any situation. However, for dating, research can inform us on how to present to date as our most authentic selves. This does not mean you should google the top ten dating tips to make you the most dateable person on earth. Research how you would like to meet potential dates. Do you prefer online or in-person, short-term or long-term, local or long-distant, not serious or very serious, etc.? Doing this research can help you find the right group of individuals you are hoping to connect with. Another way to use research is by looking into different venues where you would like to have your dates so you do not have to worry about not knowing the kind of food they have or how much the bill would be.
Roleplaying is a technique we can use to our advantage because it allows us to simulate the experience in a controlled environment. First, call a friend or family member to meet with you in person or over a video call. Create a list of subjects you wish to bring up on your date. Share those subjects with your roleplay buddy and allow them to spark up a response so you can get an idea of what you would like to respond with. Ask your roleplay buddy to share feedback about how they perceived the roleplay date went for them.
Reframe the lenses you are wearing on your eyes to perceive this journey of dating. Many of us have difficulty setting high expectations for them never to be met. We have to lower that bar. Not the bar for the individual we would like to date (that is a whole different blog) but for the bar we set for ourselves to take that risk. If we are walking around with the expectations that we will never find our perfect partner, how will we allow ourselves the opportunities to let them in? Our anxiety will kick and scream against letting new people (dare I say STRANGERS) into our lives. That is okay, AND we can still take chances to get out to introduce ourselves, mingle with others, and explore new possibilities. At your own pace, permit yourself to take a chance, whether that means going to a speed dating event or just downloading a dating app on your phone.
Remember: Our anxiety wants us to be safe, but safety does not mean exile. Society floods us with messages that we need to be hitting certain milestones in our lives by this age, that we are not living a successful life if we have no partner, or we aren't attractive enough because the date line does not go around the entire globe. You deserve better, and the world has failed to show you what a meaningful dating journey looks like. Nevertheless, your opportunity to find love is still available if you accept the mission to move slowly and take risks.