Dating can be nerve-racking for introverts, so it’s important to identify your anxiety triggers and have a plan.
Although most people struggle at least a little in the dating world, dating often poses additional challenges for introverts.
Of course, introversion and shyness aren’t the same thing. Being introverted means feeling drained of energy after prolonged social interaction and needing time alone to “recharge.”
Shyness, on the other hand, is anxiety about negative judgment in social situations, ranging from mild nerves to severe anxiety disorders. Some people may be shy extroverts or socially confident introverts.
However, there are plenty of shy introverts. Because of the perceived high potential for social judgment and the need for prolonged social contact, dating can seem daunting for a shy introvert. And when you throw a pandemic into the mix, dating’s been put on hold for some of us, too. (But at least we now have plenty of time to prepare ourselves for when we do date again!)
Here are some tips I’ve used to overcome shyness and get more comfortable in the dating game.
How to Overcome Shyness and Date as an Introvert
1. Identify your anxiety triggers, like awkward silences, and how you’ll handle them.
If you’re considering trying out dating but are feeling anxious, it can help to analyze these worries and where they come from. Ask yourself, “What exactly am I scared will happen?”
Thinking back to past stressful social situations and remembering the moments you felt anxious can help you identify what triggers your anxiety. For example, was it the moment of walking into a crowded room and feeling people’s eyes on you? Was it wondering if you said the “wrong” thing in conversation? Was it an “awkward” silence that put you on edge? (If you are anxious that you will run out of conversation topics, you can solve this by preparing in advance and having questions ready to ask your date.)
Making a note of what specific events or thoughts trigger your anxiety — and how you reacted — can help you identify potential problems. Once you’ve identified these obstacles, you may be able to avoid them or even realize they are not so scary after all.
2. Practice self-love, like reciting positive affirmations.
Sometimes, shyness stems from low self-esteem or a fear of judgment by others. If you feel anxiety before walking into a crowded bar, party, or social event — well, in pre-pandemic times — you are probably well aware of how shyness can influence your daily life.
Fear of judgment can come from a low sense of self-worth. If you feel confident and have a positive relationship with yourself, you are less likely to fear others’ judgment. Even confident people can feel a little nervous before certain situations, though, such as meeting new people. However, if this interferes with your ability to live a happy life, it is worth trying to tackle the root cause of the problem.
Experts say that self-love techniques — think mindfulness, positive affirmations (such as “I am a catch that the right person will never let go”), and learning to recognize and challenge negative thought patterns — can help you be at peace with yourself. Knowing that you are worthy of love and affection will help you overcome dating-related shyness and have healthier, more enjoyable relationships.
3. Consider online dating, which allows you to get to know someone before agreeing to meet.
If you are uncomfortable with unpredictability and prefer some idea of what to expect from a date, online dating may seem less intimidating. There are even two introvert-friendly apps, Birdy and SoSyncd, that match you based on your Myers-Briggs personality type.
You may be thinking, “How could it be less stressful when you’re talking to (and having your online dating profile judged) by complete strangers?”
It’s true — the idea of uploading pictures and descriptions of yourself somewhere they can be seen by a public audience can be nerve-wracking. But there’s also a positive side to online dating: Dating sites and apps allow you to check out a person before you talk to them and get an idea of what they’re like to communicate with before you agree to meet in person. In a way, online dating is perfect for introverts since we get to think (and overthink) before messaging someone.
Plus, since many of us are stuck at home these days due to Covid-19, online dating is the safest option right now. If messaging does escalate with anyone, you can then determine if you’d like to meet for a safe, socially distanced activity.
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4. Plan your dates, from the location to the time frame.
The internet isn’t just useful for meeting people to go on dates with; it can also help you plan out your date’s specifics. If you’ve been messaging with someone but are nervous about going on the first date, choosing a venue you’re comfortable with can help you relax. (Again, with Covid-19, keep safety protocols in mind; there are plenty of outdoor activities you can do, for example, like taking a walk.)
If the other person suggests a location — like an outdoor cafe or coffee shop — you can check it out online and look at pictures and reviews, so you know what to expect (since introverts don’t like surprises!). In addition to choosing venues you’re familiar with, choosing activities you know you’ll enjoy can set your mind at ease, too.
Introverts often struggle with socializing for long periods of time without feeling overstimulated and burnt out. To remedy this, planning your dates to last no more than a couple of hours, for instance, can help you avoid this problem. A standard piece of wisdom is that it is better for a date to be too short than too long — and this is even more important for an introvert.
If you meet someone that you really click with, you may find that your nerves decrease and that you get more comfortable around them. After a few dates, you may be able to spend many hours on end with them without feeling drained, which is definitely a great sign.
5. Avoid self-medicating, like drinking too much alcohol.
Some people try to overcome shyness in social situations by having a drink — or three — for “liquid courage.” This solution may work in the short-term, but relying on alcohol, increased dosages of a medication, or other substances, is likely to lead to future dependence. As well as the health concerns, there is also the danger of getting into unsafe situations around strangers.
In some cases, the consequences are merely embarrassing rather than disastrous. I have a socially anxious friend who swore by a shot of vodka to calm his nerves before a first date — that is, until the night he went for two shots instead. The next morning, he woke up and remembered that he’d had several beers and fell off a chair … all in front of his date.
Dates at bars can be fun, and you don’t have to avoid having a drink, but be careful!
6. Be honest: It’s OK to tell your date that you’re feeling a bit shy or anxious. (Maybe they are, too!)
While you don’t want to overshare, dating experts say, being honest about who you are as a person is almost always best.
For example, letting someone know that you are a little shy or anxious before the date is perfectly OK. Most people will be understanding and non-judgmental. After all, it is very common to have at least a few nerves about meeting up with a stranger and going on a date.
If that person is judgmental, rude, or dismissive, you dodged a bullet — you don’t want to date someone like that anyway. Plus, who knows? Maybe your date will be an introvert, too, and completely get where you’re coming from!
Aside from being honest about feeling nervous before or during a date, being honest about who you are — through your actions and conversation — is essential. Sometimes, feeling shy or having low self-esteem can lead us to pretend to be someone we are not. But, ultimately, doing this is not worth it; it’s not fun trying to keep up an act around someone.
Try to remember that dating, despite sometimes being stressful, is supposed to be fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect at it or to impress everyone you meet. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”