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Got Dating Anxiety? So Do Most of Us

You tell yourself that dating is no big deal. Yet it’s still natural to get stressed out about it from time to time.

Dating anxiety is actually a good thing! It’s a sign that we care so much about finding a partner that we let ourselves get wound up. Of course, you don’t want to get so overwhelmed by anxiety that you feel immobilized to answer your emails or stop texting and meet for a drink already. But that tingle of anticipation can be healthy anxiety that propels us outside our comfort zone. “Some of the symptoms associated with anxiety, such as a slightly jittery feeling or butterflies in your stomach, can be nervous excitement,” explains Chloe Carmichael, a New York City psychotherapist and anxiety expert. She’s also the author of “Dr. Chloe’s 10 Commandments of Dating.”

On the other hand, Carmichael recognizes that anxiety usually is trying to tell us something. “Be willing to listen it, so you know how to address it,” she says. Here are her tips on how to handle common worries:

1) You’re worried no one will like you

Even people with generally good self-esteem are all too skilled in breaking out a quick list of what they think makes them unattractive: Too fat. Too thin. Too young. Too old. Too poor. It doesn’t take long before you’ve leapt to the incorrect conclusion that these perceived faults make you unattractive.

“The good news is that this thinking is totally irrational,” says Carmichael. “All you have to do is stand out in front of City Hall, and you’ll quickly see that people of all sizes and ages get married every day.”

The other good news: You just need to find one person who delights in you. As adults, we realize we don’t need to be popular with everyone. One strategy offering proof of your delightfulness is to plan several first dates so that your dating pipeline is always full. When you have lots of people who want to meet you, it’s harder to get attached to the outcome of one date (or get caught up imagining that one person doesn’t like you, which probably isn’t the case anyway).

Finally, ask yourself if you’re using this limiting belief as an excuse not to put yourself out there. “Otherwise, you’d have to risk the ups and downs of dating like everyone else,” she says.

2) You’re worried your date will judge you

The sequel to thinking that your dates won’t like you from the start is believing they won’t like you after they get to know you. This false belief assumes the other person will lose interest as soon as you reveal a certain detail or part of your past. Maybe you’re ashamed of how you handled a past breakup or wish you were in a different place in your career.

Carmichael suggests practicing how you tell your story by creating a script and engaging in a role play with a friend to build up your confidence. “You want to be comfortable sharing it and putting in personal boundaries by not having to share every single detail,” she says. (A sample: “I really appreciate your interest. And I’m happy to share more in the future.”) A key message is to stress what you learned from the past experience or what you’re working on changing in the present. For example, if you’re worried about revealing you’re in between jobs, it’s helpful to add that you’re actively talking to recruiters or setting up interviews.

3) You’re worried that you’re not ready to date

It doesn’t matter if you’re newly divorced or haven’t been on a date since the Seinfeld television finale. Carmichael’s cure: Go on a date to change your pattern. Even just a low-pressure coffee date.

You can help overcome your initial fears by picking out a few outfits that you feel comfortable in. She even recommends having a stylist (or the clerk at Banana Republic) help you out.

Also, you can break through your resistance by taking small steps: Setting up a profile. Taking flattering photos. Responding to a few emails. Asking friends for feedback. “When you feel nervous, being proactive helps you feel more motivated,” she says. “You’re doing all the right things to prepare yourself to meet someone great.”

About the Author:

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.