Here’s a little quiz: Which would you rather do?
a. Appear as a defendant in traffic court
b. Spend the evening preparing your taxes
c. Change the cat litter box
d. Go on a first date
If your pencil hovered for even a moment over any answer but “d,” you definitely need to read on.
Sure, it’s true that dating is more complex and stress-inducing than it used to be, with shifting gender roles and continuously evolving social norms. Such things will always be part of the dating equation—and beyond your control. But when all is said and done, external factors play a smaller role in your stress level than something much closer to home: your own mind.
Pressure begins to build the moment you forget that a date is only dinner and a movie in the company of someone who may or may not be very interesting.
Contrary to what your trouble-making brain may tell you, a date isn’t a high-stakes referendum on your personal appeal. It isn’t your “last chance” at companionship, as if God put only so many quarters in your romantic parking meter and time is running out before you wind up in the impound. Nor do you have a “sell by” date stamped on your head like a milk carton, after which you start to stink.
Sound familiar? Most singles struggle with some variation of these silly ideas. With so much riding on a single evening, it’s no wonder a date can be so panic-inducing. As an antidote, here are three things to regularly remind yourself about. By choosing to go on a date, you have absolutely …
Nothing to prove. Take everything you know about a successful job interview — and throw it out the window. A date is not an opportunity to double-check your qualifications against a job description. It is a time to be “off the clock,” to hang out with another human being and enjoy some conversation and a few laughs. And you’re more likely to learn important things about each other without the self-imposed performance pressure.
Nothing to lose. Don’t let your mind play stressful “what if” games. “What if he doesn’t like me?” “What if I make a fool of myself?” “What if I can’t stand her and have to sit through dinner anyway?” The answer to all of these is, “So what?” The sun will come up, life will go on. Better luck next time.
Nothing to regret. Psychologists tell us that what people regret most are not mistakes they’ve made, but opportunities they’ve missed. Going on a date might not lead to lasting love — but then again it might. Who knows, your next date could turn out to be the love of your life. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.
Now get out there and have some fun!