Fear is a terrible enemy. Fear preys on your mind like a prayer in reverse – the more you dwell on it, the more you create a negative reality.
People react to fear by being fearful, and fearful people miss out on… a lot. If your fears – of putting yourself out there, of being hurt, of being “less than,” or of rejection – keep you from dating in the first place, you are self-sabotaging in a very serious way.
Many of you probably know someone who lives a limited life – out of fear – and may not even realize it. Fear of planes keeps us grounded. We never see Big Ben, the Amazon rain forest, or the Great Wall. Fear of disease, crowds, or the unknown keeps us in the house. We live vicariously through books and TV but never smell the spices in an open air market in San Miguel, or hear our favorite band playing live to a hillside of muddy-footed festival goers. Fear of failure means we never go for it – we want to be a singer but never go to open-mike night, or we long to find a job that suits our talents, but never put out that résumé.
Don’t get me wrong, fear has its place and it is normal to feel it when danger lurks. It is even normal to fear hurt or pain, especially if you’ve been hurt, and felt pain. Most of the time, nowadays, the danger and hurt you fear is not life-threatening. It’s not saving your life, it’s limiting it.
For example: fear of rejection. Or fear of emotional pain. There are fears that may keep you unfulfilled in love, wondering why you never found “the one.” What will it take to overcome those fears and put yourself out there?
There are things all of us can do to help overcome dating fears, and replace them with confidence and hope.
Here are the top five…
- Anticipate and accept. What do you fear? What keeps you from signing up on eHarmony or makes you stay home when your friends invite you to a new party where someone single and interesting may or may not be found? Whatever it is that you fear: judgment, rejection, vulnerability… anticipate it and feel it. No one expects you not to feel what you feel. But you want to feel it but push past it to live your life, right?
So realize that rejection, critical assessment, and vulnerability are part of the dating process. And not just for you. We all – even that eligible lady or guy who looks so confident and sure – have to face these things. But without dating (which is like trying on shoes before you buy), you won’t find true love.
- Don’t take it personally. Whatever it is – rejection of your wonderfulness, criticism of your look, laugh, or language – it’s about them, not you. Why does it happen? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. There are a million whys – all theirs. Too soon after a breakup? No spark? What you offer simply doesn’t work for them in this moment?
When you choose salmon on the menu instead of chicken, is it because there is something wrong with the chicken? No, you just want salmon. No one questions you, and the chicken is not in the kitchen beating itself up for not being good enough.
- Know yourself. That translates as: know that what you have to offer is perfect. And I don’t mean perfect for someone, I just mean perfect. When you acknowledge the good in yourself, that certainty and confidence does you a world of good. Oh, and what a nice side-effect: it makes you even more alluring to the opposite sex.
So practice feeling great about yourself – your wisdom, your life experiences, your goals, your loving heart, your humor, your you-ness. You won’t be able to help showing that self-assuredness to the world, and the world will respond.
- Role play. Ask a close friend to work with you on this. Just have a conversation and both of you keep track of the messages you are sending. What do your words, your gestures, your body language – including eye language – broadcast about your intentions and your confidence? This might sound like homework, but remember that “role play” is play, so have fun with it.
- Keep going. Don’t let that fear trip you up, or tie your hands, or lock you down. Take risks. Until doing so feels less scary, reward yourself every time you do. Eventually the inherent rewards will become apparent and you won’t need to bribe yourself anymore! Realize that you are doing it, and you are awesome.
The so-called “comfort zone” is not very comfortable when it becomes a prison preventing you from experiencing life to the fullest. Once you start to muscle your way, or feel your way, past the fears that are holding you back, you will find the exhilaration that life has to offer.