By Maria Del Russo
Having a hard time feeling yourself while dating in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? You’re not the only one. There are legitimate reasons why your confidence may be waning in a period of such intense instability.
Some of it has to do with the fact that we maintain confidence through social connections — and, in the U.S. at least, we’ve all been isolated from one another for the better part of the year.
“Social connection reminds us that we are liked and valued,” says social worker and therapist Jennifer Hoskins-Tomko. “If we aren’t getting these reminders of our worth, then we begin to question ourselves.” That, in turn, can make us focus on what we consider our “faults,” both mentally and physically. And, as you can imagine, when we don’t feel good about ourselves, it’s very hard to get excited about meeting new people.
Then there’s the effect that keeping up with the news and staying inside our houses has had on us. “Many daters are scared and exhausted right now,” says sexologist Dr. Jess O’Reilly. And that exhaustion can lead to a serious lack of self-confidence. “When we experience stress, as we are in light of COVID, cortisol levels increase to provide the energy required to deal with stress,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “This wear on our bodies affects our moods, which can affect our confidence levels.”
So how can we deal with these difficulties when it comes to dating during coronavirus? Hoskins-Tomko and Dr. O’Reilly have some pointers:
Know that you aren’t alone in this
It’s not just you who is dealing with the pandemic! “Chances are good that the person you’re going on a date with is experiencing similar feelings,” says Hoskins-Tomko. It might even be a good idea to talk about these feelings of exhaustion and unease with your date. The shared sentiments could bring you closer, and help nix any lingering awkwardness about the lack of confidence you’re feeling.
Get into a good headspace
Hoskins-Tomko suggests doing things that remind you of your strengths before a date. “Read a list of positive affirmations, have a friend share what they like about you, or listen to music that makes you feel powerful,” she says.
If affirmations aren’t really your thing, you could try to get into a positive headspace pre-date by doing something like cooking a good meal or dancing around your living room.
Go easy on yourself
It’s a strange new reality we’re all dealing with, so remember to cut yourself a break. Once you’re on the date, don’t over-analyze yourself, especially if you’re meeting via video chat. “You have to work harder to pick up on non-verbal cues, and the disconnect of feeling like you’re together but not actually being together can be difficult, so go easy on yourself and your date,” Dr. O’Reilly says.
Take a break if you need it
Dr. O’Reilly suggests that you be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling when it comes to dating during a pandemic. “Name your emotions and sit with them,” she says. If you’re feeling sad, insecure, or exhausted, give yourself permission to feel that. Checking in with yourself like this will help you to not push yourself into doing something you’re not ready for at the moment. That may mean taking a weekend off from dating.
Remember to have fun
“Don’t take it all too seriously,” Hoskins-Tomko says. “Dating is a form of exploration and [it’s] supposed to be fun.” Remember: Dating should be something that adds to your life — not subtracts, or makes it more difficult or stressful. So take a break if you need it. And when you get back to swiping, you’ll be able to bring a more confident self to the table.