Building Confidence in Dating
If you’ve been swimming around in the dating pool for any time at all, I’m sure you’ve heard this advice: Be more confident. It’s sexy!
And, if you’re someone who struggles to feel confident while dating, that advice probably feels about as helpful as if you’d been told to be taller, or younger, or to have better hair.
Lacking confidence is a problem that feeds on itself: When we don’t feel good about ourselves, that feeling can contribute to outcomes that make us feel even worse. We might view every rejection as a verdict on who we fundamentally are, and question whether we’re ever going to find the love we’re looking for.
Unfortunately, none of that is attractive to the kind of partner you want to connect with. They’re looking for someone who’s solid, who knows who they are, and who can show up and be themselves, flaws and all.
It doesn’t help that the modern dating process itself is a confidence-undermining machine. I constantly hear from therapy and dating coaching clients that the ghosting, breadcrumbing, and rollercoaster of disappointments that accompany online dating make it hard to feel good about themselves, and to persevere through the dating process to find a healthy relationship.
That’s why I wanted to create this article for you: So you could learn about the roots of true confidence, in dating and elsewhere in life, and show up to every encounter feeling sure of who you are — and fundamentally happy with who that person is. I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on dating with confidence. You can tune in on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
Our authentic relationship experts know how to help you learn, grow, and move forward into a bright new chapter.
Building Confidence in Dating
When you’re struggling with dating, it’s easy to start feeling bad about yourself. Many people wonder if they’re doing something they’re unaware of to turn off potential matches, or even, when things are going really badly, if they’re fundamentally worthy of love and respect.
All of this can take a toll on your self confidence, and can make continuing to put yourself out there to face more rejection a challenge. But being able to cope with rejection and bounce back reasonably well is the number-one skill that you need to find love. There are literally billions of people who are not a match for you; you only need to find one who is, and continuing to date is the way to do so.
Online Dating Confidence
Online dating can make it especially difficult to hold onto your confidence. Dating apps give us access to more potential partners than we’ve ever had in the past — and every one of those potential partners is also faced with just as many choices.
When we have more choices, in dating, or shopping, or even in choosing which career we want to pursue, we take longer to settle on a decision. And that means we’re all doing a lot more rejecting, and we’re experiencing a lot more rejection.
Add to this that communicating through a screen doesn’t always put us on our best behavior, and you have a dating pool that’s full of uncertainty, churn, and unnecessarily harsh rejections from people we don’t know (anyone who’s been ghosted after a few dates knows what I’m talking about). It’s enough to take a toll on anyone’s confidence.
One way to maintain your confidence in the online dating climate is to keep these realities in mind, and recognize that they’re not just true for you, but for everyone. Online dating is an isolating experience, and when we’re not talking about it, it’s easy to imagine that other people have it easier than we do. But if you do talk with friends about their experiences, you’ll probably hear online dating horror stories that rival your own.
Remembering that online dating carries some serious downsides, and that they’re not unique to your experience, can help you prevent disappointments from eating away at your confidence.
What is Confidence in Dating?
Confidence, in dating and all other areas of life, is about having a basic sense of trust in yourself. When you’re confident, you feel like you deserve good things. You feel like you have the right to take up space, speak your mind, and generally be yourself.
Confidence isn’t about striving to be better, although we often think we need to improve before we earn the right to feel confident. Real confidence comes from self acceptance, and from valuing and appreciating yourself for who you really are.
Dealing with Rejection in Dating
No matter how confident you are, rejection hurts. Literally — our brains process social rejection like they process physical pain.
When you experience rejection in dating, the first thing you should do is validate that for yourself. It makes sense that you’re feeling sad, disappointed, and maybe even a little hopeless after a string of failed attempts at connecting. It’s totally normal to doubt yourself and to compare yourself to other people.
Next, practice having a supportive inner narrative. What are you telling yourself about the rejection and what it means about you? Is this how you would talk to someone you love? (Hopefully, you are someone you love). There are likely pieces of your narrative story that aren’t accurate. This is a good time to remember your “wins,” or instances where you weren’t rejected (or, maybe even times that you were the pickier partner who did the rejecting!)
Part of having a supportive inner narrative is taking a realistic view of what rejection is actually about. We tend to personalize it, and assume the other person thought we weren’t good enough. But, in reality, we have no idea what’s going on inside that person, and rejection often has more to do with their own preferences, readiness, and whims than anything essential to us.
Finally, try approaching your “failures” with a growth mindset. While it’s true that many of our dating disappointments are beyond our control (for example, it’s not really up to you whether someone is attracted, feels chemistry, or is at a point in their life where they’re able to connect on a deep level), you may be able to identify some regrets from your dating experiences. That’s ok — making mistakes and then improving is all part of the process.
Dating Confidence Tips
Still not sure how to feel more confident while dating? Here are a few tips:
- Make a list of things that you like about yourself. You might feel a little silly doing this, but seeing your self-love on paper can help you remember your best qualities.
- Remember a time when you felt confident. Were you making someone laugh, taking part in a hobby you love, or maybe just doing your job? When you’re on a date and feeling like a big sweaty pile of nerves, remember you’re also that person, and this potential match may just get to see that, if they’re lucky.
- Remind yourself that it’s not (just) about you. Whenever we’re having a relationship, there are at least two people involved. The person you’re dating will bring their own issues, preferences, values, attachment styles, and context to the table, and those things will either line up with what you’re able to offer, or they won’t. Rejection really isn’t as personal as it sometimes feels.
- Remember you also deserve to be picky. You deserve to find a healthy, loving relationship with someone you’re genuinely excited about. Don’t approach dating with the mindset that that’s not out there for you, or that you’re going to have to settle.
- Treat other people with kindness and compassion. When you treat the people you’re meeting like human beings with emotional lives as complex and important as your own, you can date with integrity, and feel more confident about yourself and about what you deserve from others in the process.
- Give yourself time and space to process rejection. If you start to feel down, burned out, or hopeless after dating rejection, give yourself a break. Dating is supposed to be fun — not a grueling exercise or a form of self punishment. Take good care of yourself emotionally, and you’ll be better able to connect with the people you meet.
- Get clear about who you are and what you want. You probably have a list of what you’re looking for in a life partner, but have you taken the time to get clear about your own goals for dating, and the kind of relationship you’re trying to form? When you have clarity about your intentions for dating, you have some structure to follow, and you feel more like you know what you’re doing. And that helps you feel confident.
- Repair past hurts and heal before moving forward. Finally, before you jump back into the dating pool after a rough breakup or divorce, give yourself the time and space to heal. When you’re fully through with the healing process, you’ll be more open, available, and more attractive to the kind of partner you’re looking for.
Xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Episode Show Notes:
[02:29] Self-Confidence and The Online Dating Experience
- Many people struggle with confidence in dating. You’re not alone!
- The online dating experience is difficult and solitary.
[13:00] Comparing Yourself
- Comparing yourself to others can affect your confidence.
- Social media only shows snapshots of happy couples, not the string of rejections that came before.
- Dating is a numbers game. You need to be strategic, but remember to be kind to yourself and others in the process.
[14:32] What is Confidence?
- Confidence comes down to having trust in yourself and your authentic identity.
- We deserve to trust ourselves instead of thinking we need to earn it.
- You can feel the most confident when you know who you are and accept it, rather than striving to change.
[22:46] Hang on to Your Authentic Self
- Remind yourself that rejection is not always about you.
- When you experience rejection, take your time to heal and feel ok on your own again before entering another relationship.
- You can potentially hurt others if you are not taking care of yourself emotionally.
[30:31] Repairing the Damage Done to Self-Worth and Self-Confidence
- Get clarity about the experiences and red flags you want to avoid.
- Communicate your needs in new relationships.
- It comes back to being authentic and finding out early on that you are simply not compatible instead of seeing it as a rejection.
[37:41] Difficult Topics In Dating
- Avoid difficult and overly personal topics on the first date.
- Don’t spend the first date trying to figure out if you can be in a long-term relationship. Just figure out if you want to go on a second date.
- Talking about difficult topics is a gradual process.
- Know what you’re looking for and date with intention.
[42:59] Red Flags in Overconfidence
- Watch out for people who are not as interested in talking about you as they are in talking about themselves.
- Overconfidence can be a sign of fragility or something harmful.
- There should be a balance in your conversations. Are they showing up with authenticity?
Music in this episode is by Redhino with their song Hope.
You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://redinho.bandcamp.com/track/hope. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.
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Building Confidence in Dating
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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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