How to be calm during a dateDoes self-doubt get in your way? Does it take some of the fun out of dating?

For me, one of the hardest things to see is wonderful women who doubt themselves.

They can’t see all the qualities they have that would make a man fall in love.

They worry about how they come across. They chastise themselves for messing up. They just want to do everything perfectly, so he’ll fall for them and they’ll have a shot at happily ever after.

One of my hardest challenges is to convey a new mindset to dispel worry.

Because worrying causes more problems than it solves, especially on those first few dates.

It’s natural to worry, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

Worrying takes you out of the present moment and puts you in your head. It makes you self-conscious, which makes you more likely to stumble and make mistakes. It makes you tense up, which can cause you to speak faster and louder than normal.

That’s not even the worst part.

The worst part is that tension is contagious.

He’ll pick up on your tension. He’ll start to feel it, too. He’ll become uncomfortable. He’ll start to worry that he’s doing something wrong to make you so uncomfortable.

And the whole date is pulled toward a less genuine level of connection between the two of you.

All of us, men and women alike, put so much effort into a first date. We make sure we’ve chosen the ideal place to meet. We make sure our appearance is perfect. We practice saying witty things in front of the mirror.

Then, when the time comes to actually meet, we blow it. We’re so nervous and anxious that we stick our foot in our mouth, spill the water glass, say something offensive when we were trying to be funny, and slink away at the end of the night without suggesting a repeat.

This is not a gendered problem. Men do it, too! (And probably more often.)

So how can we keep worries from destroying a first date, both for you and for him?

There’s a simple solution:

Being present.

When you return your attention to the present moment, you move out of your head and back into your body. You stop thinking and start listening. You respond naturally and sensitively to the other person, rather than anticipating what they’re going to say.

Very few of us manage to be present all the time. Thinking hijacks our awareness.

Buddhists talk about the “monkey mind,” a mind filled with chatter and jabber and hairy arms waving for attention.

But that monkey mind isn’t a very good partner to bring along on a date. The monkey mind will distract you with a play-by-play analysis of what’s happening.

You’ll find your attention slipping away as you wonder whether you’d be willing to move to be with him, or what his parents will say when he introduces you as his girlfriend.

At any sign of danger—a sigh, a quick glance at his phone, a prolonged silence in the conversation—the monkey mind ramps into high gear. It screams out alerts: “Get his attention back! Make him laugh! You’re losing him! You’re losing him!”

The great thing is, you don’t have to shut the monkeys up. You just have to ignore them.

Return your focus to your senses. Eat a bite of food and savor the taste. Notice the texture of the napkin on your lap. Listen to the background hum of the restaurant. Take a deep breath. Release any tension.

Deliberately tune out your mental chatter. Look at him and smile. If you need to, ask him to repeat what he said.

how to be calm during a dateAllow the conversation to flow without direction or agenda. If neither of you have anything to say, listen to the silence for a moment. Allow your breath to flow in and out. Relax into the present moment.

What’s beautiful about this is that your calmness is contagious, too.

Even if he’s nervous, you can help him relax by relaxing yourself. He’ll feel more confident, which will help him act more naturally. You’ll both feel more at ease.

What was there to worry about?

Absolutely nothing.

It’s all happening perfectly, right here, right now.

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