The Best Way To Build Confidence As A Dater
by Laken Howard

Whether dating apps are causing a "dating apocalypse" or are merely the easiest way to get a date, there's no denying these tools have been total gamechangers in the dating scene within the last few years. And even though dating apps are most popular among Millennials, according to a recent Bustle survey with dating app Happn of over 1,000 dating app users, 78 percent of women and 85 percent of men still want to meet people IRL. That's why for the second year in a row, Bustle is deeming April, "App-less April" and encouraging our staff and readers to delete their dating apps for 30 days and meet people the old-fashioned way: offline. With participants tracking their progress and tricks and tips from dating experts, we'll be helping you feel empowered to meet people IRL all month long. Today's topic: how to become a more confident dater.

I haven't personally polled everyone on the planet, but I'm pretty sure that being nervous before a first date is a near-universal experience. When you're faced with the prospect of meeting a new (and cute!) stranger, it's natural to feel a bit of anxiety about what might happen on the first date. And if you're to Bustle's App-less April, a challenge to delete your apps and focus on meeting people IRL, you're probably going to be even more nervous than usual, since you're out of your dating comfort zone. The problem? Being nervous affects your behavior, and might hinder you from being the best, most real version of yourself on the date — which kind of kills the point of dating in the first place.

"Confidence is attractive," Samantha Burns, couples counselor and dating coach at Love Successfully, tells Bustle. "We are drawn to people who feel secure, decisive, and know what they want in life and in a relationship. On a date you represent what you’re bringing to the table. Since you’re meeting a stranger only you know who you really are — your insecurities are not written on your forehead. You have control over who you show up as, including having confidence about your personal qualities, values, hobbies, goals, and appearance."

So how can you become a more confident dater? Next time you find yourself getting fifty shades of nervous before a first date, try one (or all) of these eight tips to help you calm down and give yourself a confidence boost.

First and foremost: don't sweat it (literally) if you're nervous, because it's totally normal — all those nerves mean is that you care about the outcome! "Don't confuse anxiety with insecurity," Burns says. "It’s natural and normal to have a little bit of nerves or anxiety before and during a first date. Our brain is wired for survival, and it doesn’t know what situation you are walking into, and whether you are physically safe and emotionally safe from uncomfortable emotions like embarrassment."

Some of the biggest roadblocks people face when dating are mental — all you need to do is readjust your viewpoint slightly. "It’s essential to approach the initial meeting with the mindset that you’re simply going on a date, rather than put pressure on yourself that you may be meeting your soulmate or 'The One,'" Burns says. "If you enjoy yourselves, maintain the mindset that you’re just accepting a second date, not a marriage proposal! Rather than engaging in your own internal dialogue throughout the date, try to remain present with an open mind and refrain from making an official judgment until the date is over."

The "fake it until you make it" trick can actually work wonders for your dating life. If you don't have a friend around to give you a pre-date pep talk, don't be ashamed to just do it yourself. "Before a first date, mentally reframe your feelings of anxiety to excitement," Burns advises. "Literally say out loud to yourself, 'I’m not feeling nervous, I’m excited!'"

Although a first date and a job interview are a little different, they're similar in that you can (and should) prep for both. "You should never rehearse a date, but you should be prepared to discuss hobbies, interests, and experiences that show off your best qualities," Burns says. "In advance of the date, identify some go-to stories that you know are a big hit from past dates or with your friends. This will ensure that you’re coming off as happy, passionate and humorous, which are generally deemed the most attractive qualities, plus you’ll easily be able to fill in any awkward silences."

If you just can't seem to get your heart rate and breathing under control before a date, it's worthwhile to try some exercises that can help you physically feel less nervous. "You can also try meditating and repeating a positive affirmation or mantra to yourself, such as, 'I am a catch!' while you take some deep breaths," Burns says. "Meditation has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety and can put you in a calmer, clearer state of mind before meeting someone new."

When you're so focused on your own thoughts and feelings before or on a date, it can be difficult to take a step back and remember that you're not alone — and your date's probably just as nervous as you are. "One of the ways to become a more confident dater is to realize that the person that you are on a date with is ALSO looking for a partner," Jill Sinclair, success coach and author of Date Did What?, tells Bustle. "They are no better or worse than you — they are just looking for love too."

The best way to feel more secure before every date? Loving yourself while single and knowing you don't need anyone else. "Confidence ultimately comes down to self-love," Burns says. "If you’re insecure about something, you can either choose to accept it, change it, or mentally beat yourself up about it. The latter sounds miserable. We all have our insecurities, doubts, and fears, so it’s about being aware of your vulnerabilities and working around them so they don’t impact your self-worth. Ask yourself if you're really ready to accept the love you deserve and desire? I believe you attract someone who views you in a similar light as you view yourself."

That annoying old adage 'practice makes perfect' applies to just about everything — including dating. It might seem silly, but dating is a skill, and like anything else, it takes time and plenty of practice to master the art of dating. If you're not feeling confident as a dater, the best way to change that is to put yourself out there. Eventually, you'll start to approach every date with a calm, cool, collected, and confident attitude.

Whether you meet someone online or off, the best way to find a real connection is by being a genuine, authentic, and open-minded dater who's confident about your worth and what you bring to the table. Learning to be confident on dates is easier said than done, but if you give yourself plenty of opportunity to practice, you'll calm your nerves so that you're your best self on every date — and eventually you'll meet someone who likes you for exactly who you are.

Join the campaign and share your stories with #ApplessApril and ​by ​tagging @Bustle.