With all the dating options today, more people are searching for their “person” online and becoming more adept at taking risks of presenting themselves through their profiles, photos, texts and other social media. When electronic contact turns into real life, anticipation and nervous excitement (okay, anxiety) are expected companions on the first few dates. But repeatedly, I am asked the question from men and women once they are seeing someone they like: “how can I be more confident in my relationship?”
One of the keys here is that they like this person. They don’t want to mess this up. Maybe they’ve been through a series of failed relationships, or are still trying to make sense of the last breakup, or the last ghosting, plagued with thoughts of what if I had done this, what didn’t I do then, what was it about me, and you fill in the rest. Or maybe they haven’t had much experience with dating and feel unsure about how to present in a confident way. Advice to just be yourself or be authentic misses the mark. It seems too broad, like a big zoned out map showing an entire city when all you want to see is a neighborhood street. The common retorts of “but I’m not ready yet to be myself, it didn’t work last time, I don’t even know who I am” tell of one’s desire to be confident and also contain a guide for how to begin.
Here are 7 ways to increase your confidence in relationships:
- Avoid overthinking. Constantly overanalyzing a text, facial expression, something you or they did or said does not instill confidence but rather evokes anxiety. If you are overthinking or second-guessing yourself when you are with your date, then you are even more removed from the present moment and you may come off as aloof, in your head or hard to reach. You miss opportunities for connection and contact when you are wrapped up in your thoughts. It’s also important to notice when you are alone and overthinking things, so that you can start changing this habit and be more confident and present around others.
- Take risks. Just like posting your photo on a dating app, you need to translate that bold move into your face-to-face interactions. Take a chance to talk to someone–not just in a dating situation but in everyday life. A brief conversation with someone at the store, coffee shop, dog park, or wherever you frequent can be a fun way to connect over a little shared moment. Every experience you have that made you feel good will boost your confidence for the next time. And this will translate into your relationships.
- Be open. Find your courage to be seen for your strengths and weaknesses. We connect more deeply with another person when we share our imperfections. We see children model this all the time, when they prefer a well worn and hugged teddy bear missing an eye–to them, it’s still lovable. When your flaws are not just accepted but loved, there is a strong sense of security and relief that you no longer need to keep parts of you hidden. This kind of emotional connection inspires confidence and builds trust. Then you can embrace your strengths more, see your own self-worth and really like yourself.
- Maintain your values. Don’t allow others to mistreat you, take advantage of you or abuse you. People who uphold the Golden Rule for themselves as well as with others are able to set boundaries. This shows that you respect and value yourself, trust your decisions and know where you stand, which all speaks loudly of confidence.
- Don’t lose your identity. A confident person is involved in interests, activities and friends. As you find your own pursuits and develop your inner and outer worlds, you will appear less insecure. You will be seen as someone who knows what they like, has the autonomy and self-esteem to go for it, and enjoys the company of others (even if it’s only a select one or two friends) along the way.
- Learn to self-regulate. Being able to calm yourself down when you feel overwhelmed or anxious is not only a great coping strategy for life, but also an extremely important marker of confidence. It shows that you can take care of yourself. It’s the opposite of looking needy. The same goes for being angry or frustrated. If you can learn to down-regulate your emotions, you appear able to manage yourself and your experiences. Temper outbursts or anxiety attacks are not inviting or attractive, but they are facts of life. Find the coping skills that work for you to further enhance your confidence.
- Be dependable. Consistency is highly valued in relationships. When you do what you say you’ll do, you’re sending the message to your partner that they can trust you, that you will show up when you say you’ll be there, that they can reach for you and get a response. This dependability begins on a basic level by following through with plans. Your partner will become more confident in you and this, in turn, builds into confidence that they can count on you emotionally too.
Try a few of these ways to boost your confidence in relationships. You might find that you’re actually just being your self–your best self, in fact!