Dating is scary enough on its own. But do you fear that your choice on the latest dating site might not be the right one – that there might be someone else who is funnier, more handsome, sexier… whatever?
You’re afraid of missing out. FOMO as some like to call it. It’s intense anxiety that you’re missing the action, your life isn’t as great as someone else’s, or you’re not in-the-know about what’s going on. Maybe you won’t be at the right place, at the right time, with the perfect partner.
So you go out on a date. You’re trying to concentrate on what the guy across from you is saying. But you’re constantly looking at your phone, wondering if there are other things going on that might be… better. And if you have an ex? You constantly compare and contrast your life with theirs.
And you rarely enjoy the moment for what it is.
It’s hard to remember that the reality of what something was, and what it looks like over social media, is quite different. The beach party that looked like a blast? Someone got too drunk and threw up all over their date. The breathtaking sunset? It was amazing, but that same day, the waters had been exploding with jellyfish. You’d never have known… but if you struggle with FOMO. you’d be frantic.
Our thinking, rational self, realizes this. We know that our friends love us. We know that not much on social media is at it appears. We know we didn’t want to be with our ex. We know that everyone goes on dates with people who don’t turn out to their perfect match.
Here are five ways to help you calm down and stay in the present — with or without a date by your side.
1. Ask yourself how you’d handle the worst thing that you can imagine being true. Realize the worst has happened before, and you’ve handled it. Remind yourself of your own coping skills. Literally write them down.
2. Reveal your anxiety to others. What will likely come back is reassurance and perhaps an admission that they have the same kind of problem. Find a way to laugh at yourself a bit.
3. Block the irrational and replace with rational. Do some writing and identify what you’re telling yourself that’s obviously not rational. Then write down a replacement of that thought, one that is rational. You may need help with this at first, because fear can make the irrational feel normal.
4. Do active work on your own identity and goals. Ask yourself these questions. “What do I want my life to look like in six months? In a year? What area of my life do I want to explore more — my spiritual self, my physical well-being? Where do I want to go?” Make a plan for the future, so that the present will have more of a sense of purpose. Make a commitment to make those goals important to you.
5. Don’t be paralyzed by having to make the right choice. You can’t know if a choice is right until you live it. You can weigh your options carefully. If you make a choice that a year from now is not turning out like you thought, so be it. You’ve learned and changed along the way. That very process will help you make a more mature choice this time.
Try these things. Then, hopefully, you can sit back, relax, and see where this moment – your own moment – is going.
Dr. Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, has practiced for twenty-five years in Fayetteville, Arkansas., Her work can be found at http://www.drmargaretrutherford.com, as well as HuffPost, Psych Central, Psychology Today, the Gottman Blog and others. She’s the author of “Marriage Is Not For Chickens”, a perfect gift book on marriage, and hosts a weekly podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Her new book, Perfectly Hidden Depression, will be published by New Harbinger in 2019.