Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Anxious Girl's Guide to Dating

One of the realest grown up challenges I'm facing is dating. Like, how does this happen in the real world? Is it possible to meet someone on the commute to work? Should I give Tinder another go? (The answer to that last question at least is no.)

All of the pressure of being 23 and single despite my life plans to have been engaged by now (I can confirm these life plans have changed dramatically thanks to some common sense, being fabulous as I am and usually happy with singledom), sometimes gets to me. Like, when you just want a cuddle. Or someone to buy you flowers just because. All of this culminated in the below Tweet.

Not even my friends took my plea seriously. As evident by the lack of RTs.

But then I was emailed by Hattie Cooper (click on her name and check out her blog!) who has a little self help book out called 'The Anxious Girl's Guide to Dating'. And I thought, 'what perfect timing in the midst of my quarter life crisis!' You see, like Hattie I have anxiety. Thankfully, it doesn't impact on all aspects of my life and mainly centres around social anxiety. However, social anxiety is like the opposite of 'not extreme' when it comes to dating. So I gave the book a read just to see what little things I can do to improve my social interactions as a whole. And it ties in with my August Ambition to read more self help books! 

"There was a small part of me that took pride in not “needing” to be in a relationship. But there was an even smaller, softer, yet somehow louder part of me that often marched up to me in the middle of the night and shouted that I wanted to share my life with someone.  I wanted to talk with someone about my day."

First things first, the above quote is basically me. I like not being in a relationship. But I also sometimes wish I was sharing my life with someone. Knowing other people struggle with the same internal dilemmas is exactly what I needed to understand. It's reassurance that you're not the only lady fantasizing about being an 'independent woman who don't need no man' one day and hoping to wear a white dress the next.

But 'The Anxious Girl's Guide to Dating' is so much more than a book about dating. 
Hattie is like that good friend who empathises, tells you you're awesome, says to have more faith, but you find it hard to take on board because it contrasts so significantly with how you feel about yourself. Sometimes your lack of self-confidence wins over the voice of Hattie's reason, but it's still comforting to read about someone who's been there and done that. She's not afraid to say that her anxiety gives her 'explosive diarrhoea'. Probably not the world's best opening introduction, but at least I have your attention. Basically, I'm saying she shares her story and she's honest and I like that.

From writing about being a late bloomer in the dating field, to highlighting the importance of surrounding yourself with people who make you feel happy (which I've really started embracing lately), she's full of motivation for changing your life and overcoming anxiety. 

How To Help Yourself Through Your “Firsts” takes you through everything from first dates, first kisses, and first... other things. 

Chapter 9 on How to be an awesome partner to someone with anxiety reminds us that one person's emotions aren't more important than another's. Your emotions are valid.

She talks about the trap of dating the wrong guy precisely because he is the wrong guy. I think a lot of people with self-esteem and confidence issues have been here. You hate yourself so you date the guy with alcohol or drug abuse issues, who's likely to cheat, who won't commit. You're a glutton for punishment. You let them treat you how you think you should be treated, or you see the tiny bit of affection among the heartache as worth it. The life lesson from this one? You have to love yourself before you can accept someone else loving you. And in my past 2 years of singledom, that's precisely what I wanted to achieve - self-love. 

One of the questions Hattie poses is - it really that hard to meet someone, or have you even been open to meeting someone? Thinking about it now, I really haven't been. My social anxiety has really held me back from even knowing how to interact with someone I meet, yet alone someone I have a crush on. Let's not even get into the awkward 'Oops I almost walked into you' stand off for over 30 life-crushingly slow seconds I had last week.

My only criticism? It's too short!
It took me two evenings to finish the book, and partly that's because I wanted to absorb as much getting-over-anxiety knowledge as quickly as possible, and partly because Hattie's writing style is so engaging. You can tell she started as a blogger, and her chapters read like blog posts, focusing on different themes and answering her reader's questions. It's engaging and it's a much needed insight into how social interactions that some people deem as simple can be torturous for others.

If I were to sum up the book with one phrase I'd say this:
Don't give up.
Hattie really drives home the message of 'if you change your attitude, you can change your life' throughout the book. And while it may seem a-typical of self help books, she also has a point.

I still have countless opportunities to meet someone. Anyone. The one. It's my anxiety that's been telling me it's now or never, it's too late, you'll never find someone, who'd ever love you?
In reality, that's not true. While it can be fun when your younger to think ahead and plan the future (meeting THE ONE at 19, married by 24, 4 kids before you're 38), it also sets unrealistic expectations and goals that when you don't reach them, make you feel like a failure. But that damaging attitude should be scrapped for a more positive care-free attitude (I know, using care-free in an article about anxiety is silly of me, but it IS a way of living I can't help but wish for). Being more relaxed when it comes to socializing, and being open to opportunities, and NOT being tied to a fixed plan that is highly unrealistic, will not only help me on the 'dating scene', but will help with my general social anxiety as well.

Buy the book from Amazon here.


  1. I'm definitely getting this! My anxiety makes me babble when I try to flirt and I do have my eye on someone for once :) it helped to open up to a friend as well. She told me that what I perceive to be my goofiness actually comes across as charm (most of the time anyway) and it made me feel a lot better! Like that dating site ad that says someone out there will love your imperfections :)

    1. I do hope someone will love my imperfections and possibly see my anxiety as a charm! It's so tough getting over that first hurdle of 'How do I meet someone?' to 'What the hell do I say to them now?' But we live and learn! x

  2. Great post :) I've been with my boyfriend for two years now and he's always been so supportive of me whenever I start to feel a bit down or anxious. I hope, if you do start seeing someone soon, that they're as understanding and helpful as he is.

    1. Thanks Lauren! I'm so glad you've found someone so supportive. It gives me hope :P x