How To Get Through An Intimidating First Date

If you're anything like me, you spend a good amount of time psyching yourself up for a first date. Or, you know, having your friends do it for you. I've lost count of the number of "Do I have to go on this date?" texts I've sent to my best friend. It's not so much that I change my mind and suddenly don't want to hang out with whoever I've set the date with. It's just that I'm super awkward and prone to nerves that make me want to stay in my bed forever.

And I'm not the only one. I've gotten the same type of texts from friends before their first dates. There's just something about meeting up with a stranger (if you're online dating) that makes the butterflies in your stomach go into hyper-drive. What do you say? What do you wear? What if you spill your drink all over your shirt? (Hey, it happens.)

Ahead, we've talked with two New York City-based dating coaches, Lindsay Chrisler and Donna Barnes, for the tips you'll need to nail that first date and calm the butterflies. The big takeaway? You're going to be fine.

Set an intention.

Chrisler suggests taking one last moment for yourself before you walk into your date. "Pause outside the door or as you're getting ready, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say to yourself, 'My intention is to ______,' and fill in the blank," she says.

Just remember to choose something you can succeed at, no matter who your date it. So, fill the blank up with goals like "have fun" and "be myself." Then check in with yourself at the end of the date, and celebrate whatever you did to make your intention a reality. Even if there is no second date, setting intentions will build your dating confidence.
Shake it out.

If you have pre-date jitters, the best way to get rid of them is to move your body. "There's no better ritual before a date than movement, whether it's an intense workout class to relieve your anxiety, or dancing in your apartment to your favorite music to remember that you actually kind of like yourself and your life — any kind of movement will help," Chrisler says. Barnes agrees, and suggests a bit of yoga, which combines the benefits of movement and meditation with deep breathing and whole-body stretches.

Instead of immediately reaching for a glass of wine, take time to slow down, breathe, and meditate (if that's your thing), Chrisler says. You might find that a deep breath calms your nerves better than the rosé ever could. Then, if you still find yourself wanting a drink, go ahead and have it. Just make sure it's because you actually want a drink, and not because you're trying to avoid your butterflies. If you're trying to self-medicate the nerves away, that feeling might "escalate into a panic when you finally arrive on the date," Chrisler says. No one wants that.
Own your nerves.

"If you get nervous, say you're nervous. If you feel shy, say you feel shy," Chrisler says. It's important to be honest about how you're feeling, instead of trying to pretend that you're cool as a cucumber. Being upfront about your nerves might actually make it easier to connect to your date, Chrisler says. That kind of vulnerability opens you up for "a whole new dating experience."
Remember that you're normal.

Nerves before a big date are to be expected. Hey, your date is probably also battling nerves, Chrisler says: "Everyone wants to be liked, everyone wants to have a good time, everyone is scared that neither of these things will happen. If you're nervous, you're very, very normal."
Don't be afraid to make fun of yourself.

Worried about tripping over your words or spilling soup all down your blouse? That's totally understandable. But chances are good that your date won't take your clumsiness as a sign to run away as fast as possible. So chill out and, if it happens, just make a light-hearted joke about it, Barnes says. It will be much more endearing if you call out your clumsiness than if you shut down from embarrassment.
Remember: It's not all about you.

People, women especially, can have a tendency to walk into a first date like they're going on a job interview. But it's important to remember that this meetup isn't just about you impressing your date, but also about your date impressing you, Barnes says. So stop worrying so much about what you say, or whether your laugh is too loud, or if you chose the right outfit — and start paying attention to what you do or don't like about the other person.

"Assume that they will like you," Barnes says. It will give you confidence, which is much more attractive than worrying about everything you say.
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