8 Dating Tips for Confidence, Success, and Joy

Ah, dating… Do we love it? Do we hate it? It’s usually a little bit of both. For some of us, dating can be a thrilling adventure, an opportunity to explore connections and maybe even find love. Flirting is fun! But sometimes dating is a source of anxiety, self-doubt, and uncertainty. What if he doesn’t like me back? What if she thinks I’m weird? What if this relationship goes south like all the other ones? What if I end up alone?

It’s easy to lose sight of the fun parts of dating when the process feels intimidating, exhausting, and high-stakes. But if you’re not enjoying it, it’s going to be hard to show up as your authentic self, ready to genuinely connect with someone. How can you make sure that your dating life is full of confidence, success, and joy? Check out the following tips.

How to Gain Confidence in Dating

1. Believe in Yourself

At the foundation of successful dating is self-esteem. Confidence is attractive, and it begins with recognizing your self-worth. Embrace your uniqueness and understand that you have something valuable to offer in a relationship.

If you’re not sure that’s true, then stop! Put dating on hold for a little while. Explore who you are and work on building your confidence before you go looking for romance. Without a clear idea of your identity, your values, what you want, what you don’t want, and how you deserve to be treated, dating is going to be a lot harder than it needs to be. It’s okay to be single for a while as you figure things out. You need solid ground beneath your feet so that you’re not knocked over by every little setback, heartbreak, and challenge that comes with the process of looking for love.

2. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

To meet new people and have diverse dating experiences, it's crucial to step out of your comfort zone. In other words, you’re not going to find love if you never leave your room, never talk to people you don’t already know, and never try new things. Attend social events, join clubs, or try activities that genuinely interest you. You're more likely to meet like-minded individuals when you're engaged in activities you love.

3. Online Dating Can Be Your Ally

Online dating apps and websites can be intimidating, but they can also be a great tool! If you don’t have access to a lot of social activities, just moved to a new place, or are just looking to meet people outside of your normal circle, dating apps have made all that possible. Even the stigma that “we met online” used to carry has disappeared, and finding your dates on an app is the new normal.

Creating a profile can be a blast! Pick out your favorite (and most recent–no catfishing!) photos of yourself, write a little bit about who you are, and be clear about your intentions. Not everybody on dating apps is looking for the same things, so it’s best to be honest from the get-go. Once you’re confident that your profile accurately reflects who you are, start swiping! It can be a fun way to see who’s out there and to practice having conversations with new people without the stress factor of going on a date.

It’s definitely true that you want to be cautious about safety when it comes to online dating, but the same goes for in-person dating, so don’t let that stop you. Be honest on your profile without giving out your personal information, stick to public places when you’re meeting up with someone you don’t know well, and keep your friends and family in the loop about who you’re seeing and talking to. Be careful, and have fun!

4. Understand Your Deal-Breakers

Knowing your deal-breakers is essential in dating. These are the non-negotiable qualities or behaviors that you cannot tolerate in a potential partner, things that would cause a relationship with someone to not work out well in the long run.

How do you know what your deal-breakers are? Some of us learn them as we go along. Maybe your last girlfriend didn’t respect that you’re a vegetarian, so it’s a deal-breaker from now on if a date tried to pressure you into eating differently. Maybe you’re a Christian, and you’ve always dreamed of finding someone who believes the same things you do, goes to church with you, and prays with you—it’s a deal-breaker, then, if someone you want to date doesn’t want those things, too.

Be mindful of the things you want to remain true about your life as you consider bringing someone new into it. Ask questions about your deal-breakers early on when you’re talking to someone new. That way, you aren’t blindsided by a deal-breaker after you and the other person have already gotten invested in the relationship.

5. Ask Lots of Questions

And listen to the answers! It’s easy to get caught up in the “me, me, me” of dating. Will they like me? Will they think my hobbies are cool? Will they like the way I look? Will they want to see me again? It’s definitely fun when the answer to those questions turns out to be “yes.” Just remember that you’re not the only person on the date. They’re hoping to find someone who likes them too, and you should want to get to know as much about them as you can!

Questions are a great way to show you care, to learn how this person communicates, to discover things you might have in common, to gauge whether there’s chemistry, etc. If you’re on a date and realize you’ve been doing all the talking, take a breath. Ask some questions, and let the other person show you who they are.

6. Red Flags Are Real

Learn to recognize and acknowledge red flags in a potential partner. Similar to deal-breakers, these are warning signs that indicate potential problems in the relationship.

Some red flags might vary from person to person. For example, while it may be a deal-breaker to some for a date to question your dietary preferences, for others it may just be a red flag. When something like that comes up, stop and address it in the moment. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Why did you say that?” If your date explains that they didn’t mean to offend you and that it won’t happen again, you may choose to continue dating them for now. If they double down and explain why they think the way you eat is stupid, you may have just learned that this person doesn’t know how to respect others. Not cute.

Other red flags are pretty universal: treating baristas, waiters, cashiers, or rideshare drivers like crap; bullying friends or family; abusive behavior of any kind; refusing to take responsibility or apologize, etc. It's crucial that you address red flags with someone you’re thinking of getting into a relationship with. Prioritize your well-being—if this person were to continue this behavior once you’re in a relationship, will you be happy in the end?

Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right or makes you uncomfortable, pay attention to that feeling. Even if you can’t explain exactly why, you’re allowed to remove yourself from a situation that doesn’t make you feel safe, valued, or excited. Your instincts are there for a reason—they can protect you from potential harm and guide you away from unhealthy relationships.

7. Don’t Take Rejection Personally

Don’t BE a red flag. Understand that everyone else has the same rights as you do when it comes to the dating world. You may feel a connection with someone and think things are going well, but if they tell you that they aren’t feeling it, they aren’t obligated to continue seeing you. Period. Instead of getting angry or defensive, recognize that rejection is part of the process. They don’t owe you an explanation for wanting to step away, and you don’t need to try to prove to them that you’re a good person or that they’re making a mistake. Be polite. Say “Thank you for your time and good luck.” Then take a moment to feel disappointed, lean on family and friends for support, and gather up the courage to get back out there!

8. Don't Aim for Perfection

No one is perfect, and expecting perfection from yourself or a potential partner can lead to unrealistic expectations. Embrace imperfections as part of the beauty of human connection. It's the quirks that make people interesting!

He’s kind, funny, and enjoys the same kinds of nerdy things as you do… but he hates cheese with a burning passion? Get over it! More cheese for you! You can laugh about how different you are at the same time as you enjoy playing board games.

She’s got a great laugh, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and shows up to your first date wearing a t-shirt from your favorite band of all time… but she’s a cat person? Get over it! You’re dating the human, not the cat. You don’t have to trade in your “dog dad” beanie—you just have to appreciate that she’s going to send you 3-17 cat videos per day. It’s endearing.

You’ve had a rough day, and after a week of feeling excited for your date tonight, you’re not up for it anymore? Cut yourself some slack! If you’ve been dating this person for a while, see if they’d be okay with a last-minute change of plans—movies and popcorn on the couch. If you’re not there yet, just politely communicate that you need to reschedule. The right kind of person will understand completely, not pressure you or make you feel guilty for having needs.

Perfection is unattainable. You can’t realistically expect it of yourself or anyone else, so understand that not every date will go the way you thought, and not every date leads to a long-term relationship. Be flexible, be kind, and look for the fun of the dating process.

In the world of dating, confidence is your best friend. If you can find a way to embrace who you are, rather than what others think you should be, your dates will notice. Show up as yourself and for yourself, and remember that the point of dating is connection. Believing that you’re worthy of that connection and that everyone you date is too, will help you stay focused on the beauty, joy, and fun over the fear, awkwardness, and emotional effort.

If you’re struggling to find hope that your dating life can look different, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our Hope Coaches. We’re always here to listen without judgment and encourage you when you’re feeling down. We believe that everyone is worthy of love and connection, and we’d love to walk alongside you as you discover how that includes you.

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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