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How to Date When You’re Feeling Low Self-Esteem

By Ella Dawson

Dating can be fun, but sometimes it can also take stamina and thick skin—and if you’re feeling low self-esteem, those are two things that you might not have at the moment. If that’s the case, you might want to take a break from dating. Bumble has a Snooze Mode that daters can use at any time. Snooze Mode will pause your account, so others can’t see your profile, but it doesn’t delete any information so you don’t lose any of your existing connections and conversations. 

However, if you don’t want to take a break from dating, or if you just need some extra motivation there are ways to make yourself feel more confident as you gently put yourself out there. Here’s what experts recommend.

Make sure you’re in the right headspace to date

Have an honest conversation with yourself about if you’re ready to date, and keep checking in on that decision as you go. “Dating and all the rejection and uncertainty it involves can be huge triggers for our mental health,” says Allison Raskin, author of Overthinking About You: Navigating Romantic Relationships When You Have Anxiety, OCD, and/or Depression. “If you start to notice that dating and all the risk that comes with it is bringing up negative thoughts for you, it’s probably a sign that you need to take a step back from diving into the dating pool.” Instead, refocus that energy on your mental health, find coping mechanisms that work for you, and come back to dating when you feel ready. 

“It’s important for people not to date because they feel they ‘should,’” says clinical psychologist Sarah Coe-Odess. “If someone has recently gone through a breakup or feels overwhelmed by the dating process, it’s not only okay, but also advised, to go at a pace that is comfortable.” Don’t be afraid to hit pause on swiping until you’re in a better place.

Before a date, remind yourself that you’re a catch

While you get ready for your date, take some time to think about how great you are. No, really! “You need to recognize that you have something valuable to bring to a relationship before you can really start showing up in a healthy way when dating,” says Raskin. If singing your own praises feels goofy and you aren’t sure where to start, Dr. Winch recommends the following self-affirmation exercise: “Make a list of five qualities you know you have that would be very valuable in a relationship.” Then, before your date, write about why this quality is important, and how it might be valued by a partner. For example, “I’m emotionally available, and that’s valuable because it allows other people to lower their guard more and be more vulnerable,” explains Dr. Winch.

During your date, get in the boss mindset

When we’re feeling nervous and insecure, it’s easy to get wrapped up in whether or not you’re impressing your potential match. But chatting with someone new is a chance to evaluate whether this person is the right fit for you. “Remember that compatibility involves two people and is not solely a reflection on one person,” says Dr. Coe-Odess. “Instead of focusing so much on what the other person feels, it’s also important to focus on how you feel.”

Dr. Winch suggests approaching a first date like a job interview where you’re in charge. “On a date, yes, you’re the interviewee, but you’re also the boss. Put yourself in the boss mindset rather than the interviewee mindset,” he says. This will help you feel less self-conscious and allow you to pay attention to your date and your potential connection. You can bring this approach to conversations on Bumble as well. Instead of stressing about sending the perfect message to a new match, ask yourself if you like what they bring to the table. Don’t let your nerves distract you from what really matters: whether or not you feel a genuine connection.  

Refuse to take rejection personally

Sometimes a connection or a date doesn’t work out, and it’s easy for our imagination to spiral with reasons we weren’t good enough. But the last thing you should do is see a mismatch as a reflection of your value. “There’s no reason to assume it’s you,” says Dr. Winch. “Assume it’s them, because that’s much more likely. You don’t know what’s going on in their lives.”

Besides, even if the rejection was a little personal, that doesn’t mean that the other person’s opinion is all that important. Reach out to your personal hype squad for help remembering how awesome you are, or turn to a hobby that brings you comfort and satisfaction. “The more you fill your own cup, the more you have to give to others, and the easier it’ll be to let those flaked-on dates and dropped text chains roll off your back,” says Dr. Powell. 

At the end of the day, dating should be a fulfilling and fun experience. You deserve to spend your energy on people who make you feel more connected to your wonderful, lovable self.