How Can I Put Myself Out There When I Don't Even Feel Confident?

If your brain is telling you you're not good enough, it can be hard to believe anyone will see you differently.
Francesco Carta fotografo via Getty Images

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Dating can be fun but it can also be an act of vulnerability. You’re meeting new people, opening up to others and can often be faced with rejection. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, especially when you’ve lost confidence in yourself.

This is how our reader Norah feels. “How do you get out of a rut and how can you put yourself out there especially when I don’t feel confident in myself,” she writes.

No one enjoys being in a rut, and when we’re struggling to meet anyone nice, it can feel like a self-perpetuating cycle. But, should we even be dating in this sort of headspace? And how do we begin working on our confidence if do want get out there?

“There isn’t a hard and fast rule here,” says Life Coach Directory member Rajini Lolay. “It’s best to really look at your intention behind dating at any given time.”

Should we be dating if we don’t feel confident in ourselves?

“Are you looking for someone else to make you feel more confident and validate you? Are you looking to feel less lonely? Or are you ready to contribute to a new relationship?” Lolay asks.“If you answered yes to the first two, it may not be the best time to get into a new relationship.”

Dating, it’s complicated. When it’s going right, it can be a real confidence booster, but it’s also unlikely to act as a fix for pre-existing low self-esteem.

“Dating can be a great way to actually grow your confidence. You meet new people, set healthy boundaries and choose compatible partners who treat you as you wish to be treated,” says Lolay. However, it’s helps to be in a positive headspace.

“Getting into a relationship means our focus is often on the other person, and our feelings of low confidence can go unaddressed,” she says. “Low confidence can be a signal that we actually need to turn our attention inward for a little while, so that we can be more accepting of ourselves and recognise our strengths again.”

Once we’ve done some of that inner work and established more love for ourselves, it’s a good time to start dating again, she says.

What can lie behind a loss of confidence?

“There could be several reasons why we lose confidence,” Lojay says. “Perhaps you’ve failed at a new project or suffered some financial loss, health problems, a breakup or a career setback. Perhaps you made an irreversible mistake.”

These experiences can leave us feeling less sure of ourselves and our abilities to succeed. “Since our brains are always trying to keep us safe, we begin to tell ourselves that ‘we aren’t good enough’ in order to keep us from having the same experience again,” she explains.

“We begin to criticise ourselves before anyone else can to prevent anymore loss or failures. This leaves us less likely to try new things and take risks.”

What are some ways we can build confidence?

As Lolay says: “Inner confidence starts with building a relationship with yourself.” Here are five ways she suggests tackling this:

  • Spend time alone and do things that bring you joy. This could be going for a walk, journalling, taking a hot bath, or making yourself a healthy meal.

  • Do the inner work. Spend time exploring where your low confidence comes from. Where and in which parts of your life do you feel more or most confident? Journalling or working with a coach or therapist can help you work these things out.

  • Make a list of your strengths and good qualities. How would a friend describe you? What are your proudest moments? What are the times when you felt good about yourself? Keep it somewhere you can see it often.

  • Set boundaries. For example, if you find yourself comparing yourself to others on social media, consider unfollowing those accounts or limiting time spent scrolling. If certain people bring out your unconfident side, consider limiting time with them.

  • Challenge yourself in small steps. This could be saying hello to someone you wouldn’t normally or signing up to a class you didn’t want to go to alone. These things start feeling ‘normal’ and your confidence grows.

Rebecca Zisser/HuffPost UK

Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.