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When Social Anxiety Thoughts Interrupt a Coffee Date


Dating can be one of the most fun and exciting things you can do, but it can often be quite daunting. Add to this the constant whirlwind of thoughts that can fill a person with anxiety’s head, and it can become almost impossible to maintain a persona that seems engaged.

I sit in a coffee shop with my fingers tapping away at the hot mug in front of me, looking into the eyes of a brilliantly bubbly woman. She talks a lot and at a very fast pace – a turnoff for some people, but I love people who talk a lot; it means I can just sit and enjoy them rather than panicking because I have nothing to say and there’s an awkward silence. She talks with a smile that could melt the ice caps in an instant. Meanwhile, I’m playing a game of tetherball in my head, trying to bat away the constant bombardment of anxieties drawing my attention from her.

“She’s too nice for me.” Swing. “I’m not good enough for her.” Swing. “Stop fidgeting with your hands, she’ll think you’re weird.” Swing. “I’m not talking enough, say something.” Swing. “I’m going to mess this up before it even begins.” Swing. “I’m looking into her eyes too much, shit! Look away, but not away for too long, she’ll think you’re uninterested. Oh fuck, she’s drinking her coffee faster than me, quick, drink the goddamn coffee!” Swing.

Now don’t get me wrong; I love a game of tetherball, but I prefer mine played on a beach in the sun, not inside my head. I want to be present. I want to be listening. I want to hear what she’s saying and enjoy the voice that’s saying it.

But I can’t.

I can’t because my anxious thoughts are taking up too much of my attention. This might make me seem unengaged in what’s happening or uninterested in what she has to say. This isn’t the truth; I could listen to her talk for hours. Maybe I’m not giving her 100 percent of my attention, but it’s only because a good portion of that attention is trying to get the voices in my mind to shut up.

Thank you for being lovely. Thank you for filling up my silence. I’m sorry if I seemed disengaged or nervous (I’ll be honest, I’m always nervous when I’m around a pretty girl). I’d love to see more of you soon, even if I’m looking somewhere else in the room because one-on-one eye contact is terrifying to me.

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Getty Images photo via demaerre