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Learn to Overcome Messaging Anxiety So You Can Confidently Slide Into Their DMs

Nov 27, 2023

Learn to Overcome Messaging Anxiety So You Can Confidently Slide Into Their DMs
  • Learn how to reduce and manage the DM-ing anxiety that’s keeping you from shooting your shot.

    We’ve all been there before, staring back at the screen showing us our new matches, feeling a little bit of everything, everywhere, all at once. Validation, relief, excitement, and often, anxiety. 

    I’ll be the first to admit that for many years, I wasn’t exactly known for DMing people first (or back) in a timely manner. I often felt frozen and overwhelmed by a series of anxieties that all boiled down to one thing: a fear of being vulnerable and then being turned down.

    As I’ve gotten older, dated more, worked on nurturing a more positive relationship with myself, and finally succumbed to taking my therapist’s advice (yeah, even when it’s been scary), I feel like I’ve finally gotten to a place where confidence in messaging people isn’t something I have to fake.

    So, what better way to show up for my community than to share the tips that helped me overcome my texting anxiety and have allowed my DMs to become a place where silly goosing is law and new connections thrive?

    What is DM anxiety, and is it a real thing?

    DM, or texting anxiety, is a very real thing and refers to feeling anxious, scared, or overwhelmed at the thought of sending or receiving text messages or DMs, and it’s more common than you might think!

    Common symptoms you might be experiencing texting or DMing anxiety might include:

    • A racing heartbeat
    • Nausea 
    • Rising tension
    • A lack of focus until you send “the perfect message” or receive a reply
    • Checking your phone for new messages more frequently than usual
    • Putting off replying to messages
    • Feelings of overwhelm, discomfort, or stress
    • Racing thoughts of worst-case scenarios
    • Overthinking and worrying about how your message is being perceived

    Where does texting anxiety come from?

    There’s no one-size-fits-all root cause for texting anxiety. Even though it’s more common in those who have social anxiety, introverts, and people with shier personalities, most people have or will experience texting anxiety at some point in their lives, to varying degrees.

    And it makes sense! Messaging people, especially those we’re into, is a vulnerable thing that can trigger feelings of self-doubt and fears of getting ghosted, let down, or disappointed. 

    The act of messaging people comes with a lot of uncertainty, too! For instance, we can’t control or predict when we’ll get a reply, what the other person might think, or even how they’ll feel about our messages.

    The 3 best strategies for dealing with texting anxiety

    It makes sense that in that state of vulnerability and excitement, feelings of unease often find their way into the equation.

    But that said, there are proven therapy tools, strategies, and tips we can use to help us start to better navigate feelings of discomfort, like:

    • Leverage the power of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    • Reframe unhelpful thoughts
    • Give yourself some grace

    Leverage the power of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    Not to get all granola crunchy mom up in here, but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has changed my life (and the lives of millions of others) for the better. 

    Simply put, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the belief that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected and constantly influencing one another. 

    And so, to move past an unhelpful thought, an uncomfortable feeling, or break a behavioral pattern we’re unhappy with — we must first learn to lean into them.

    By sitting with and examining our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they unravel, we’ll be able to identify patterns in our lives and reshape them into ones that better benefit us and our needs.

    And it might sound obvious or seem like an easy thing to do. But I’m not talking about feeling anxious, telling ourselves, “Yeah, I’m anxious,” and then packing it up. 

    I’m talking about sitting with our discomfort for long enough for us to understand what our thoughts are truly saying, so we can better ease our feelings of fear, overwhelm, and discomfort.

    For instance, a few years ago, I vividly remember sending a like to a woman on HER who I quite literally thought was the most beautiful human I’d ever seen. Her profile showed we had a lot of common interests and that we lived in the same area. So, you can imagine my surprise when she actually liked me back and we matched. 

    And what did I do? I never messaged her. Like a real fool. 

    I was too caught up in the what-ifs and worried about sending the wrong first DM or not getting a reply to put myself out there, and at the moment, the little fear-mongering voice in my head won, and I shoved it all aside and kept it moving.

    What I could have done, instead (and what I’ve learned to do since), is take a moment to examine what my anxious thoughts were saying to begin with.

    At that moment, they probably sounded like, “I can’t think of something funny or clever enough… she’s too good for me… she’s not going to message back.” That thought led me to feel overwhelmed, which, in turn, caused me to act dismissively and close the app altogether.

    Had I implemented the tools I know today, I could have pushed myself to sit with the discomfort enough to identify my fears and work toward reframing the unhelpful thoughts that had me moping around my room for weeks. 

    This brings me to… how can we learn to reframe the thoughts that keep us from doing the things we want to do?

    Reframe unhelpful thoughts

    Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of Retrain Your Brain, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple, wrote:

    “For something that can’t be seen, heard, or measured, thoughts have incredible power. Our mood for an entire day can hinge on how we interpret a single disappointment. Thoughts can also have a profound effect on our behavior, affecting whether we forgive or retaliate, engage or withdraw, persevere or give up. No matter what you’ve been struggling with, chances are that your thoughts have played a role, either in causing your distress or in prolonging it.”

    And all I have to say to that is, “So true, bestie.” 

    As we’ve talked about, our thoughts are powerful. That’s because our thoughts, when left unexamined, are often metabolized as the empirical truth. But, as tends to be the case with anxious thoughts, they typically are anything but.

    So, how can we reframe the unhelpful thoughts that are keeping us from living our best lives? By looking for evidence and being factual as fuck.

    Take my earlier example about me taking the L with the anonymous lover girl. 

    My unhelpful thoughts at the time sounded like, “I can’t think of something funny or clever enough… she’s too good for me… she’s not going to message back.”

    To begin reframing those thoughts, I could’ve looked for evidence to see if they were true.

    I could’ve asked myself, do I have any proof that I am neither funny nor clever? 

    And sure, when we’re all anxious and stuck in a negative self-talk bubble, we might try to validate it by remembering the one time our joke didn’t land. But deep down, we know we’ve made our friends laugh before… we know our loved ones have told us before that they appreciate our cleverness… and with that, we can begin to recognize that one unhelpful thought as not holding the whole truth.

    So, a more helpful and truthful thought may have sounded like, “I really like this person, and I am nervous that she won’t find my opening line funny or clever.”

    That new, more balanced thought isn’t dismissing our original anxieties, but it’s making room for a more honest and less pessimistic outlook on the situation.

    I could’ve reframed, “She’s too good for me,” by asking myself if that was true. Was that something I one hundred percent knew was factual? I didn’t even know her, and she didn’t know me. She may have been just as nervous, I couldn’t know any of this for certain.

    The same goes for assuming she wouldn’t message me back. There was no way I could know for certain that she wouldn’t reply to my message. The only way I guaranteed not getting a message back was by never sending one. 

    Which brings me to… learning to give ourselves more grace.

    Give yourself some grace

    Giving ourselves grace isn’t only about being kind to ourselves when we fumble the bag or make a mistake — it’s also about nurturing a compassionate disposition with ourselves.

    For instance, I understand why I didn’t message Miss Girl first a few years ago! And even though I’m using it as an example today, it’s not something that actually haunts me or that I hold over my own head to validate negative beliefs about myself.

    Sometimes, we’re just not going to be in the right place to be extremely vulnerable. That’s okay! We can still learn from those moments and experiences and use those learnings to make changes and adjustments that will gradually improve our quality of life.

    But that can’t happen if we’re more concerned about being self-critical than bettering ourselves and our relationships with the people around us. 

    Giving ourselves grace can look like this:

    • Establishing a positive self-talk practice
    • Reaching out for support when we’re struggling
    • Trusting ourselves enough to put our hearts out there
    • Reminding ourselves that mistakes are human
    • Trusting that single interactions do not define us as people
    • Giving ourselves the gift of patience

    Change doesn’t happen overnight

    Working to feel less overwhelmed by our DMs and messages will take time, patience, and practice! Challenging ourselves to take risks isn’t easy, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. 

    With the help of a few Cognitive Behavioral Therapy skills and a whole lot of grace and compassion, we can get to a place where making the first move (or five) feels less like a dreadful errand and more like the exciting start of something new that it is. 

    HER is the world’s largest dating and community app intentionally designed for sapphics. HER has built a safe, inclusive space to foster meaningful relationships among sapphics both online and in real life.

    Download HER, and join a user base of over 13 million registered individuals worldwide who are looking to form lasting, intentional connections with like-minded individuals.

    Daniela Ochoa-Bravo is a writer and creative based in Brooklyn, born in Bogotá. She is the Founder and Editor of Colectivo Tabú, a project dedicated to democratizing the publishing industry by creating a space where the works of emerging and established artists can seamlessly coexist alongside each other.

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