Confidence is an attractive trait. It’s a fact. A fact that’s been backed up by numerous studies into human behaviour and perception. When we meet a confident person, we feel drawn to them and want to spend more time in their company. This doesn’t always mean we fancy them, but where dating is concerned, being more appealing company has got to be a plus whether it ignites a spark and leads to more or not.

Confidence in yourself is an important element in making a good first impression. But here’s the problem – even those who are normally self-assured can doubt themselves when dating. And where does that leave those who aren’t particularly confident in the first place?

Believe it or not, how we look has little to do with how attractive we feel and how confident we are as a result. Confidence comes from an inner belief in ourselves – and the good news is that it’s something we can work on to help raise our self-esteem and make us more confident in every situation.

Channel 4’s recent programme ‘Naked Beach’ might be taking quite a radical approach to improving body image and self-esteem, but it’s proving that there are things we can do to help us feel better about ourselves. The programme was co-devised by psychologist Dr Keon West, of Goldsmiths University of London, who says spending time with nude people of all shapes and sizes who have a positive attitude towards their own bodies can help boost your own body image and overall happiness.

If you’re not up for the challenge of stripping off in front of a group of body-confident beach-goers, however, there are other ways you can start to build that inner confidence that will make dating much easier – and more successful.

So, here are more scientifically proven ways you can feel more confident and become a more attractive proposition to potential partners when dating.

1. Stand tall

Did your mum ever tell you to ‘sit up straight’ when you were a kid? There’s proof your mum was right – it’s actually good for you mentally as well as physically. Standing tall or sitting straight rather than slouching or hunching your shoulders can be an instant confidence-booster. Because you’re presenting yourself in a confident manner, it helps you feel more positive and self-assured.

Researchers from Ohio State found that people were more likely to believe they were qualified for a job simply by sitting up straight in their chair. In a dating situation, it also means you can look into your date’s eyes and appear more engaged in the conversation.

2. Smile

This should be an obvious one when you meet someone new – they say a smile lights up your face for a reason. But did you know it doesn’t only make you look more warm and inviting, it can positively affect the way you feel as well. Researchers at the University of Cardiff in Wales in 2009 studied how facial expressions can affect a person’s mood and found evidence that suggests people who smile more can actually feel happier and more confident. Even if it feels a little forced to start with, the more we smile the more natural it feels – and we start to feel the added confidence-boosting benefits.

Make sure your smile is the first thing your date notices about you when you meet. It will give you the initial confidence boost you need and set a positive tone for the rest of the date.

3. Spend time with confident people

Research states we tend to mirror the traits of the people we spend the most time with. This is known as our circle of influence and is one of the foundations of Dr Keon West’s ‘Naked Beach’ experiment. Knowing this can help us choose our friends and companions more wisely. Make a conscious effort to spend more time with people who are comfortable in their own skin and who exude confidence, and you will find it starts to rub off on you.

This might not be a quick fix, but it will work long-term and help you attract more people into your circle of friends. Very soon, you will be the one others want to be around and emulate and when that happens, dating becomes much less daunting.

4. Listen to your inner voice

We all have an inner voice that runs a commentary in our head. For some, this inner voice is a positive force that builds them up – recognising and praising achievements, however little. For others, however, it can be self-sabotaging and negative – constantly telling them they’re useless, unattractive and not worthy.

We all have moments where we inwardly criticise ourselves, but when this becomes the norm it can impact your self-esteem and studies have shown this can even lead to depression. When it comes to dating, you can destroy your chances before you step out the door if you’re already telling yourself they won’t like you.

To be more confident, you need to start listening more closely to what you’re telling yourself and try and turn the tables on your inner-critic. Become your own inner cheerleader instead, because we believe what we tell ourselves, whether it’s true or not. When you go out for a date, remind yourself of all the loveable traits you have. If you’re finding it hard to ditch the destructive talk, ask some of your closest friends to share what they love about you – and what they think you have to offer a partner in a relationship. Take on board what they say and remind yourself of it throughout your date.

5. Stop comparing

Ok, this is easier said than done. According to the social comparison theory, the drive to compare ourselves to others and see how we measure up is a basic desire. It’s part and parcel of us trying to understand our place in the world. Being bombarded with unrealistic ideals on TV and social media, however, is giving us a skewed reality. Instead of comparing ourselves with real, every day people we meet, we’re comparing ourselves with a polished version and, more and more, this is leaving us feeling inadequate.

Try focussing more on what makes you happy. Do things you love, rather than things you think you should be doing, and you’ll find the happier you become the less you need to compare yourself and seek approval from others. This is true when dating too! Focus on what you like about your date, rather than worrying about whether you’re matching up to their expectations and previous dates they might have had.

6. Give social media a break

Clarissa Silva, a behavioural scientist who studies the impact of social media on our lives says this is becoming the new version of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. In one of her more recent studies, 50 per cent of people surveyed said they negatively compare their lives to the glossed-over version they see on social media and suffer with a fear of missing out. We need to realise these ‘highlight reels’ are not a true reflection of what’s really going on behind closed doors. Try reducing your friend list to people you see in real life as well as online, unfollow people who make you feel inadequate (including celebrities) and spend more time socialising offline.

Spending less time on Facebook will also give you more free time to find the love of your life!

7. Be a hugger

Often, people with confidence issues find physical contact difficult. This can have huge implications when you’re trying to find a partner who you could one day be intimate with. Physical touch releases the hormone oxytocin (commonly known as the cuddle hormone), which can help relieve stress and aid bonding. A recent study at UCLA also found the cuddle hormone is linked to self-confidence and that the release of oxytocin can make you feel more confident.

So, don’t be afraid to greet friends and family with a hug. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will feel with physical contact and the more cuddle hormone you will release, adding to your self-confidence. When it comes to meeting a new date, it won’t seem so alien or awkward to greet them with a hug, which will help your confidence shine through.

One of the most important things to remember when branching out into the world of dating is – you have to love yourself first. If you feel unworthy of being loved by yourself, you will find it hard to accept that someone else could love you and that’s not a great starting point for a relationship. Don’t rush into dating until you are ready. Take steps to build your own confidence and self-esteem and you will find dating much more enjoyable – and successful.

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