It’s normal to want to feel good ahead of a date – and for many, that includes feeling like you look good. But hangups about appearances are preventing some daters from getting out there are meeting new people.
Over half (58%) of people under the age of 34 have cancelled a date due to body insecurities, according to new research from dating app Bumble.
The same percentage of people said the pandemic has made them more concerned about how they look, while 59% said they feel less confident about their appearance than they did pre-Covid. This is most prevalent among those aged 25-34, where the figure increases to 81%.
Victoria, a 28-year-old Brit currently living in Lisbon, says body image concerns are the main reason why she doesn’t follow through on dates with people from dating apps – and thing’s have only got tougher this year.
“I get nervous that they’ll see me and think I don’t look as good as I did in the pictures,” says Victoria, who chose not to share her surname. “It’s worsened during the pandemic simply because I’ve not been able to work out as much and so am feeling more insecure about my body – as well as the fact that the external validation which you’ll sometimes get just from being out and about hasn’t been there, which means I’ve just been left to build up my insecurities in my own head.”
Francesca Baker, who has had anorexia for 16 years, says body image worries have caused her to cancel dates both with new guys and long term boyfriends.
“When I feel uncomfortable in my body the idea of even drinks on a date, or putting on nice clothes, can feel too overwhelming. And the idea of getting my kit off for sex, that can be a no-go,” says the 34-year-old from Kent. “Plus the mental anguish of living with it means that I don’t have the energy for sparkling conversation.”
The warmer weather and summer season can also contributes to poor body confidence in some, with two thirds of people (55% men, 74% women) saying they feel pressure to lose weight and get into shape for summer.
Nine in 10 people also feel more physically judged when dating than in other areas of life, with one in four saying that they have been body shamed online on a dating app or social media.
Richard Meade, 37, from Edinburgh, has cancelled dates through fear of physical judgement in the past, sometimes with just minutes to spare.
He’ll sometimes use other commitments, like looking after his son, as an excuse, but says in his head, he’s thinking: “She won’t like a guy who looks like this.” He worries about looking bloated, or spends time debating whether to be shaven, unshaven or with stubble.
“I’m not short on confidence on Tinder, and have matched and spoken with some really nice ladies. But right up until the moment it comes to meet, I look at myself and start to doubt,” he says. “I look at the dent where I sit and the creases in my crisp white shirt. I cancel, and go back to do anything that I could do without feeling I don’t deserve to be sat on this date.”
To help daters feel more body confident, Bumble is cracking down on those who body shame others while using its app. People who use body shaming language in their profile or through the app’s chat function will first receive a warning for their inappropriate behaviour from a content moderator. If there are repeated incidents or particularly harmful comments, Bumble will permanently remove the individual from the app.
The app has also partnered with body confidence activist and co-host of the Body Protest podcast Honey Ross, who has given her top tips and affirmations to help people feel great about themselves, in the lead up to a date this summer.
If you struggle with body confidence before a date, this is her advice:
Be your own hype-person
“Remind yourself that you are excited, deserving of this date and confident you will have things to talk about – just look at how many profile badges you have in common,” says Ross. “Remember, someone new is looking forward to meeting you, because you have so much to offer.”
Dress with confidence
Don’t like how you look in any of your outfits? Remember to celebrate your individuality. “Remind yourself that your body is beautiful and unique to you,” says Ross. “No matter what you wear or how you do your hair, your beauty is yours and clear for all to see.”
Remember: you’re not alone
“Just before the date, remind yourself that you are confident, welcoming and charming. You are also not alone, 55% of people in the UK also struggle with confidence when it comes to dating so seek comfort in knowing that nerves are normal,” says Ross. “And remember, even if the date doesn’t work out romantically, it’s no reflection on you – you’re great to spend time with, every experience is a learning experience and will only help you work out exactly what you want from your next potential match.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.