How to you get into dating when I'm so nervous and anxious I can bearly hold eye contact with a girl

I suffer from social anxiety (or at least I think i do, I've never been tested or evaluated) and find it so difficult to even hold a convo with a woman. How do I get into dating then? I couldn't imagine being on a date with a person because of the awkwardness and the possibility of embarrassment. I've been in relationships before but its always been with a friend that I've known, someone I'm already comfortable with.
Asked by Geoff

Hello Geoff, thank you for asking this question, it shows a lot that you are willing to go out of your way, and probably outside of your comfort zone, to ask for help. You may receive some different opinions on this topic, but I believe the goal of being able to meet someone new and / or go on successful dates with women, would be best addressed by slowing down and working on the anxiety itself, first. If you are going to enter your car into a race, you probably want to start by making sure the tires are full of air, and the engine is in good shape. You indicated that you have never been evaluated for social anxiety, and it may be time to actually see a professional counselor for this. Of course, simply being evaluated probably will not resolve your issue, but seeing a professional therapist regularly, who can help you explore the roots of your anxiety, and help you develop healthy means of managing anxiety when it is present, and eliminating the effects of anxiety in some situations, would probably do you a world of good, not just in terms of the dating world, but in terms of life in general. 

When it comes to achieving major life goals, something a therapist would likely work with you on is something called SMART goals. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. If there is a goal that feels so out of reach it is causing you distress, no person alive is likely to all of a sudden be able to achieve it one day without working towards it in some way. It is best to start small. Setting small SMART goals that help you eventually build toward the goal of successfully dating, will help you pinpoint various barriers and stressors you are currently facing, and help you overcome them slowly, to build your confidence towards the actual thing. You did not mention if you are happy with your overall social life outside of the dating world, but if your friend group is lacking as well, perhaps a small and reasonable short-term goal could be just to go out and have a conversation with a stranger, with zero added expectations. That is one example of what I mean by starting small.

Therapy should not offer you any kinds of "tricks for dating," or anything like that, but I don't think that's what you're looking for anyhow. Therapy will help you address and resolve your anxieties so that this and other goals come more easily to you. I hope you are encouraged to work on yourself, and I hope this has been helpful!