by Rachel Dack
First dates symbolize new beginnings, excitement and potential for great love and friendship, although they can also be attached to a variety of fears, anxieties and insecurities. Many people experience challenges in dating, like getting involved with a potential partner too quickly, not knowing what they are looking for, lowering their standards or relationship requirements when thoughts of being alone sneak in or having such high standards that no date can meet them. A more realistic mindset, outlets for self-care and anxiety management, embracing singlehood (until someone really special is present) and pacing yourself while dating are helpful in eliminating common dating challenges. Most importantly though, it is essential to be authentic and clear about who you are when you are on a first date.
A first date naturally brings up nervousness – what to say, what not to say, what to do during a potentially awkward pause and how to avoid awkward pauses in general. Add in concerns about being liked, avoiding rejection and the fear of failure and a date can feel more like a dreaded chore or a task to avoid. Knowing that all of these concerns are valid and natural to the dating process can make the burden a bit lighter, but how can you focus your attention on being authentically you instead of getting caught up in all of the “what if’s” that distract you from the moment?
Authenticity involves acting in genuine ways that are true to you. Opposed to being fake, misleading and untruthful, being authentic is centered on acting with sincere intentions, owning your personality (who you are) and representing yourself honestly.
It is common to operate on the belief that you will be more attractive and likeable to your date if you are agreeable. The more you have in common the better, right? The more impressed your date will be, right? Well, not necessarily, if you are falsely agreeing and not honoring your truth. Agreeing with your date when you really do not feel the same way results in you lying to yourself (which never feels good) and misrepresenting yourself to your date. An exchange rooted in distortions, lies and exaggerations creates a barrier to building a genuine connection and honest relationship. The key is to look for commonalities and bond over them while acting on your inner truth and understanding that you and your date are unlikely to feel the same way about everything.
Below are a few other first date tips:
1. Be honest. Without oversharing and making the date all about you, avoid withholding important information, such as whether or not you have kids, if you are planning on relocating anytime soon and if you have been engaged or married before. It is not necessary to spill this all at once, but be mindful of telling the truth if your date asks. Do your best to be upfront and avoid lying and deception.
2. Relax and take the pressure off yourself. Acting as your most authentic self requires calm nerves and comfort in your own skin. Prior to the date, give yourself an empowering pep talk, take deep breaths, listen to your favorite tunes and remind yourself that your date is only as important as you make it.
3. Dress in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Ladies, do not be too revealing and gentlemen, show your date that you put some effort into your appearance. Consider what you will be doing on your date, the location and weather when picking out an outfit.
4. Resist getting caught up in pretending…anything. Be your unique self, give input and laugh off the awkwardness. Perfection is an impossible goal, so set the intention to be authentic and grounded in who you are and what is important to you.
5. Have a healthy mindset, be open-minded and stay in the present moment. Remind yourself that dating is not about being picked. You are the chooser too and it is important to mutually connect. The nature of dating is not one-sided so let go of any “does she or he like me?” type thoughts and bring your attention back to learning about your date and figuring out if you are interested as well.
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and relationship coach, specializing in psychotherapy for individuals and couples via her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland. Rachel’s areas of expertise include relationships, self-esteem, dating, mindfulness, anxiety, depression and stress management. Follow her on Twitter for more daily wisdom!