Rachel Zwell | April 6, 2016

Getting Real:
It’s OK to Be Yourself
on a First Date

Read this post if this sounds like you:

Remember MTV’s Real World? The tagline always went something like this: “find out what happens…when people stop being polite…and start getting real.” Time to get real. Let’s talk about the “real world” of dating.


How often have you psyched yourself up for a first date by getting into the mindset that you’re going to put your best self forward? BUT, are you really putting your true self out there? OR are you actually psyching yourself up to trick or dupe the other person into believing you’re that someone they want you to be?

Ok, so everyone puts on a bit of a show on any first date. Most of us wouldn’t show up un-showered and in sweatpants, ready to spend the night showing off cellphone pics of our cat. However, six months or a year down the road, there’s definitely going to be a Sunday afternoon where you find yourself on your couch in those pants, looking at pictures of Mr. Fluffers. Reality happens…eventually.

So WHY do we work so damn hard to hide it at first?

I’m not just talking about the silly sweatpants scenario, either. On a first date, we may think, “I’ll order something healthy, so he’ll know I’m a healthy eater,” or “I’ll talk about my promotion at work, so she’ll know I’m a hard worker.”

We’re striving to be a version of ourselves we think the other person wants, but really, shouldn’t we just let our freak flag fly?

When do we stop being polite and start getting real? And how?!

How To Break Your Barriers & Really Be Yourself!

If you’ve ever been told you’re high-maintenance, too assertive, too nice, or another extreme, you probably have some negative self-talk going on in your head. On a first or second date, this same voice may tell you not to speak up when something rubs you the wrong way because your date might think you’re being a bitch. This voice also might suggest you ask for dressing on the side, so your date doesn’t think you’re high maintenance.

Tell that voice to hush! It’s perfectly okay to ask for what you want and to speak up for the things you desire and prefer. More than just being okay, it’s really important!

There’s a certain level of decorum in “polite society” that says you shouldn’t do anything totally out there, particularly when meeting a new person or on a first date. Try thinking about it this way: Yes, first impressions count—but not for everything and rarely are they accurate.

So be yourself. Really! Expressing your likes and dislikes can accelerate relationship challenges, but they can also get us past that surface interaction and into the real stuff. They can help us engage in conflict in a socially intelligent way, helping us grow and reach a greater potential.

And hey, it’s ok to engage in conflict! However, conflict is most productive when we follow the rules of engagement. (We talk about all of these rules in our book, The Heart of the Fight.) Two of the most important rules are to accentuate the positive and to eliminate the negative. On a date, this doesn’t mean we should tell ourselves “everything is great!” when it’s not. Rather, we should instead approach every situation (even the less-than-stellar dates) as growth and learning opportunities. After a bad date, ask yourself, what did I learn about myself from this interaction?

Date & Explore to Learn About YOU

Don’t limit yourself! Go ahead and try out a lot of first dates. Explore your interactions with many different types of people. Throw strangers into a situation (or an MTV reality show) and the interactions they have are compelling—they definitely bring some different personality traits to light.

Dating and “playing the field” is no different. By giving yourself permission to explore your rapport with all different types of people, you can discover so much more about yourself.

What do you truly enjoy about your friends? Are there certain traits they have that really resonate with you? Maybe their sense of humor, their warmth, their way of reframing things? Whatever you like about your friends, chances are there are some common themes, and those traits can and should be explored with the different people you date.

Not every date is a love (or even a like) connection, but every date has a human connection. To unearth the connection, you have to be authentic and genuine.

Challenge yourself to really let down your guard and explore what you want. What do you like about people—and what doesn’t work for you? How do you express those feelings?

Explore each new way each different personality works with yours and study your reactions. I’ve said it before: dating is a wonderful playground and a chance to really interact, have fun, and do some of this deep personal growth work. Dating gives us the opportunity to be real and genuine, and to express our truest yearnings and desires and see how they are met or unmet.

Exploring yourself while you have the freedom of being single allows you to really roll up your sleeves and discover and play. You can identify the things you really want and like—and discover the things you’d rather avoid. It’s all at your feet. You just have to get real and get what you want!

To learn more about how to be yourself, find love, and get what you want out of your dating life (and life in general), click here to learn more about our next More Life Training.

Let us know how your dating is going! Tune in to our podcast every Wednesday to talk about dating, relationships, and how to bring out your best self. Listen to this episode here on BlogTalkRadio or here on iTunes.

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Rachel Zwell is one of the core coaches in the Year of Transformation program. She is an emergence coach specializing in empowering individuals to increase their fulfillment and satisfaction in their lives, to achieve their professional and personal goals, and to develop their leadership skills. She coaches and mentors people to develop self-awareness, vision, strategies, and to build skills in social and emotional intelligence. She believes in full engagement and aliveness, and trains people to see and overcome the barriers that prevent them from living fully.

Featured blog post image “Flirting…?” courtesy of Flickr user Chen Shiang Khoo licensed under CC by 2.0. The original image was altered for this use.

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.