Sometimes you suck.
Think of what you’re like on a bad work day. What you’re like when you’re hungover. The way you behave when your ego gets the best of you. The names you have called other drivers on the highway. What you’re like at the airport.
You have plenty of good moments too. Selflessness when a loved one is in need. Unwavering loyalty to a friend who is hurting or in trouble. The times you’ve helped a stranger who was shit out of luck.
But these sides of you are not mutually exclusive. There’s no good version and bad version of you. You are capable of being kind, impatient, charming, boring, smart, lazy, and an infinite number of other possibilities all at the same time.
It’s the reason why, if you’ve ever taken a writing class or read a book/movie review, that there’s always an emphasis on the need for the main character to be flawed. Because otherwise, they wouldn’t be believable or relatable as a human being. We’re all blemished. Imperfect. Selfish. Greedy. We’re all going to behave in ways we aren’t proud of.
So when people tell you to ‘just be your best self’ on the first date, there’s an implied pressure there: be perfect. Rather than acting like and looking like the same person that you are on a normal day, take this day to draw together all of the best parts of you that have ever existed. Then wrap that all up in a bow and present it to your date, the person who could very well be the one you spend the rest of your life with.
That’s what dates are ultimately for, right? Finding the person who you can start a life with? Yes, dates can be fun, harmless nights out with someone who has caught your eye. But at the end of the day, what you’re really thinking is: Am I compatible with this person? Is it worth going on a second date? a third? a fourteenth? Should I be pursuing the potential that this connection holds?
And your date, whether they realize it or not, is thinking the same thing. They are processing every part of this experience, just as you are, and trying to figure out if they feel a spark.
As seemingly insignificant as one date can be, it still holds a lot of power.
So really, the worst thing you could possibly do on a first date is introduce that person to a version of you that does not exist: the seemingly flawless one. The ‘be your best self’ one. As Chris Rock said, “When you meet somebody for the first time, you’re not meeting them. You’re meeting their representative.” We are each our own agent, campaign manager, reference, spokesperson. We can’t help but try to make ourselves appear in the best light possible, no matter who we’re with.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be friendly, or conversational, or warm when you’re on a date. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re intelligent, don’t dumb yourself down. If you have something interesting to say, don’t hold it back for the sake of seeming more human or authentic.
But don’t caught up in trying to figure out who you’re supposed to be either. Don’t try to present the version of you that you think people want. Don’t try to find the ‘correct’ version. Instead, just be. The person you will form the deepest connection with is the one who likes you for being the opposite of perfect; they’re the person who likes you for you. Because if you just end up wrapping yourself up in a pretty bow, your future significant other will not fall in love with you. They will fall in love with your campaign manager.