Unpacking those first-date jitters: why they happen & what we can learn from them.
I have been in several nerve-racking situations: skydiving, walking on the edge of the Grand Canyon, taking Calculus, etc. Yet, not much compared to the nerves I experience before a first date. I’m talking about the heart-racing, overthinking, and shaky hands-type nerves.
I went on my first date the summer before my first semester of college. (If said guy happens to be reading…thank you, you are a gem, but if you ever talk to me about the following contents of this article, I will have to block you from sheer embarrassment.)
I had been texting him for a few weeks, so when he finally asked if he could take me out, my heart practically leapt out of my chest.
I was a mix of emotions. Happy. Excited. Ready.
But mostly anxious.
What if I say the wrong thing? What if he doesn't like me? Will he even think I’m funny?
My thoughts going into the date exclusively revolved around what I would do and say in hopes that he liked me.
In hindsight, I wish I could go back and tell myself a few things about those first-date jitters. One being that instead of focusing on if he will like you, do you even like him?
Are you enjoying your time with him? Do we have anything in common? Do I like the way he thinks?
As cliche as it sounds, being yourself and not worrying about what he thinks about you, alleviates unnecessary stress and makes the date feel much more casual.
Usually, thoughts of whether he likes you or not are accompanied by ones of self-doubt and insecurity.
Am I pretty enough? Am I funny enough?
No one should have the power to make you question if you are enough. You are.
You are enough by sheer merit of being you, regardless of how the date goes.
The pressure around the first date can also stem from romanticizing the outcome of the date or the person you are seeing. It is not uncommon to fall in love with the idea of someone, as opposed to who they are. Usually, what follows is a pattern of ignoring red flags and putting on rose-colored glasses in hopes that the version of them we have created in our head mirrors what reality is.
Placing expectations on a person to be the spitting image of what you have in your head is setting yourself up for failure. This by no means is a way of saying lower your standards…don’t. However, what I am saying is that people are not perfect. Expecting perfection will result in disappointment. Assuming that a potential partner will be an idealized version of who you have curated in your head is unrealistic and places undue expectations on the other person.
Sure, spiraling into an infinite number of fantasies can be a fun little form of escapism. I am not immune from creating Pinterest board after Pinterest board romanticizing my crushes, but at some point, I must wonder- how helpful is this for my dating life?
It can be exhausting chasing a picture-perfect vision of the person you created and, as such, does not exist. It also adds to those nerves before the first date. Rather than asking myself if I like him, I am trying to place who he is into the mold I already crafted in my mind.
I think the best approach to dating is going in with an open mind. Have expectations on how you should be treated, but do not obsess over what you cannot control.
Dates are supposed to be fun. They are supposed to be a way to get to know someone else, even if nothing develops further. You should not be consumed with thoughts of whether they will like you; instead, focus on whether you are truly enjoying the time you spend with this person (who they really are, not the person you have painted them out to be.)
Even though nothing further developed from my first date, I shared a memory with someone new and had a good time. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.
Tori Ragin(@torixragin) is single and working on herself at the moment. Nonetheless, she does not shy away from giving her friends fantastic dating advice, despite her lowkey fear of men.