I'm tired of the word "awkward." I have this theory that we say "awkward" when we really mean that we encountered something that made us feel anxious, which is to say, we were forced to confront our fear of loneliness or death. When you feel "awkward" on a first date, it could really just because something about the other person reminded you of your fear of being alone. The best way to figure out how to deal with an awkward first date is to figure out what aspect of that connection made you uncomfortable, and what you can learn from that feeling.
Every feeling that we have is an important source of information. It might not even be about what's happening in front of you, but what has happened to you in your past. Is your first date awkward because the person reminded you of your ex? Or was it awkward because you knocked over a chair when you went to sit down in the restaurant and were reminded of your "awkward" experience fumbling in front of your high school crush?
Rather than avoiding feelings of awkwardness, it's best to confront them head on and remind ourselves that it's not the end of the world. Here's what to keep in mind.
1. Remember That You Can't Control How You Come Off To Another Person
A lot of times, folks get anxious on first dates because they are trying to anticipate what is going to happen next. The result of this anxiety is an inability to stay in the moment and take things as they come. When your mind is racing with projections and a vision of a future that hasn't happened yet, it can be difficult to actually take in the person sitting across from you. Awkwardness can ensue.
Stop caring about what the other person thinks of you, because you literally have no control over whether or not they find you attractive. Focus on what you think of them instead. Are you actually enjoying yourself? How can you make this experience more pleasurable for you? What can you do to make sure you get what you really want?
2. It Takes Two To Tango
If your date feels awkward because the conversation is stilted, don't worry. It doesn't mean that's your fault. Your date should also be participating and engaged; if they aren't asking you questions or contributing to the conversation in a meaningful way, then maybe this person just isn't what you're looking for. It's not up to you to curate the experience from start to finish. Your date involves two people, not just you.
3. Every Connection Can be Awkward At First
When you meet someone whom you really, really like, it can be intimidating. Almost all of my friendships and definitely the entirety of my romantic relationships have gone through a "getting to know you" phase, where it was difficult to break the ice. I remember being so intimidated by this one girl in college that I would literally cross the street to avoid running into her. She's been my best friend for the last seven years.
Just because you feel awkward and anxious now, doesn't mean that you'll feel that way in a month or even a week from now. Feel the feels, but know that they will pass. What's going on in your head right now is only temporary.
4. You Are Enough
This one is pretty simple, and it mostly involves cutting yourself a ton of slack. Take the responsibility off of your shoulders. The date is not awkward because of anything you're doing. You're not talking too much; you're not being weird. You're just being yourself. Whatever you are doing is enough; you're already trying your best.
5. Worse Case Scenario: You Never Have To See Them Again
Lighten up about dating in general. Focus on connection rather than the outcome. If you get rejected, so what? Rejection is protection from disappointment down the line; you'll save yourself some time. A lot of anxiety comes from a perceived need for social approval, but the truth is that nobody really cares or is paying that close attention to the things you do. The world is your playground. Enjoy yourself, and stop worrying. You aren't controlled by your emotions, and this awkwardness? It's just a feeling.
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