Oh, no, it’s time to meet someone new. Your stomach muscles tighten as you slowly step towards your destination. Thoughts race, heart paces, and the room becomes a blur. Your eyes hopelessly hunt for somewhere to hide while your lungs desperately grapple for air. Stomach churns, ears burn, and your feet feel ready to fly away. You feel uncertain if you really can handle this, if you can make it through.
Anxiety and fear can consume our bodies and minds when we meet someone for the first time. Whether it’s a job interview, a new semester of school, a gathering of mutual friends, a first date, or meeting someone’s parents, the moments leading up to the meeting are nothing less than terrifying. Even after going through the process time and time again, the jitters and dismay freshly encapsulate us each time we meet a new woman or man.
I recently flew across the country to meet someone in person for the first time. Even though I’d talked to her daily for months, I was absolutely terrified to meet her face to face.
Why does our body go into panic mode when we are going to meet someone for the first time?
For starters, there’s the stress of our appearance. We worry over what to wear and the condition of our hair. As we gaze into the mirror, we focus in on every flaw that may ruin this meetup. We become consumed with the desire to change parts of our being that simply cannot be altered. We hate the simplest things about ourselves, such as our height or the shape of our nose. They say that first impressions are everything, and we know that people are always sizing us up before the first words even leave our mouth.
Then, once we get past that, there’s the concern over our personality and character. We question if being true to ourselves is the best foot to put forward or if we should try to conform to a mold that may score us some “cool points.” Plus, we obsess over what to say, and make up scenarios in our minds to prepare for any potential conversation. Finally, we wonder what to disclose and how much of ourselves we should be open to sharing up front.
How do we flip the panic switch off and survive first encounters with someone?
I think the biggest key to remember when meeting someone new is to simply be yourself. There are aspects of yourself that are unique and draw people in, so use them to your advantage. Whether it’s a first date or a job interview, people can sniff out “fake people” from miles away. So, don’t try to simply put on a mask… you won’t be fooling anyone.
Also, it’s important to remember that nearly everyone gets nervous during first encounters. Some people will give the impression of being as cool as a cucumber, but the fact of the matter is that meeting people is just stressful. Our society has built a constant fear of judgement into each of us, and the technology age has wired us into people who avoid face-to-face interaction at nearly any cost. Therefore, chances are that whatever you are feeling is also being felt by the person your eyes are meeting.
As you begin to talk, you feel the tension leave your body and your stomach begin to slowly relax back to a normal state. Your thoughts slow and your brain begins to focus on your surroundings and the sound of the person you are meeting’s voice more with every breath you take. Finally, you make a joke or break into a smile, and the fear seems to nearly melt away entirely. You did it. You’ve survived. You met someone for the first time.
In case you are curious, yes, I had a lovely time flying across the country to meet someone new. I passed the test with flying colors, and I know you can, too. So, whether it’s a job interview, meeting your best friend’s new potential love interest, or hooking up with someone you swiped on Tinder, remember to just keep breathing. Your fears are valid and justified, but remember, the person on the other side of the table is feeling them, too. Just be yourself, let time pass, and you’ll slowly start to feel alright.