When “be yourself” is questionable advice

Oft-heard advice to daters is, “Just be yourself.” Well, what if “yourself” isn’t very appealing? What if “being yourself” means showing up for a first date with disheveled hair, dirty, ripped clothes, and uncouth behavior? That’s how you are at home, so isn’t it truly being yourself?

On one hand, you shouldn’t try to be something you’re not. So if the above describes your usual self and you show up in an Armani suit and Prada shoes, you are not being yourself. Unless you have, as many of us do, a wide range of clothing to choose from depending on the impression you want to make.

Within the span of who you are, strive to be the best you that you can be. So, unless you’re looking for someone who loves dressing in comfy sweats, leave yours at home except if your early  dates entail working out. And even if you don’t usually wear make up, some foundation, lipstick and a little mascara isn’t going to mislead someone into thinking you’re a Vogue cover girl.

My model for the first few dates is to think of how you’d behave and dress if you were going to church/temple/synagogue. You’d put on clean, pressed, well-kept clothes, shined shoes, fix your hair and probably wear some make up. You’d be well behaved and respectful. You’d smile and be friendly with others. Now, if you are going roller skating or biking on your date, you’re not going to wear a church-going dress. But you’d want to appear your best in clean jeans or shorts and a top in good repair.

The other part of being your “best” self involves your behavior. Sometimes people ask why I don’t more often call guys on their inconsiderate behavior. Part of it is I want to see what they do naturally without any intervention from me. Then I can decide what I want to comment on or not. The other part is if he is taking me out to dinner, I’m his guest. A guest does not nitpick her host. She is gracious and gives him some slack. If you were at someone’s house for dinner, you wouldn’t point out how often they interrupt, glance at the TV while you’re in the room, or don’t get in the back of the buffet line. You’d be pleasant, and then vow not to go back. The first few dates is too early to try to change someone’s behavior.

So step back and look at what “be yourself” means to you, versus “be your best self.” Be sure to don the latter for your early dates, and you can loosen up as you get to know and trust each other.

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5 responses to “When “be yourself” is questionable advice”

  1. Ms. Annie D Avatar

    I’m definitely with you on the being the best of your real self.

    Your choice to not call men on their inconsiderate behavior during the early stages intrigues me. That way, you get to see what they do naturally. If what they do doesn’t appeal to you, then you don’t get further involved with them.

    If only more women would do this, rather than seeing the bad behavior and then thinking they can change it!

  2. traci Avatar

    I wouldn’t point out inconsiderate behavior on a first date either (who wants to be criticized, and I’m the mother of only one little boy). However, it would be a short date (oh, I think I’m getting a migraine!), and there wouldn’t be a second one.

  3. Elena Avatar

    This line from this entry jumped out at me: “The first few dates is too early to try to change someone’s behavior.” Surely you are not advocating that one should enter a relationship expecting to change someone? That’a a recipe for disaster. I know that there are some people who believe that they can change someone else if they love them enough but there are some habits and behaviors that will never change because they are part of the DNA, cultural background, social upbringing or the inherent fabric of the other person’s personality. I think we all have to accept people the way they are and if we are looking to change anyone, it should be ourselves.

  4. Gatti Avatar

    Oh yes, I definitely agree, Elena! I spent over three years with a verbal abuser and there is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do if someone else doesn’t want to change.

    So eventually I got my own self-esteem back on track and changed something – my address!

  5. Mitsy Avatar

    I’m finding that men apparently think that “being yourself” means taking your dates for granted early on. I see a pattern of guys who are either too interested or they make little effort to get to know you. In fact, I’ve had some who I wondered why they ever had a profile online if they didn’t have the gumption or drive to try to date someone and make a good impression on them.

    Laziness seems to fit what I’ve seen with some guys I’ve met who initially appeared interested, but once they knew “I” was interested back, they made less effort. Maybe it really is about the chase, but I think there surely could be a happy medium between a guy who goes overboard in his attention and affection for you (before you really know him ) and a guy who seems too lazy to make the effort to be an active participant in the dating game. I’m wanting a guy who falls somewhere in the middle. Would that seem like “normal”? :0