when to be yourselfDating is like a masquerade ball.

You know the ones where everyone holds those masks on a stick? The identity of the ball-goers is a mystery. No one reveals their true face until they’re ready.

Masks tell us a lot. They show us how a person wants to be perceived. And that’s almost as revealing as knowing what the person is really like beneath.

These days, your “mask” is more likely to be an online profile than a patch of fabric and feathers. But that doesn’t make it any less significant. Masks make us feel comfortable. They’re one way we can control how others see us.

But there’s a problem:

You can’t get close to someone with your mask on.

You can’t kiss through a mask. You’ve got to take it off if you want to know and be known intimately by another.

That big reveal is a pinnacle moment in a relationship.

It’s when he sees who you really are, underneath the identity you’ve carefully crafted for yourself. And it’s just as big for him. He’s been wearing his own mask.

Will you still feel the same about one another, once the masks are off?

In a minute, we’ll look at ways to ensure his feelings for you don’t waver.

But first, you might wonder whether you should be wearing a mask at all. Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone was honest about their faults and failings from the get-go?

The answer, surprisingly, is no.

Masks work. Nothing is more important than that first impression. It takes him a tenth of a second to sum you up,[1] and that first impression is likely to last.

There’s a point to the masquerade. Illusion and mystery add to the fun.

If everyone else is wearing fanciful masks and elaborate gowns, you could show up in jeans and sneakers. But why not play along?

Even Cinderella made sure she was dressed appropriately for the ball. As a result, her prince refused to doubt his first impressions. The woman on his arm was clad like a princess, so a princess she was. He refused to believe otherwise, even when confronted by iron-clad evidence that his “princess” was actually a scullery maid.

Don’t feel guilty for wearing a mask. It’s all part of the game.

when to be yourself

Even at masquerade balls, everyone knows the masks will come off at some point. They expect it.

Similarly, when you’re dating, you can be sure he knows you’re wearing a mask. At some point, he expects to see beneath it and discover the real you. It’s not going to come as a huge shock. None of us are perfect. We all have things to hide. He just hopes that it won’t be anything serious.

But when should you do it?

When should you let down your guard and let him into the less-than-perfect areas of your life?

Wait until he’s earned your trust.

It can be tempting to overshare in an attempt to build intimacy fast. “I’ll share one of my secrets; now you tell me one of yours.” But oversharing often ends in a case of TMI … Too Much Information.

If Cinderella had told her prince before that first dance, “You know, you shouldn’t really be dancing with me, because I’m just an ordinary scullery maid,” she could have pushed him away.

Instead, she allowed her mask to do its work. And when he did find out who she really was, he didn’t bat an eye.

Always test the waters first. Tell him something small you don’t mind him knowing, and see how he reacts. You might talk about a previous relationship that went sour or a job that didn’t work out. See if he respects your confidences.

When you’re ready, turn your “big reveal” into a trust-building exercise for both of you. You might say:

 “I don’t tell everyone this, but I’ve grown to trust you over the time we’ve spent together. I know you’ll respect what I’m going to share.”

That’s incredibly flattering. He’ll be focusing on how good it feels to be trusted, transforming that scary moment of sharing into a beautiful moment of connection.

So enjoy the dance. And when it’s over, take your relationship to that next level. Give him the honor of knowing the real you.

[1] http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2006/july-06/how-many-seconds-to-a-first-impression.html

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