Well of course we all want to make a good first impression with everyone. Everyone. Including our gynaecologist. I know I do. That’s why people put on clean shirts to work and pretend they like their boss’ cats. Say what you will, but even beneath the very statement of a person’s “I don’t care what people think” lies a certain level of consciousness, however small, to want to be impressionable. This perhaps roots from the human’s genetic need to belong to a society, a unit, or even a family.
Sometimes we get a little too desperate to nail an impression that we begin saying things that are not necessarily true. One day when trying to make new female friends at the office, I noticed that most of them were mothers who liked talking about children and I began lying that I adored children just to get myself in the group. As a result I ended up being forced to view so many phone snapshots of babies in one sitting that it was like a witness interrogation program. Similarly, I went out for lunch with a boss once due to saying I would like his thoughts on the economy and almost snoozed and drowned in my bowl of soup as he went on and on for a good hour about the US oil sanction.
Similarly, I have also made up versions of myself to try and impress boys. This happened mostly when I was younger and I was a lot more insecure about myself. I said I liked metal music (I don’t. It’s horrendous). I pretended to enjoy an RM17 plate of banana fritters (not really. The pisang goreng stall near my parents’ house for RM2 per plastic bag is still the bomb). I said I believed in things I didn't. I admitted that I was a night bug to appear fun, got dragged to do things in the city into the early a.m. and ended up spending the next day with a headache at work. I piled on so much makeup that I looked like a Cher reincarnation. I even claimed that I am not at all concerned about money, which for some reason invited really cheap guys into my life (and honey, I know the difference between ‘careful’ and just plain old stingy).
By the age of 25 I began to realise that making up things just for the sake of impression is a sure fire way to create destructive, pretentious relationships with people around me. I mean, how long can you pretend that you enjoy exchanging thoughts on collagen youth drinks during lunch hour? One week. One week until you realise that it is just not worth spending all that time talking about seaweed that can make your skin fairer. On a bigger scale, appearing that you share the same aspirations, interests, passion and opinions just to seem agreeable to other people is exhausting and frankly, pointless. There is absolutely no way you could please everyone. Not even Oprah can pull that off.
So these days I go down the road less taken. I think we all do as we get a little older, as Meryl Streep once said, “I find that I care a lot less about a lot more stuff with age”. By no means at all implying that I am as old as Meryl, I think we all get more and more comfortable being ourselves with time. There is less and less personal need to exhibit ourselves as something we’re not whether it is in the workplace, with friends or with dates.
That being said, it is no question that first impressions are crucial. It’s what gets us a job. It’s what latches people’s interest to further probe. It’s how we make new connections. But at least by understanding where the line is drawn between portraying our best self and pretending someone we are not, we inch a step closer to build sincere, substantial and meaningful relationships with people around us.