I was a shy child. When I tell people that, they often look at me with a smirk on their face, moments before they splutter, “You? Yeah, right!” sometimes followed by a coughing fit or outright laughing in my face. Yes, I was a shy child, growing into an awkward teenager, then somewhere during my adolescent years I metamorphosed into a good actress. Confidence isn’t always real, I discovered – it’s an act: a cloak of disguise that I used to conceal the parts of my personality that I had deemed to be my imperfections. Some of the most seemingly confident people I know confess that they sometimes feel cripplingly shy inside, and have developed a mask to shield their insecurities from the outside world.

“Like most of us, I’m a mass of contradictions”

I love spending time with friends, but I also crave the quiet solitude of my own company; I enjoy being in the spotlight, but I also suffer from sometimes paralysing stage fright; I get excited about first dates, but I also experience a rapid heartbeat and shaking hands as I lift that first ‘First Date’ drink to my lips. For a person who suffers from occasional shyness, nerves or feelings of panic when I am out of my comfort zone, first dates can be an emotional minefield. When I first launched myself back into the dating game, after years of hiding my personality within a marriage, I developed strategies to employ when meeting dates for the first time.

I would choose to appear like the person that I wanted to be all the time. I would talk. I would regale my dates with funny stories. I would ask questions, flirt and appear effortlessly effusive in my manner, when, deep down, I was feeling like the shy little girl who didn’t like the sound of her own voice. Conversation would flow as easily as the drinks, as I played my part of the ideal date for the evening. I would pride myself on the fact that I never had a bad date: my character for the evening was unfalteringly fun, conversational and easy to get on with – everybody was happy, I would tell myself.

This is all well and good, as my date and I would have had a great evening out and would part on good terms, sometimes with plans to meet again for a repeat performance. However, as dates would progress and a friendship was forged, inevitably, I would let my disguise slip and a partner would begin to catch a glimpse of the sometimes less confident, sometimes moody, prone to bouts of insecurity, real me. Once the banter was over, and real life set in, I would question whether my date and I were truly compatible and if he found my complex personality attractive, or was he actually only drawn to the fun-loving, one dimensional, person that I had presented on our first few dating encounters.

Revealing the real version of yourself to a partner can be a daunting experience and it may be tempting to hide behind a façade, rather than sharing what you perceive as your imperfections to another person.

“At some point, as it should, your more authentic personality will shine through. ”

Everybody wants to impress potential mates with the best version of themselves when they first start meeting. Some people may not like the ‘new’ personality that they are slowly being introduced to, which is fine – they are just not the right person for you.

As years have passed, friendships have been made and dates have sometimes developed into relationships, I have learned lots of things about myself. Firstly, be true to yourself.

“You don’t need to play a character in order to make people like you. ”

If you feel insecure, don’t worry, this is what makes us human. A potential partner will appreciate your honesty if you say that you are actually finding the whole dating process a little overwhelming, or that you are feeling a little nervous about meeting – it may even be a trait that you have in common. Your date may be feeling equally shy, or may be of a similar personality type who wants to meet someone that they feel comfortable with – not a person who feels the need to cover up any awkwardness with a false bravado.

Embrace and love your imperfections: I finally feel happy with who I am – part-time extrovert and sometime introvert. I have learned to take a deep breath on dates and just be myself – after all, the person sitting opposite me will appreciate meeting the real me.

Read more from our expert dating bloggers on learning to #LoveYourImperfections!