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Meeting new people when you are a young person who looks different

You might feel nervous meeting new people. Here are some ways to make that first occasion easier.

Most of us feel a bit nervous when we meet people we don’t know. It can be even harder if you have a visible difference because you might worry about how people will react to the way you look.

We all want to make a good first impression and it may be just as difficult for the other person. They might not know how to act around someone who has a condition, mark or scar that makes them look different.

On this page, we look at why other people might act strangely at first and how you can make meeting new people easier.

Being SCARED when meeting new people

At Changing Faces, we used the term SCARED to explore how people feel in difficult situations. The letters in the word SCARED each stand for different words. When you meet a new person, both of you can feel SCARED.

Are you scared?

This how you might feel and act if you feel SCARED yourself:

If you feelYou might
Self-consciousact Shy
Conspicuous (standing out)Cover yourself up
Angry or Anxiousbe Angry or Anxious
Rejected – like people
don’t want to know you
Retreat – pull away or hide from people
Embarrassedbe Evasive – ignore people
Differentact Defensively – try to protect yourself

Are they scared?

If you feelYou might
Sorry/ShockedStare/be Speechless
Curious/Confusedbe Clumsy
AnxiousAsk questions/seem Awkward
RepelledRecoil/be Rude
Embarrassedbe Evasive – ignore people
Distressedseem Distracted

Why you might be worried

You could be worried for a number of reasons. For example:

  • You might expect people to be mean, which can make you even more worried.
  • You might think everyone will be unkind to you.

How it can make you act

Being worried about meeting new people can make you behave in different ways to different people:

  • You might feel angry with the people giving you a hard time and shout or feel upset.
  • You might take it out on the people around you, like your family.
  • Or maybe you just keep it inside and try not to think about it.

All of this is normal. It’s what people do when they feel hurt or upset. There are things you can do to avoid doing these things, which can be hurtful to yourself and the people you love.

Things to remember when you meet new people

You might find it helps to keep some things in mind before you meet someone new:

  • You are unique and amazing.
  • How you look is only a small part of who you are.
  • Other people may act in the way they do because they are SCARED – don’t assume they want to hurt your feelings. Keep trying to be friendly, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Smile – smiling has a funny way of making us and everyone else feel better – even if you just smile with your eyes.
  • You could prepare some things to say. For example, you could ask the other person about what they like to do or what they’re doing later.

Remembering these things before, during and after you meet new people can help you feel better if things get a bit awkward. That’s because you’ve reminded yourself that:

  • You have nothing to feel awkward or embarrassed about.
  • The other person is probably not trying to hurt your feelings.
  • There is something you can do or say to make things less awkward if the other person seems a bit unsure.

It might all seem like a lot for you to do. But practising these skills will make you a stronger person – and make it easier for you to deal with these situations in the future.

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