Once upon a time, I lived in an apartment building for about 4 years. It was a great building: the location was good, the rent was reasonable, and the room had an amazing view of the lake!
If there was one thing that I thought was amiss about that building, though, it would be that the shower water was way too cold during the winter. It wasn’t that much of an issue anyway…it only happened during the winter, and a cold shower never killed anyone, right? So, I just kinda dealt with it for almost half a decade.
Well, I recently happened to run into the new tenant who moved into my old apartment. I asked him what he thought of the apartment. You know what he told me?
“It’s a great room but the shower water was a bit too cold when I moved in, so I asked the manager about it and he fixed it right up.”
You know, I used to be an unconfident socially anxious person in the past. I’d meet women that I wanted to talk to but I’d always be afraid to approach her. I’d see Meetup groups that looked super fun but I was afraid to go. Heck, I’d even be afraid to talk to my co-workers at work!
I was that guy who was always picked last in gym class. I was that guy who would hide in the bathroom and pretend to be playing on my phone at parties while everyone else was having fun. I was that guy who sat at the corner of the lunch table because nobody wanted to eat with me.
The worst part about being that guy is that – when you look around and see everyone else having fun, making friends, and getting into relationships – you begin to wonder if you’re the only one who doesn’t get it.
Yeah. It sucks to be that guy.
Of course, I didn’t want to be that guy. I’d always get advice from well-meaning relatives like…
“You should be more confident”
“Steven, you should speak up more”
“You should break out of your shell”
…and, I mean, I wanted to!! I desperately wanted to break out of my shell. To make friends and talk to people just as easily as everyone else did.
I even tried to break out of my shell a few times. I would ask my classmates if they wanted to grab lunch. I asked a few women that I liked out on dates. Invariably, they all turned me down. And eventually, I just started to wonder if it was because something was wrong with me. If it was because I was a bad person.
That was not an emotionally fun place to be.
If you’ve ever felt this way, then I’m not going to try and talk you out of it. Instead, I’ll just tell you what I wish I knew back then whenever I felt that way.
I’m perhaps one of the least confident people I know.
You’d think I’d be one of the most confident people out there. But I still get social anxiety when I’m around people.
This is me in my comfort zone…
And this is me outside of my comfort zone…
That’s me on the far right. It looks like I’m having a good time, right? I cracked a few jokes, told a few stories, and basically became the life of the party. But if you could look inside my head, you’d see that my emotions basically looked like this:
Life would be so much easier if you could take the part of your brain that feels anxiety and just…flip a switch so you don’t feel unconfident anymore, right?
Well, I haven’t found that switch yet. But until I do, here’s how I deal with those times I feel nervous or unconfident.
The holidays are coming! It’s the time of year when you start seeing Christmas lights and other festive decorations.
It’s also the time of year that used to stress me out the most.
You see, I always used to put a lot of pressure on myself to find a girlfriend in time for the holidays. It’s the time of year that you spend with people you love, and I always wanted to find a nice woman and take her home to meet my parents during the holiday season.
What I didn’t realize is that I was actually making it harder on myself by doing this. Since I was putting all these arbitrary deadlines around when I “had” to find a girlfriend, I was starting to come off as desperate to the women that I talked to. As I’ve written before, women don’t want a man whose cup of life is only half full.
After trying to talk to women and striking out a few times, I began to ask myself…
“How do I stop coming across as desperate when talking to women?”
…which was a good start, but it was still the wrong question. Eventually, I started having more luck talking to women when I stopped asking myself that question and started asking this one:
“How do I stop being desperate when talking to women?”
If I had a crush on a woman, I’d always wish that I could be confident enough to go up to her and just start talking to her. I could never bring myself to do it, though. My hands would get clammy, I’d get that sinking feeling in my stomach, and I’d suddenly find myself stuttering like crazy.
Meanwhile, I’d watch other guys go up to women and just start talking to her. And the most fascinating part was that, if they asked her out and she ended up turning them down, then they just shrugged it off as if it were no big deal!
How were other men able to talk to her so easily and take rejection in stride, while I couldn’t muster up the courage to even begin a conversation?!
Here’s what I know now about being confident that I wish I’d known back then.
Let’s talk about the difference between real confidence and fake confidence.
Fake confidence is about pretending to be indifferent. It’s about going up to a woman and just acting like you don’t care. Like she doesn’t even matter to you. This is what a lot of “nice guys” do. I’m not talking about guys who are genuinely kind and wholesome. I’m talking about guys who strut and act as if they’re so cool while they talk to her, pretending to be indifferent…and then suddenly becoming all angry if they get turned down for sex.
Just like a petulant toddler who’s sad because he can’t eat ice cream for dinner.
That’s what fake confidence looks like.
Real confidence is different. It isn’t about “not caring” or being indifferent when you talk to her. It’s about knowing that getting turned down by a woman sucks—and being okay with that! Sure, getting rejected stings. A lot. But you know that even if you get rejected, everything is going to be just fine.
There isn’t a magic switch that you flip to create this type of confidence overnight.
Instead, you develop this confidence over time by filling your cup of life. With fulfilling hobbies. With good friends. With something that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning.
What if you don’t have these things?
Then, just get started. I certainly don’t have a lot of those things. Sure, I could have a bigger social group. Or more hobbies. But as I’ve always told myself, life is a work in progress. There’s never truly an “end” to filling the cup of life. Find something you would like to fill it with and just get started.
After all, women don’t want a man whose cup of life is half-empty and that she has to fill. Instead, she wants to find someone who’s also working on filling their cup so the two of you can go down the journey of life so you both have two full cups to share with each other.
Sometimes, I think back to how dumb I used to be and it makes me cringe.
Back in high school, I used to have a crush on my locker buddy, Olivia. We only had a couple of classes together all throughout high school, but every morning before classes began and every afternoon when we left school at around 3:15 pm we would meet up at our lockers and shoot the breeze for a few minutes. I always looked forward to that.
Honestly, I don’t remember what most of our talks were even about. I guess that’s the thing about memories. Those small details tend to fade away after a while. I no longer remember what we used to talk about or what she wore or even what my own locker combination was. If I went back to my old high school and look at it today, it would probably be much different than how I remember it.
Details fade away, but you remember 1) the people who were there and 2) the way they made you feel. Maybe that’s what really matters.
There’s a lot of popular advice about how to be confident. When I was too nervous to talk to women, I always heard “Fake it until you make it” or “Just do it, man!” Neither of these really helped much.
Once I heard that you should approach 50 women to overcome your approach anxiety. I’ve encountered over 50 spiders in my lifetime and they still scare the living daylights out of me.
And then you have the dumb@$$ advice on how to be confident…you either “neg” her to undermine her self-confidence or you pretend to be completely indifferent even though deep down you actually do care. Please, don’t do this!
There’s a super counter-intuitive, mundane way to be confident. One that’s so boring that few people ever talk about it.
When I first started looking for love, I always wished that I could be more confident around women. If only I were more confident, I could go right up to a woman that I was interested in and just start talking to her. No more feeling awkward or nervous. No second guessing myself.
However, I’d usually just find some way of talking myself out of it. I’d tell myself things such as, “She probably already has a boyfriend” or “Someone like her would never be interested in me”. If I had a crush on someone, I would try to psyche myself into asking her out beforehand but when the time came and I did see her I just told myself, “She’s probably busy. I’ll ask her out tomorrow.” Of course, when tomorrow came I would just tell myself the exact same thing.
How do you become more confident around women? Especially if you haven’t had a lot of success before?
Back when I was first looking for love, I always wished that I could be more confident. I believed that if only I were more confident, I would go right up to a woman I was interested in and just start talking to her. No second guessing myself.
However, I’d always find some way of talking myself out of it. “She probably already has a boyfriend” I’d tell myself. If there was a woman that I had a crush on, I would say to myself “I’m going to do it today when I see her. I’m going to ask her out” and then I would chicken out. “On second thought I’ll ask her out tomorrow instead,” I’d tell myself. And then tomorrow would come and I’d say the same thing the next day. And the next. And the next.
How do you become more confident? Especially if you haven’t had a lot of success with women before?