Q: When I talk to a man, I become this insecure, desperate, needy person with no self esteem. I can feel it happening and I can't even stop myself. It's so weird. I am confident in so many other areas of my life. What is happening and how do I change it?
A: Excellent, excellent, excellent question. Why three ‘excellents'? Because I think you’re hitting on a sore spot carried by a great many of us. And, truth be told, even I have struggled with this same malady, so I'm excited to share my thoughts on this topic.
Follow me while we take a stroll down Maturation Lane. Here’s the deal folks…we’re each made up of many different aspects. As we age, those aspects mature at different rates depending on a ton of things; our parenting, our experiences, our wounds, beliefs, decisions and survival strategies. Life is not for the faint of heart and all these factors have a direct impact on how we mature.
It would be lovely if, say at the age of 38, we lived (across the board, in all areas of our life) as a 38 year old; that we had gotten the lessons we needed and we’re able to live as an actualized adult male or female; full of self confidence, assuredness and security. (YES!)
But the truth is; that ain’t the way it works. (DANG!)
Oh sure, your professional self may be kickin’ butt. He may have figured out early on what he wanted to do, focused on the goal, got the grades, sent out the resumes and climbed the ladder of success smiling all the way to the bank and to life fulfillment.
Or perhaps it’s not your financial self that grew into a healthy, well developed, no debt, cash only, Suzie Orman model of financial responsibility.
Maybe it’s your relational self that has figured it out; the one who got his butt into therapy early on, worked on himself, learning how to express himself to his friends and family, becoming highly empathetic, kind and open.
But to expect that all of these (along with the myriad of other aspects of you) will grow all at the same rate right along with you is…well…wishful thinking.
Consider your romantic self.
This is perhaps your most vulnerable aspect especially when you consider the fact that (I’m assuming) you’re gay. Made worse if you’re gay of a certain age or local or family or social dynamic which didn’t allow you to accept your sexual self and therefore experiment, learn and mature.
Mostly, none of us know really how to move sexually and romantically in the world. If there is a handbook out there on how to embrace and embody our sexual and romantic self, it’s not been shared with many people.
The result of this?
You’re seeing it and I am seeing it and most of the readers reading this post are seeing it in their lives. We’re simply not confident where romance is concerned. We don’t know what to do with our desires especially when faced with an opportunity.
You may leave work feeling on top of the world because of how you handled a coworker. Or maybe you completed a successful negotiation having gotten exactly what you wanted because of your well honed professional skill set. But hit the bar or a dinner party or sit next to a hot guy on the train and whammo! you’re 11 years old all over again; tongue tied, confused and beleaguered by the repetitive nature of it all.
In short, your romantic self got stuck somewhere along the way and so when you find yourself in a potentially romantic situation, you freeze, reverting back to your younger self complete with (or shall I say lacking of) all the social/sexual/desire-fulfilling/connecting/communication skills that you had at that age. You literally approach that same situation in the same way you approached it then. Neat.
So, now what? Here are 9 cool tips to help change your experience.
1. This is a practice. Changing any pattern of behavior takes practice. Understand this and commit yourself! It’s not about getting it right the first time (or even the 10th time). It’s not even about getting the guy (I know, I know). It’s about using action to change the way you see your self. It’s about learning a cool new skill. It’s about building confidence; about becoming a kickass version of you.
2. What are you telling yourself? Tune into what you’re telling yourself. That inner narrative has a HUGE impact on how we move in the world. So before you even can take that first step, you check out that inner dialogue and determine if it needs tweaking.
Using your own words, if your narrative is this: “I become this insecure, desperate, needy person with no self esteem” then you can be sure you will act in ways that support that narrative. Take a moment right now and take that narrative in. How does it feel to believe those words? Do you feel inspired to make a change or small and incapable?
Try this. Open it up a bit with something like; “I’m practicing connecting with guys I think are attractive. I’m making it fun and easy.” Take that in. How does it feel to stand in that narrative? Do you feel open and at least a little more willing to try something new? If you really check in, I bet “yes” is your answer.
3. Choose your pain. You can either feel the pain of regret and frustration that comes with that old, tired way of being with guys or, you can choose to feel the pain that comes with making a positive change in your life! It’s having a good workout at the gym; it comes with pain but it’s a pain we’ve learned to like because we know it means we’re challenging our muscles.
4. Focus on the possibility not the potential awkwardness you may feel. If what you do is put your attention on how awful it is going to be if you attempt to connect with said stud then, duh, of course you won’t attempt this. With all that fear and doubt thrown between you and that hot guy, who’d want to make a move? But put your eyes on the confidence that awaits as you practice this; on the possibility of finding some wonderful man to share your life with and now we’re talking. When we focus on what’s possible instead of on what scares us, we position our self to take the new actions.
5. Detach from the outcome. Remember, this is a practice. Don’t worry about getting THIS guy to talk to you. Make it a game. See what works. See what doesn’t.
6. Fear is just excitement without breath. Use your breath. When you see a guy you want to approach, check in with it. Is it high and shallow? If it is, then just know that’s a breath that cultivates fear. Drop it into your belly and breathe from there a few times and just watch as you start to settle. Carry that deep, grounded breath into the conversation and you’ll be golden.
7. Use an anchor point. I carry a stone in my pocket that reminds me to be brave in situations that I usually run from. When I want to do something new and I feel that fear come up, I reach in my pocket and grab hold of that stone. Immediately I feel anchored and ready to take on the next step.
8. Say anything. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it so take yourself of the hook for having to get it right. If avail yourself of a few of the above tips then by the time you do say something to Mr. Hotty McHot-Stick, you’ll be saying it from a super fun, super grounded place.
9. Give yourself a break. If it comes out all mucked up (because sometimes it will), then just please, please, please be kind to your self. Remember this is a process and a practice. If you come down hard on yourself, you’ll never change. You can’t hate yourself into a new habit. Try a little tenderness and compassion and see what that does for you. -- John Dulworth, CPC