Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Why Can’t I Stop Worrying About Being a Creeper?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Whenever I see women I’m attracted to, I often get in my head. Like, I start to think about how I could talk to her, but often, there’s some reason I shouldn’t, like she’s talking to someone else. And that gets me in my head to the point that even if something happens to make talking to her more ideal, I’m too in my head to talk to her.

The dominant cultural narrative seems to be “Just because she doesn’t say no, doesn’t mean she doesn’t mean it, because women are socialized to not say no, and because they don’t know how you’ll react to their rejection. Also, your intentions don’t matter, if she feels uncomfortable, it’s all your fault, and you are in the wrong, so you can’t determine specific actions that are wrong, it just depends on how she feels about it. Also, because you as a man have never lived in a woman’s shoes for a lifetime, you will never truly understand what it’s like, so the approach must also take into account this thing you can’t understand. Despite all of this, men are STILL expected to initiate and escalate.” When people talk about men being creepy or women being bombarded with approaches, there seems to be zero distinction between irritating and harmful given. And all of that scares me so much.

So, what do I do? I know women want to date and have sex, but all of this just puts me so much into my head.

Creepers Anonymous

DEAR CREEPERS ANONYMOUS: You have an issue a lot of folks have, CA. And like those folks, it’s not the problem that you think you have. The problem that you think you have is that you think that you’re so afraid of being a creeper and that society is so polarized with regard to talking to women that you’ll almost inevitably trigger some sort of creep alert.

The problem you actually have is that you feel like your showing any interest in women will automatically be undesirable. It’s less that the dominant cultural narrative is that approaching women is bad, it’s how much you’ve heard this or read this in places and how much it conforms to what you already believe. You’ve convinced yourself that your attraction to somebody is an inconvenience at best and actively offensive at the worst. It’s confirmation bias at its most pure: you feel as though there is no scenario in which your interest would be appreciated, desired or welcomed, so you’re much more ready to believe that this is a societal issue.

Now if we were to focus on a strictly surface-level reading and practical advice, then there’s a lot you can do. The most obvious is to look for signs of attraction; a smile, especially paired with the classic look-look-away-look-back sort of eye-contact is about as direct an invitation to come talk as you could want. Similarly, you could focus on meeting people through a warm approach — meeting people you already have a social connection to via friends, or being introduced to them directly. You could choose to use online dating as your primary source of meeting women; women on dating apps, after all, have opted in to receiving messages from folks who are interested in them.

But ultimately, those are bandages on a sucking chest wound. The deeper issue — the belief that you could never be someone that women would actually want to date — would still be there. That’s what you need to address.

To solve that particular riddle, you’re going to have to get real with yourself. What, precisely, do you feel would make you a creep if you were to talk to women? What is it about yourself that you believe keeps women from being interested in you? Understand that and you’ll be halfway to the solution. Is it your looks? 90% of being physically attractive is about your presentation and attitude; dressing well, keeping your grooming top notch and understand why women say yes to sex and you’ll find far more success than you believe possible. Is it the fear that you’ll misread the situation? Using your words, being clear and looking for active consent solve most of these problems. Is it the lack of belief in your own value? Finding the things that give you satisfaction, that feed your soul and make you feel proud of what you’ve accomplished help turn that around. When you bring value to the world, even on an individual level, by making things just a little bit better, then you remind yourself of your own value.

Even simply making friends with women — REAL friends, not using friendship as the stalking horse to get into their pants — can help ease those anxieties. The more you become comfortable with women as people, the more you’ll recognize how much you’ve amplified the idea that all approaches are inherently unwelcome beyond all reason. Yes, there’re a lot of obnoxious assholes out there. There’re guys who take “piss off” as “try a little harder.” Not only is it incredibly easy to not be them, but the fact that you’re concerned with hit means that you’re far less likely to be one of them. Jerks and creepers don’t care about the comfort of the people they’re targeting. However, avoiding women entirely isn’t the answer. Working on yourself, building your self-esteem and belief in your own value and desirability is the start. Get that taken care of, and you’ll be in a position to work on your social calibration.

This all feels far more daunting than it actually is. Working on yourself, developing yourself as a person and learning how to love yourself can seem like a nigh-impossible challenge. And in fairness: it does take work and dedication. But challenging isn’t the same as impossible. And as I’m always saying: nobody said it was easy. What we said is that it would be worth it.

Focus on being your best self, CA, and those fears will fade.

Good luck.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, doc@doctornerdlove.com