DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I know this is a strange topic, but I hope you can give me some advice. It’s not easy for me to say this but I’m scared of girls. Like, terrified. Back in high-school almost every girl in my class used to make fun of me, call me names, say how ugly and disgusting I was, how my parents hated me, that I would be better off dead, they would point and laugh at me and so on. I don’t know what I did wrong, since I was the quiet kid sitting in the back with his two or three friends and never really bothering anybody and I was never like bullied by other boys.
So, what do I mean with scared? Well, for example, if I’m walking on the street and a woman or a group of women around my age (I’m 24 btw) or younger are walking towards me, my heart starts pounding, I sweat, my legs shake and I feel like at any point she or they will laugh at me or say something like what girls in my class used to say. It’s worse when they are two or more, because it’s feels like they will surround me and just tell my how much they hate me. I try
to avoid women as much as possible, I try to not look or talk to them unless is strictly necessary and every time I feel like I should apologise for my mere presence and for daring to talk to them.
I want to believe that not every girl I meet hates me but it’s very hard. Every time it feels like they’re faking it and when I’m gone they openly talk about how hideous and stupid am I. I know it’s not very manly, but believe me I’m really scared and it’s hard for me to just being outside and is messing with my life and work. How can I get over this? Or things are just like this?
Thanks in advance!
Scared and Ashamed
DEAR SCARED AND ASHAMED: I’m sorry you went through that SaA. It can be confusing and terrifying to suddenly be the target of bullying that seems to have come at you out of the clear blue sky and it can leave some lasting scars. So let’s talk a little about just what happened and how you can start to let go of this fear.
Here’s why you were targeted: you were there. That’s it. High-school couldn’t have been better designed to be a cauldron of bulls
t by inflicting it on other people who happened to be handy and they got away with it. And the saddest thing is how few people will realize just how s
t and misery if people had gone out of their way to create a factory to produce anxiety, neurosis and sheer balls-shrinking terror. And that affects everybody because high-school is hell for pretty much everyone. Everybody is sleep-deprived because schools are still clinging to a system devised around a farming community’s schedule and not the biological needs of teenagers. Everyone’s a bundle of anxiety and confusion because everyone’s dealing with massive physical and social changes that’re met by society telling them that they should already have a handle on things instead of providing the tools to actually manage themselves. Everyone is encouraged to be unique individuals, but then deviations from the norm (whether in gender expression, neurotypicality or sexuality) is punished — often with the tacit approval of the people in authority.
Folks are alternating between mirroring their parents’ beliefs and values and trying to figure out their own, nobody understands what’s going on and everyone’s clinging to any sort of structure that helps make sense of the chaos and confusion. Part of why high-school turns into a massive stew of cliques and drama is because we run schools like they’re medium-security prisons and everyone’s just trying to survive. People will lash out because… well, that’s one of the easiest ways to assert yourself and try to force a place into the social hierarchy. And — as with toxic masculine values — there’re few ways that are more efficient at gaining status than taking it from someone else.
And unfortunately, you drew the short straw. No rhyme or reason, just people dealing with their own trauma and bulls
tty they were to others back in the day.
But there’s the thing: that s
kery most foul.
Realizing that, however, doesn’t make the scars go away. That is going to take a combination of therapy, grit and experience. The good thing is that you can start getting that experience now, in low-stakes ways. You can start by simply just existing in public spaces where you’re likely to encounter women. Sitting in the park with a book, walking around the mall, sitting at the counter at a restaurant or bar and just minding your own business is a start. You can even take those opportunities to low-key eavesdrop on the conversations around you. One of the first things you’ll discover is just how little the people around you are going to care about you. This sounds cold or cruel but it’s not; it’s not that you’re unimportant or unnoticeable, it’s that everyone is so wrapped up in their own drama that they’re not going to pay attention to you the way you think they do.
Back in my PUA days, I used to think that if I flubbed an approach, then everyone would notice and I’d be laughed out of the bar. In reality, what would happen is that people would basically forget I was even there as soon as I left their eye-line. As weird as that may sound… it was actually incredibly freeing. Once I realized that most people would never notice my worst mistakes, I didn’t have to spend as much time worrying about complete strangers who wouldn’t even remember me in the span it took to get another beer.
Once you recognize that you aren’t being weighed, measured and judged by all and sundry, you can start to up the ante by attending mixed group events and meet-ups. Find something that interests you, like a MeetUp about one of your pa
t is over. You are goddamn free. You can look back on your time in high-school as a nightmare that you have finally been able to wake up from. Now is the time to start shaking off the remnants of that nightmare and remembering that you’re in the real world now, with people who are (mostly) done with all that drama and heinous f
And frankly, life is too goddamn short to let the a
But even if you do start to work on desensitizing yourself, don’t forget to find a counselor or therapist, especially one who deals with phobias and CPTSD; the level of anxiety you’re feeling is the sort of thing that often requires the help of a trained professional, not just a loudmouth with an advice column.
You’ll be OK. I promise.
All will be well.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)