DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am writing in hopes that you may have some helpful or otherwise inspiring information regarding my best friend. He is an incredibly depressed 26 year old virgin with absolutely no self esteem.
As of this writing, I confess that I have exhausted my ability to help and am rapidly losing patience with his inability to be positive, but he is so incredibly smart that it’s hard to argue with him as he makes some depressing yet unfortunately realistic points.
I met ‘X’ (for anonymity sake) in 2009 while working at a local radio station. We instantly bonded over mutual love for music and I will be the first to tell you that he is a great guy. He is extremely smart, funny and good natured but suffers from crippling depression and terrible social anxiety.
X will often avoid the topic of women and relationships like a plague but whenever we do discuss dating, he insist that he has “nothing to offer a woman” or that “his taste is unrealistic” or “guys like me just belong in the Friend Zone.”
The funny thing is that if anyone were to meet X, they may have no clue there is anything wrong. He is very funny and has become good at faking being social, but is so strangely convinced that no woman would ever want anything more than a platonic friendship.
A little bit about X:
He’s not ugly, but honestly not great looking. (Charlie Day with a bigger beard)
He’s only 5’6″ (I’m 5’8″ and my height has never been an issue, but he insists “no woman wants a manlet”)
He was bullied in High School and College for not being a “guys guy” as he puts it.
His last and only girlfriend was gorgeous, but treated him like s
t before dumping him on Valentines Day.
He has no real friends, just me and his band (although they do treat him like s
He doesn’t drink or do drugs which he thinks makes him boring.
He insists that “Online Dating is only for attractive guys”
He is terrified that he’s gonna end up as some single mother’s personal ATM
My girlfriend even admits that she doesn’t like him and refuses to introduce him to any of her friends.
My question to you is Is there any hope for this poor guy? I truly believe that he could make some girl very happy but how do you convince someone who has seemingly only seen the worst of society that good people still exist?
DEAR FRIEND INDEED: Oof. I feel for ya, FI; there really isn’t much that’s more frustrating than trying to help somebody who steadfastly refuses to be helped. And therein lies the problem: he refuses to be helped. One of the keys to changing and improving is that he has to believe that change is even possible in the first place.
Like a lot of people I encounter – in consultations, in the letters I get and in the comments section – it seems like your buddy X has made “I Am Hopeless and Pathetic” part of his identity. Once the idea of “Not Being Good With Girls” and “Nobody Wants Me” becomes part of who you are – and in fairness, having folks bully him for not being sufficiently manly would be a big part of it – it’s very hard to shake. We instinctively want to protect our identity, even when it hurts us. When we run across things that challenge our identity, the Backfire Effect kicks in and makes us double down on what we already believe. Look at the incel (or “involuntarily celibate”) community; it becomes an example of nominative determinism, where by having adopted the identity, you have also accepted that you are functionally hopeless. And while the despair and frustration is understandable… if you define yourself as being uniquely f
ked by the universe, then you’ve basically given away your power. You have made yourself helpless. And it’s very much a self-reinforcing cycle; nobody likes an Eeyore and the guys who are the most vocal about how much it sucks that women don’t like guys like them tend to actively turn off women. I mean, if he’s going on and on about how hypergamous single mothers are gonna steal his money and leave him taking care of somebody else’s kid, I’m not f
king surprised that your girlfriend won’t inflict him on her friends.
Unfortunately, like a Buddhist monk paying twenty bucks for a five dollar hot dog, your friend has to discover that true change comes from within. You can provide him with counter-arguments – Oscar Isaac is 5’7″, Daniel Radcliffe is 5’5″ and so on. You can offer to be his wingman, to take him shopping or to singles mixers or even just drag his ass to therapy. But at the end of the day, unless he decides to change, nothing is going to happen.
What he needs is to do is scrap everything and start over. The first thing he should do ditch his asshole bandmates so he doesn’t have their toxic bulls
t weighing him down. Then he needs to get himself into therapy and talking to a counselor who can help him deal with the very real psychic pain he’s carrying around. If he can start learning that those past experiences were legitimately awful but things he can recover from, then he can start making the life changes that’ll help him become the sort of person he always dreams about being. But none of that can start until he gets his s
So you COULD get him copies of my books New Game + and When It Clicks, and wave them under his nose like a talisman. But until he makes up his mind that yes, he can change, he’s just going to make things worse for himself.
The only thing I can suggest is that you draw a line in the sand: until he starts talking to a therapist – not just “thinks about it” or “goes once” but actually commits – then you’re not going to listen to his complaints any more. You have the roadmap to his recovery, but if he’s going to refuse to follow it… well, you’re not going to listen to him dig himself in any deeper.
You can lead him to the path he needs to talk, but it’s on him to walk it.
Good luck, FI. And let us know how things go with your buddy.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org