DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Is it wrong for me to fear women? Every time I try to talk to a girl my age they never talk back to me. They just give me weird look stare or roll their eyes. All the time. I have also had women call me creepy or weird even coworkers at my job do this. I am currently 24. I don’t look at women anymore nor do I talk to them unless they talk to me first. When I am at the store and a girl is down the aisle I will go the other way or wait for her to leave. I am afraid of women, I don’t want to be charged with a crime of stalking or something of the like. I don’t hate women, I don’t take the red pill or whatever. They just hate me. What should I do to break my fear and have a conversation with the opposite sex?
Don’t Fear The Creeper
DEAR DON’T FEAR THE CREEPER: There are a couple of issues going on here.
The first is that there is something that you’re doing that’s clearly weirding women out. You may not intend to come across as creepy, but somehow you’re giving off a vibe that women – including your co-workers – are finding off-putting. And the answer is, simply: figure out what it is and stop doing that.
Yes, I realize that’s about as useful as saying that the secret to flying is to throw yourself at the ground and miss, but stick with me for a second.
The problem with diagnosing yourself as a creeper who constantly puts people off with his creepy ways is that… well, creep is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes the beholder is a dishonest narrative coming from the anxiety in your own brain. Anxiety that, I might add, that you’re pretty clearly suffering from.
Anxiety is a goddamn liar and it will tell you the worst things because you already fear them. And because we have an inherent negativity bias, you’re much more likely to believe that those fear-fueled interpretations are accurate because they confirm what you believe about yourself.
But what if it IS true? What if you’re genuinely creeping people out? How do you figure out what the issue is and fix it?
Well, the first step is doing some honest self-examination. Most of the time when a dude is giving off the creepy-vibe, people will have a concrete example – he may ignore the concept of personal space or constantly bring up inappropriate topics. He may address all of is questions to her cleavage or constantly be trying to touch someone, even after having been warned off. He may be missing out on social cues and not picking up on signs of disinterest or even indications that his presence isn’t wanted.
If you’re continually getting bad reactions from people when you’re approaching then, then I’d be willing to bet that the issue is most evident in either your body language or the way you’re starting the conversation. Now, I have a video about the most common things guys do that can make them come off as creepy — youtu.be/Mkq7EVDXfXQ — which should be a good place to start, but it’s also a good idea to talk to your co-workers. Let them know that you understand that you come off as creepy and you’re trying to fix that, and you’d appreciate knowing just what it is that you’re doing wrong. Hopefully they’re mature enough to realize that you’re making a good faith effort to improve and will respond in kind – and that they can give you something more to work with than “everything, man”.
Your fear of women is the other issue, and I suspect that it’s amplifying everything else. When you’re obsessing about the worst possible outcome – being charged with stalking, to use your example – it’s going to end up coloring everything you do, from your body language to your word choice, even to the way you interpret the way people react to you. Intellectually, you realize that what you’re picturing is ridiculous, but hey, when your brain decides to kick things into overdrive, rationality goes out the window.
Normally when dealing with a phobia like approach anxiety, the keys are to desensitize yourself over time and to control the symptoms. The brain is ruled by the body, and the fear response is as much about your heart rate and your adrenal glands as it is about the thing that you’re afraid of. Breath control is an excellent way of calming yourself down; breathe in for the count of five, hold it for a moment or two, then breathe out to the count of 10. This helps slow your heart-rate and, in turn, calms you down.
In your case however, I suspect that you may well have a social anxiety issue, which may be an underlying cause of your other problems. It might not be the worst idea to talk to a therapist, especially someone who handles phobias and anxiety problems, about how to get that under control. Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can go a long way towards overcoming those fears. Anti-anxiety medication may be an option as well; many anxiety disorders are chemical imbalances, and readjusting things may the key to breaking the mental cycle that causes you to tense up and panic.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help; it’s actually one of the strongest and bravest things you can do for yourself.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org