DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m 32 at the end of July and I’ve never even kissed, still got the v-card. Had social anxiety my whole life so far (Asperger’s Syndrome side effect) and it has made it nearly impossible to get a job. So-called “zoomers” talk as if I’m middle-aged already. I’ve been trying to fix myself this whole time, been on medication, therapy, exercise. I still don’t like myself very much.
Are women out of my reach?
I read your article about how not to be creepy but if I could just decide to be charming or worth talking to I wouldn’t be so anxious around people.
It feels hopeless. What do I do?
DEAR LOGAN’S RUNNER-UP: Here’s a suggestion: quit listening to Zoomers online, especially about anything related to being “too old” for something.
Ok, granted, as a man who’s just stepped into the far side of his mid-40s, that’s a little “get off my lawn”. I freely admit that. However I keep seeing people who have literally convinced themselves that life functionally ends at 25 because… well, because. Mostly because they keep hearing Zoomers and Gen-Alphas swearing up and down that everything ends after that and nothing you do later in life matters.
And while it’s the prerogative of every new generation to be convinced that they’ve figured out the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything, it’s the prerogative of the ones before – the ones who have actual experience and perspective under their belts – to either nod wryly or roll their eyes at people who’ve barely even started their lives making grand declarations about How It All Works. It’s enthusiasm without the benefit of experience or perspective.
So, as I’m often saying: do yourself a favor and go outside and touch grass. Quit paying attention to the Zoomers telling you that life has passed you by if you haven’t achieved everything by your mid-20s. They know nothing about you, your life or your struggles. Most of them affect this attitude because they see their own futures looming and are terrified of it – same as every previous generation.
This is precisely the reason why I tell people to pay attention to what they pay attention to, especially when it comes to social media. Most of the time, you’re taking on noise, not signal, and most of it is designed to get a rise out of you, not to help.
Just as it’s important to eliminate “should” from your vocabulary, cutting out the shit that tells you “it’s too late” – particularly when there’s no actual basis in fact – will go a long way to making you feel better. And that’s going to be important because if you still don’t like yourself very much, other people are going to follow your lead.
Here’s the thing: self-talk is important. If you’re looking in the mirror and saying “ugh, god, why are you even allowed to exist”, then you’re setting up a filter by which you will live your life. You are not just putting that energy out into the universe (as it were), you’re emitting that energy like a passive-aggressive Chernobyl. When you tell people how to feel about you – because you feel that way about yourself – they’ll behave accordingly. People respond to your vibe and react to it; the folks who are most in tune with you will take it onboard, themselves. This is why one of the secrets of being charming and delightful is warmth and friendliness; people pick up on it, feel good in your presence and want to spend more time with you.
It’s also why someone who thinks of themselves as hot as fuck and acts accordingly – even if they’re unconventional-looking – and have people respond to their attitude. Those people are picking up on that person’s vibe and attitude and it carries them along. It’s not being delusional – they’re not looking in the mirror and seeing Idris Elba staring back at them. They just see what they like in themselves, bring that forward and make it their strength. The strength and sincerity of their belief and actions carry over to others and encourage them to see it too.
But here’s the other thing I think you’re missing: being charming is a choice, but not the way you think. Deciding to be charming doesn’t flip a switch and suddenly you are. Deciding to be charming or charismatic or just likeable is deciding to work at it. It’s deciding “OK, I’m going to be more charismatic, so I’m going to start doing the things that improve my charisma.” That would include finding the type of charisma that vibes with your personality, working on things like warmth and approachability, cultivating an interest in other people, learning how to best connect with them.
I mean, call it woo woo all you want, but it’s not a binary where either you have it your you don’t. It’s a skill – something you develop through deliberate practice. All you have to do is look to Hollywood, where people quite literally learn how to make someone feel like the most important person in the room.
And here’s the secret: nobody is born charismatic or popular. Everyone has had to work at it. It feels like there’s a binary because you have a 24-7 feed of your own life and thoughts, but only a very limited highlight reel of other people’s lives. Some folks may have started earlier or have personalities or circumstances that make it easier for them to get good at it, but everyone started from the same place. It just doesn’t seem that way because you weren’t there for the learning phase, nor were you tapped into their thought stream.
Women are out of your reach only in as much as you limit your reach by defining yourself by your perceived limitations.
Work on liking yourself. As you do, you’ll make it much easier to learn the skills that make you a more attractive, more desirable partner. It’s work, sure, but it’s work that’s well worth doing.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org