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The self-help program taught various conversation techniques.
I thought I needed that.
I’ve since learned that I didn’t need more social skills.
What I needed was self-acceptance and self esteem.
Rather than become this social genius, I needed to become comfortable with myself.
See, socialising is EASY when you’re not anxious.
Basic social skills is all you need.
And confidence is an inside job.
Confidence doesn’t come from being good at socialising.
It’s the other way around;
Being good at socialising comes from being confident.
True social confidence is EFFORTLESS.
And you can get there step-by-step.
It comes from total acceptance.
From feeling safe to be yourself.
And luckily this is something you can get to step by step.
Anyway – the program also taught me something that changed my perspective on life forever.
It taught me that the reason for my anxiety was my negative limiting beliefs.
Now – a belief is nothing more than a thought that feels real.
It’s an idea that you are emotionally attached to.
Some examples of negative limiting beliefs:
• People don’t like me and don’t respect me
• I’m not OK the way I am / There’s something wrong with me
• I’m a loser
• I have to be perfect to be accepted/loved/safe
• I’m different/I’m an outsider/I don’t fit in
And here are some positive, supportive beliefs:
• I like, respect, trust and accept myself and I’m OK just the way I am
• People like me and respect me
• I’m confident no matter what I say or do
• I’m accepted and liked for who I am
• I’m an insider and I fit it easily and naturally
Now -, having positive beliefs makes you feel a lot more confident socially than negative limiting beliefs (obviously).
But there’s more to know about what social anxiety really is, and how to become anxiety-free.
In the self-help program I mentioned earlier, I was instructed to uncover my negative limiting beliefs.
To choose new positive supportive beliefs.
To program my mind to believe them.
And then to go face my fears and find evidence to support those positive beliefs.
Pretty basic stuff. But easier said than done.
And the techniques to program my mind didn’t really work for me.
It was a combination of affirmations, change your thoughts, visualisation, goal setting, journaling, hypnosis and some Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
Powerful techniques, but they had little noticeable impact on me.
But I did what I could with the resources I had.
At the time, I made a decision to go for it.
even if it took 10 years.
So off I went.. to face my fears.
I was a virgin.
I felt like a boy, not like a man.
I was afraid of getting rejected.
I was afraid of becoming embarrassed.
And I feared that OTHERS WOULD SEE THAT!
I was afraid of them seeing right through me… that I was an imposter.
I faked my confidence.
And I feared getting rejected by girls more than anything.
I feared that everyone would find out what a loser I was with women.
And that deep down I was actually this insecure guy.
Since that was my biggest fear I decided to focus on conquering that one.
In hindsight, talking to women was actually only a small part of the problem I was dealing with.
And the real problem was much deeper…
But talking to girls was inconceivably painful and scary to me. And so I focused on that.
My first few drunk attempts in a club resulted in painfully awkward rejections.
I tried my conversation skills with no success.
Actually, no success would be inaccurate.
“Total failure” sounds more like it.
I got myself into awkward situations.
Got laughed at.
Had people pity me…
Got a head turn when trying to kiss a girl I thought liked me.
And more awfulness.
Even though I was drunk, it still sucked big time.
Insecurity isn’t all that attractive to a woman.
And me trying to impress women while full of “liquid confidence” turned out to be even more repelling.
Eventually, I decided to hire a dating coach.
Because what they promised sounded brilliant.
I’d be super confident after a weekend of talking to girls.
So I paid a ton of money to fly over to this “guru”.
He was going to help me talk to girls.
Probably one of the most awkward and uncomfortable weekends of my life.
I started with saying hi to strangers. No problem.
Next, I said hi and asked for directions. No problem.
Then, Hi and introducing myself.
And then we stepped it up a notch…
I had to walk up to girls and ask them for their opinion on something:
“Who lies more, men or women?”
This would start a conversation, and I would then have to continue talking.
Make jokes he told me I should use (his jokes he tested on countless women).
In hindsight, they taught me how a normal, confident man talks to a woman.
But it was structured.
And of course contrived and fake as the stories and jokes weren’t my own…
And, since I was so awkward and anxious, I was totally in my head.
And I was even more anxious because all this pressure was on me to do it right.
I had a gazillion fears running me.
I feared I’d run out of things to say.
I feared the girl must think I was the biggest loser.
Or that people surrounding us must believe I was such a pathetic weirdo. And so on.
But I kept with it.
That first day I walked up -or was pushed into- maybe 25 girls and groups of girls.
Constantly the same routine way of going about it.
I felt a lot more confident at the end of the day.
Next day we would do this again…
I didn’t sleep that night.
I was so dead scared of the next day.
And when the second day came, I was so afraid and awkward that I couldn’t do it.
Instead I asked for advice on how to talk to girls while traveling because I was about to embark on a 3 month backpacking trip. I had decided to go travel by myself to “get outside my comfort zone”.
Long story short – I felt a lot more confident after that weekend.
But unfortunately, most of my new confidence soon left me.
For the next 3 years, I continued facing my fears.
I did a lot of weird stuff during that time.
I was told I could get “rejection-proof” if I’d get myself purposely rejected.
So I walked up to 20 different girls, or groups of girls in Amsterdam.
I said: “Hey, you like me. Give me your number.”
I was horrified doing it.
I’ll tell you the whole story at some point as there are some profound lessons I learned I want to share.
I’ll shorten it for now because I’m trying to make a point here.
Basically, the first 10 times were massively painful and embarrassing.
After the 15th or so, I stopped caring as much.
After the 20th, I felt like THE MAN.
On top of the world!
But then 3 days later I lost all my painfully gained new confidence again.
After all that effort!
I also did the thing I feared most: Embarrassing myself.
I put the brightest red lipstick on my lips and in circles around my eyes.
I looked like a total weirdo.
I then went to the city center in Malaysia and forced myself to start conversations with people.
I pretended there was nothing weird going on when they would ask me what’s up.
It was beyond awkward.
When they would say “what’s up with your face”, I’d ignore it.
I was mocked.
Made fun off.
The first 30-45 min sucked. Big time.
The last 15 min sucked a lot less.
At the end, I hardly cared. I felt pretty confident.
And a week later, I was almost back to square one.
While I may have kept some of the new confidence, most of it was gone again.
So you see, I did face my fears…
…but it didn’t work.
Or at least, it didn’t work as well as I had hoped.
It took way too much time and energy to maintain.
So I went back to feeling insecure, anxious and awkward.
Every time I made plans to consistently face my fears, I came up with excuses.
I self-sabotaged. As we all do when we try to overcome our anxiety.
Because we’re anxious for good reasons.
I talk in detail about how to eliminate self-sabotage later on.
You need to to eliminate it because otherwise the changes you make will only be temporary.
And overcoming it can be done quite easily.
Anyway, in 5 years of facing my fears, doing affirmations until I was blue in the face, hypnosis, time-line therapy, changing my thoughts, journaling, NLP, and anything self-help I could get my hands on, I made only mediocre progress.
Sometimes it felt like I was going backwards.
I still had massive anxiety.
And then in early 2006 I stumbled onto this technique that changed everything.