Last year at this time I had horrible approach anxiety. It took a strong six pack and a good deal of peer pressure before I’d even think about walking up to a girl I didn’t know. Even when I was able to do it and get a conversation going, I’d always bail out early. There was a part of me that was always pulling away, screaming: Abort! This won’t go well! She won’t like you! Leave now, with your dignity in tact! Unfortunately this voice always won.
Part of me felt it was more important to look cool and not fail than it was to push the interaction forward. I knew I needed to commit to interactions for them to go anywhere, but couldn’t help myself. I’d always fall into that same pattern, bail early, and hate myself for it afterward.
During bootcamp the coaches would push me into interaction after interaction. After a brief exchange I’d try to leave, but the coaches wouldn’t let me (they didn’t physically push me, all it took was a “don’t you fucking think about leaving” look). It was hard to endure at the time, but it was exactly what I needed.
About two weeks after the program I went to a coffee shop. I wanted to practice starting a conversation, and committing to it. I made up my mind that for the interaction to be over, she would have to walk away. I wasn’t going anywhere.
I got my coffee, sat down, and in walked a tall, well-dressed college girl with beautiful brown eyes. She clearly wasn’t going to stick around so I figured I’d wait outside and catch her on the way out.
Normally I’d wait by pretending to check my phone to look busy/cool… but fuck that. I was done pretending and done caring whether or not I looked cool in front of people who, let’s be honest, aren’t paying the least bit attention and don’t give a shit.
She came out and walked passed me. I shouted “hey wait up”, and started walking and talking with her.
The conversation went well for a bit, and then died down. Staying true to my goal of committing, I stood there, looking at her with a warm smile and occasionally glancing away purposefully (something I learned at bootcamp during the video work). The old voice telling me to leave was still screaming, but I didn’t give in. I tried to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible. The conversation continued to start up and die off again and again. Maybe a quarter of the interaction was nothing but awkward silence, but I hung in there.
After going through all that awkwardness, things finally got easy. We ended up spending the rest of that afternoon and night together. We met around 2 and it took until about 4 – halfway through our game of bowling – until things really clicked. Three days later she’s at my place cooking me dinner and spending the night.
None of this would have happened without my newfound ability to commit to interactions. I didn’t have to approach her perfectly. I didn’t have to be smooth or wildly entertaining. All I really had to do was show up. By sticking around I had enough time to show her I was a good guy, and that was enough.