Approach anxiety is the primary reason men don’t approach strangers that they’re attracted to. Many men get so lost in thought and are so paralysed by their fear that they end up gawking idly at any attractive woman that they pass by, but like all problems there are solutions.
The most important thing to remember when you have approach anxiety is that there’s nothing wrong with you. By recognizing what causes it and how to deal with it, you can learn how to approach women with confidence and stop feeling nervous every time you see someone you’d like to talk to.
Let’s first explore the two reasons approach anxiety exists: Nature and Nurture.
Our brains are nearly identical to those of our ancestors who lived amongst small tribes. A lot of our behaviours evolved within their living conditions and so we are subconsciously influenced by their ways of thinking. Let’s imagine life back in one of those tribes for our male ancestor, Bob. Imagine Bob is young and virile and looking for a woman to mate with. If he approaches a woman and it goes poorly, what might happen? At the very least, the people of his tribe will gossip and laugh at him, making life generally unpleasant. In the worst case, if someone of a higher status than Bob liked that same girl, Bob may be cast out of the tribe, harmed, or in the worst case, executed. It’s perfectly normal and understandable for Bob to be terrified to approach a woman and in those times, he has every right to be.
Fast forward to 2022. Bob’s future ancestor (you) is living in a city of millions of people all frantically going about their day. Nobody knows or could ever remember the thousands of people they cross paths with every day. If you respectfully approach a stranger and it doesn’t go well, what’s the worst that could happen? The answer is… not much. She may tell you that she’s not interested and walk away. Since 2006, I have respectfully approached plenty of women. I can tell you, from over 15 years of experience, nothing bad has ever happened to me. In modern-day cities, you can do what Bob never could!
Avoiding awkward, tense, and even dangerous situations in our communities is what helps our societies flourish and remain safe places to live. As individuals, this avoidance keeps us away from pain and closer to pleasure. From a young age, our parents instilled in us the idea that we “shouldn’t talk to strangers”. Additionally, our family, friends, and teachers encourage us to meet people through “socially appropriate channels”. When we do, we are to shower the conversation with civilities and platitudes. So, we do. We take those lessons and apply them to how we behave in society. In the long run, conforming rewards us with safety and security. Sadly, these teachings also come with a nasty and unnecessary side effect: approach anxiety.
All you’ve ever done is met people through family, friends, online, or through your work. It’s no wonder approaching a random woman you find attractive scares the crap out of you. You have approach anxiety because society taught you that approaching a woman you don’t know and find attractive will result in some tension, awkwardness, or even danger. What you haven’t been taught is that is exactly what makes it attractive to a woman. These are the basic building blocks of emotional chemistry. Without tension, there can be no sexual tension. Without courage, there can be no confidence.
There is good news. By recognising this has been programmed in you since birth, you can start to reprogram yourself and start to respectfully approach women you find attractive. Below are six tips to get started. I hope they will help you as much as they helped me.
1. The Five-Second Rule
Years ago, my mentor told me that from the moment I saw a girl I was attracted to, I had five seconds to start a conversation with her. If the five seconds had passed and I hadn’t approached, I wasn’t allowed to even if I wanted to. This was a rule I imposed upon myself.
The five-second rule is primarily effective for two reasons. The first is that you don’t give your brain any time to come up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t approach. When all those thoughts start popping into your head, you become paralysed. The way to solve this is not to give yourself any time to think in the first place, just get in there and say “Hi”.
The second is that it stops you from dwelling on the woman you didn’t approach. There’s no point. You can’t approach them now. That’s the rule, so you move on. This allows you to stay in a more positive and optimistic state of mind and remain in the present. Guess what! In the present, there’s a cute woman coming around the corner, right about… now!
2. Don’t worry about rejection
The fear of rejection is an extremely common problem for men when trying to meet women in real life. Instead of focusing on building attraction or trying to get her phone number, they’re worried about what will happen if they get rejected and/or if she makes fun of them. The fear of being shot down prevents many men from taking action, but it’s important that you don’t let fear control your behaviour.
If she rejects you, don’t take it personally. There are a thousand reasons why a woman may reject you. Many of which have nothing to do with you. They may be in a relationship, recently broken up, in a bad mood, or have dated someone with traits or an appearance similar to yours. Remember, there are plenty more women out there and it doesn’t matter if anyone woman doesn’t want you. You’ll meet someone who appreciates you soon enough!
3. Visualise a successful outcome
When you get nervous, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream—two hormones that work together to give you a rush of energy that can be both physical and mental. This reaction is known as fight or flight (or, more aptly in our case, flight or approach). The adrenaline in your blood helps flood your muscles with oxygen for quick action—like running away from danger or walking up to women on the street.
To effectively reduce this nervousness, try to visualize a positive outcome. If you imagine yourself succeeding at approaching women on the street, your body is less likely to release cortisol and adrenaline when you try it for real. Since these hormones work together and can only be present in limited quantities at any given time, reducing adrenaline means reducing cortisol as well. With fewer of these stress hormones circulating in your system, you’ll find that feeling nervous isn’t quite so overwhelming.
4. Get moving!
If you can’t muster up enough courage to approach a woman on your own, get out there and walk. As with any other exercise, it’s all about building that muscle memory—getting yourself accustomed to seeing women around you as an opportunity, not a threat. So go take a walk; when you pass by anyone, man, or woman, say something as simple as asking for directions or for the time to at least five of them. Start warming up the approaching muscle to grow the confidence to have meaningful interactions with strangers.
5. Have a friend hold you accountable
Make it a financial incentive to get out there and approach women. Have a friend hold you accountable, with penalties for each approach you don’t do. The more specific the goal the better. Commit to a number of approaches before you leave the house and tell your friend about that goal. The heftier the financial incentive, the greater the motivation for you to get out of your comfort zone. If your friend is with you in person, physically give them the money when you first meet making it clear that unless you reach your goal, they are not to give the money back to you. You’ll feel amazing if you reach your goal—and you’ll get your money back!
6. Don’t put her on a pedestal
The reality is that she’s a normal person with normal interests, not some goddess who landed on another planet. That goes for anyone. So don’t set people up as too good to talk to you; try talking to them first instead of letting them pass by while you stare. Even if they blow you off or ignore you, at least you tried. You are no worse off than when you started and now you know that there's no need to worry about what might happen if you start a conversation—they'll either respond positively or not. But be sure to start conversations because it's interesting, fun, and engaging! No person is too special to be spoken to by you.
Approach anxiety is a natural feeling—we're told from a very young age not to talk to strangers, so it makes sense that you feel nervous. While there are no tricks for overcoming approach anxiety, our clients find that immersing themselves in practicing approaching women respectfully, slowly but surely alleviates their feelings of fear and dread when they see an attractive woman walk by. If you want to meet more women, try taking risks by walking up and talking to them; with practice, your comfort will increase until you meet and connect with the woman or women of your dreams.
Having worked with 100s of Core Confidence clients, Paddy is passionate about helping men develop social skills and a bigger social circle to enrich their dating journey.