Because sometimes being yourself IS the problem.
By Mark Belden
I was shy, depressed, lonely, and numbing the pain with drugs. I remember forcing myself to go out and approach women because I thought that’s how I would magically gain confidence and solve all of my internal problems. The problem was I was too f*cking scared to approach ANYONE. I used to think, “Maybe if I just keep going out and trying, something will change and I will get over it.” I went out again and again. I tried approaching women in the club, the mall, the street but each time I got close, I locked up and never made an approach.
I wanted to give up. I felt a dark pit in my stomach wrenching at me. The emotional pain would haunt me when I lay in bed at night. I felt like having a wonderful women by my side was only meant for certain people — and I wasn’t one of them. One night at dinner with my parents I cracked.
“I don’t understand why I can’t get a girlfriend. Why is this so hard?” I said.
“Just be yourself. You are awesome!” my mom answered.
Just be myself? What does that mean? The quiet, shy, introverted Mark who has a hard time carrying a conversation with anyone? The one who has to get belligerent drunk to be able to say something stupid to a girl to get a weird look from her? Yeah, that doesn’t seem to be working.
That same night, I was going through my journal of all of the inspiring quotes and notes I had taken throughout my life. I stumbled on this quote: “No one cares about your success more than you.” That’s when it changed. “I’m going to do this. I am going to get out of this b*llshit funk and grind to the top. No more excuses, no more feeling sorry for myself. I won’t give up.”
I wish I could say I woke up the next morning on top of the world with the woman of my dreams next to me but the struggle wasn’t over. When you want something bad in life, the universe is going to test you. How bad do you really want that girl? How bad do you really want to lose that weight? How bad do you really want to make more money? I finally realized until I was ready to FULLY commit 100% with no more excuses, nothing would change. The grind began. Here are the 4 things I did that made a HUGE difference:
1. I devoured any book that taught me to look on the inside and not blame my problems on external factors.
Get Off Your But, Sean Stephenson. Don’t make any more excuses. Ever. The author is a three-foot-tall psychotherapist with a rare bone disease who has a mission is to “rid the world of insecurities.” Anytime I wanted to cop out I would think of him and keep moving.
The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama. Happiness is something we all want. When you’re down and out, happiness seems impossible to achieve. The Dalai Lama is a unique perspective since his whole life has revolved around pondering life’s toughest questions.
The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz. Don’t take anything personally. If a woman tells you she’s not into you, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. That’s a gift. This simple, short book has a mountain of wisdom.
Mind Lines, Michael Hall. Any belief you have that doesn’t empower you can be reframed and looked at in a more positive light. A belief is only an agreement you made in your head.
2. I learned how to talk to ANYONE.
I took my social skills into my own hands. Going to the mall thinking I could magically gain the confidence to talk to cute girls wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I worked my way up the social ladder and learned how to talk to anyone. I’d pay attention to people who were more charismatic, confident, and socially fluent than I was. I’d steal lines they’d use and copy their body language and delivery. I started saying hello to the grocery store clerk, the gas station worker and the old lady crossing the street. Over time, I learned to develop my own style and let my personality come through.
The breakthrough came one night working in the cafeteria at the hospital where I worked. I told myself I was going to say, “Hey, how are you?” and one more follow up line to every single person that came through my line. I left work that night a champion.
3. Whenever I started to feel insecure, I gave myself daily affirmations.
Nobody’s going to come along and confirm that you’re a total badass and deserve the best things in life. No friend, parent, job, car, or smoking hot girlfriend will get rid of your insecurity. It’s up to you to fill the void inside you.
“I deserve and can hold a beautiful, intelligent woman.” “I love myself and I have a lot to share with the world.” “Courage has been inside you all along. It’s simply a decision.” “I am confident and comfortable in my own skin.” These were a few lines I used to repeat to myself in the mirror every morning and night. I would write the affirmations on a piece of paper and carry it in my pocket. Anytime I started to feel uncertain, I’d pull out the piece of paper, take a deep breath and say the affirmation until I felt better.
4. I took small steps, which eventually amounted to a big leap.
Confidence came from improving my social skills, improving my self belief with affirmations, exercise, and surrounding myself with better people. How could I expect to be with an incredibly beautiful woman when my self-talk was, “You’re shy, you’re a druggie, and you’re too insecure to be with a beautiful woman”?
Throughout the course of my mental training, I slowly adapted the belief that I am a smart, intelligent man with a lot of love and gifts to share with the world. This belief gave the self-confidence I needed to be able to approach anyone and strike up a fun and engaging conversation. I learned that by taking one small step towards my goal of getting over my anxiety of talking to women, I would slowly work my way there. Forcing myself to walk around town trying to talk to women didn’t work. Anytime I wasn’t achieving a goal I would ask myself, “How can I turn this into smaller steps that still produce growth and results?”
Sometimes that meant walking up to 5 people and asking how their day was going instead of the hot girl I wanted to talk to. Sometimes that meant sucking it up, feeling the cold sweat drip down my neck, my clammy hands and trembling voice and walking up to that girl and totally bombing.
5. I kept track of all of my embarrassing failures, small wins, goals, and big dreams.
Whenever I would go out, I would come home and write down what happened and how I could improve. Over time I saw progress. It’s easy to think you aren’t progressing and things will never change. Becoming an all-star takes time and practice. Michael Jordan didn’t become the best player of all time by going to one practice.
I see some of you struggling out there with confidence and anxiety. Trust me, I wish more than anything I could snap my fingers and it would cure you. I know the pain and frustration you feel; just know that you can work through it. As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Stay up and keep grinding.
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Photo credit: Daniel