You’re Letting Your Fear Run Your Life

Have you ever gone through a long dating dry spell?

It’s not like you suddenly became less confident or less attractive, you just sort of… stopped dating.

You let the online dating subscription lapse.

You didn’t go out looking for guys.

You just focused on what was right in front of you — your work, your friends, your travel, your hobbies and passions.

And you were good at it. And you enjoyed it. And it was easy.

But then you looked up and realized that a few YEARS had gone by since you had a boyfriend.

If this is a familiar scenario to you, it’s certainly no crime. However, by not taking any action in love, you’re not getting any closer to your goal of finding a happy, healthy, long-term relationship.

Just the other night I was coaching a special client on the phone. Laurie, 38, very much wants a husband and children, and has very little dating and relationship experience to show for her age.

By not taking any action in love, you’re not getting any closer to your goal of finding a happy, healthy, long-term relationship.

When we look at her life, it’s easy to see why:

She works hard all day, then comes home to watch TV or read.

That’s pretty much it.

When I ask her why she doesn’t have more of a social life, Laurie shrugs.

“I don’t know,” she tells me. “I just don’t. I guess I’m comfortable this way.”

Laurie’s 100% correct. She IS comfortable this way. And, as a result, she has had a total of no boyfriends in 38 years. The longer she goes without a relationship, the more comfortable she gets in her life. The more comfortable she gets, the greater her fear of busting out of her comfort zone.

She acknowledges that Mr. Right is not going to approach her in her office, nor is he going to knock on her bedroom door at night.

She acknowledges that if she wants to achieve her goal of finding connection, comfort, passion and family, she has to start meeting more men.

And yet she STILL chooses not to. Why? Fear.

Because Laurie has so little experience with men — and with women— she’s fearful that she’s not going to be “good” at being social.

This is a result of taking herself out of the game for years at a time.

So when Laurie looks at her life, which is spent mostly alone, the thought of being around others is positively intimidating.

I don’t blame her for a second. It may be intimidating. She’s not wrong for feeling what she’s feeling.

But make no mistake: she’s the architect of her own situation. Laurie put herself in a tower, and has wondered why no one is climbing up to join her.

Solitude is, objectively, a BAD strategy if you want to fall in love.

And while she may be a wonderful person, solitude is, objectively, a BAD strategy if you want to fall in love.

In fact, Laurie shared something very interesting with me the other night: she felt extremely comfortable going to the Apple Store because 3 different men in red shirts approached her to assist with her iPhone. She enjoyed this far more than she did when she went to a big social gathering at a local hotel bar, which was filled with 300 thirtysomething singles.

Her reasoning for preferring a customer service rep to hundreds of single men?

No one at the singles event came up to her to talk. Then again, she only gave the event 10 minutes before she left.

I shared with Laurie that she has it completely backwards. At a party where many people know each other, SHE has to be like the Apple Store EMPLOYEES.

People aren’t always going to invite her into their conversations when they already know each other. But they WILL be receptive if she comes up and warmly introduces herself.

Laurie has trouble believing this. She’s picturing some scenario where she says “hi” and everyone turns and walks away, or a fictional world in which mean guys insult you because you’re new. These are very old fears, probably bred in elementary school, based on clueless (and cruel) children. They just don’t apply anymore. And Laurie has to stop living her life as if they do.

Do you have fears of rejection? Do you worry about what people think? Does it scare you to think of putting your face online, or make conversation with a stranger at a party? If so, you’re human — and just like the rest of us.

The irony is that if Laurie is really comfortable and set in her ways, the only way for her to succeed is to start making herself MORE uncomfortable.

That’s right. Her comfort is CAUSING the problem and is the main reason she’s 38 with no dating experience. From this point forward, Laurie has to:

Flirt with men online.
Meet new girlfriends.
Get out of the house 2 or 3 nights a week.
Go on at least one date a week.

Is this jarring for someone who is content curling up with a book each night? You betcha.

But I predict that if Laurie goes through with my recommendations, she will soon see that most people are nice. Being social is kind of fun. Meeting men can be exciting. And it’s not worth all the internal turmoil she’s putting herself through. Her anxiety is purely in her head.

Listen, there’s nothing elementally wrong with being an introvert — but if that introversion means that you have literally NO opportunities to find love, SOMETHING has to change.

And if that change means stepping outside of your comfort zone, so be it.

I encourage you to challenge yourself today. Ask yourself what fears have been holding you back. What have you been avoiding doing? And how is that keeping you single and stuck?

Push through your fears and watch as they melt away forever.

Join our conversation (27 Comments).
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  1. 1

    I think Laurie should start in her comfort zone, and stay away from groups that she would definitely not fit into (we all have those, nothing wrong with that). Since she’s at work at lot, why not start by joining her coworkers for lunch and/or happy hour? Then, find a meetup or other special interest group for people with interests similar to hers. She reads? Why not join a book club? I’m not saying she’ll meet the man of her dreams at a book club – she’ll probably meet no men there, period – but it will help her come out of her shell and start socializing.

  2. 2

    Goldie #1

    You said exactly what I was going to say. Laurie needs to become more comfortable with people in general and then dating will come more easily for her. An event with 300 singles might be overwhelming for her. Smaller groups would be less intimidating to start with. It’s high time for this single woman of 38 to learn how to make friends, whether she has a boyfriend or not.

  3. 3
    Bree Talon

    Dear Evan,
    A few years ago  while experiencing the fun and the discomfort of dating, a good friend said to me, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It really stuck with me. An introvert by nature, it took a lot of work to put myself out there initially. Despite the anxiety and stress that social situations sometimes caused me, with practice I started to get better. Letting go of fear when it comes to people can sometimes seem more daunting than riding a motorcycle or skydiving (both of which I mastered to show myself I didn’t have to be afraid of anything), and maybe it would help her to know that even the most confident-seeming people often feel uncertain at times. Like you said,  it’s human to be unsure when we’re  putting ourselves out there.  
    Your client sounds pretty brave to me…she’s talking to you about this stuff, which means she wants to change. Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits and habits become character – or something like that…She sounds ready to make her thoughts into actions.
    She does seem to be lacking something that too many  people forget about – a gym membership, or if she has one  you didn’t mention that she was going to the gym at all. I think that’s an awesome way to start socializing. Join a gym and sign up for some classes. Chances are there are other  people  who would at least share her interest for the particular class, and  there’s nothing that instills a sense of comeraderie like  sweating and suffering. Not to mention all the benefits she’ll gain from looking and feeling good!
    All the best,

  4. 4

    A great place to start socializing is in a social setting that has a bit of structure vs. a free for all singles event. One of the very best ways to socialize, learn a skils that is buildable, meet kind and friendly people, and have endless opportunities to practice social kindnesses is at a social dance such as a swing dance or ballroom dance. This is how I personally made my friends and acquaintances. I’m originally from the south and have been living in New England for over a decade. I miss the manners and graces of the south, but mostly the kind attitudes and sociability and acceptance of the south. New England is a horse of another color. The people are distant, clannish, and not interested in making new friends. It’s enough to make a southern gal like me feel unwelcome. UNTIL… I started taking East Coast Swing dance lessons.

    Swing dancers are use to asking each and every person in the room to dance, they enjoy dancing with different folks, and the conversation is kept light and friendly. It’s something to look forward to each and every week and friendships can be made with the other women, too. Coming home after several hours of happy, high intensity dancing, receiving compliments, learning new steps, meeting someone new, enjoying the live band, the comraderie, and looking beautiful in my flirty skirt is soooo much sweeter than just coming home from work. Dancing people also know of other types of dancing events and discuss them and ask others if  they are interested in attending.

    If Laurie is interested in a social activity that will keep her fit, allow her to look pretty with a reason to dress up, provide opportunities for carpooling, building more skills, learning of other events, socializing with men and women, and all on a modest budget (oh, my goodness, almost forgot, dancers are not drinkers, they drink water and sports drinks so these events are alcohol free), she might enjoy social dancing. It’s a great place to meet quality people. Many have met their match through dancing. It has changed my life for the better!!

    1. 4.1

      I agree with you, Charmed. However since Laurie doesn’t get out much she should be aware that guys might try to dance too close or feel her up (maybe not possible with swing but with other styles)… just be careful and ready to protect yourself if necessary.

  5. 5

    Yeah, in addition to whatever dating site she’s on, she should really join Meetup, find about 10 groups that interest her, and go to at least 1 Meetup per week.

  6. 6

    It’s especially difficult to get out of the comfort zone when you already have the girlfriends and the kids.

  7. 7
    Karl R

    Charmed said:
    “One of the very best ways to socialize, learn a skils that is buildable, meet kind and friendly people, and have endless opportunities to practice social kindnesses is at a social dance such as a swing dance or ballroom dance.”

    And it’s guaranteed to get her out of her comfort zone.

    But even in a dancing crowd, you have to make an effort. At a major dance event, my fiancée complained that she wasn’t getting many dances. I pointed out that she was sitting three tables back from the dance floor. I told her that she’d get lots of dances if she was right next to the dance floor, particularly at the corners where most of the dancers were exiting the floor.

    Even among the dance crowd, you have to make some effort to be accessable. Make eye contact, smile, stand where the other dancers are, even if you don’t know any of  them….

    Charmed said:
    “almost forgot, dancers are not drinkers, they drink water and sports drinks so these events are alcohol free”

    That may be a regional difference.

    Serious dancers aren’t heavy drinkers. (It’s hard to dance well after a few drinks,) But most of the dancers I hang out with will have one alcoholic beverage while they’re out. Bars, clubs and dance halls like the dancers better if the dancers are buying drinks.

    Important recommendations if you are considering dancing:
    If you intend to get into dancing, the best way to find a good studio is to go out someplace where people are social dancing, pick a few of the best dancers, and find out where they recommend learning.

    Reputable studios will let you know their prices up front (for example, on their website). If it takes more than a phone call to get their prices, then they’re not reputable. If they try to lure you in with “the first class is free”, then they’re going to try to talk you into an overpriced contract.

    Find a class where you don’t have to bring your own partner, and where they expect you to rotate from partner to partner throughout class. Not only will you become a better dancer that way, you’ll meet more people.

    Find a studio where they encourage the students to stay and practice immediately after class. If you don’t practice, you’re wasting your money. Furthermore, during practice you’ll get more opportunities to socialize with the other students than you do during class.

  8. 8

    I would suggest Lauren might want to join a Meetup group that shares an interest/hobby she likes. They are a great way of meeting new people or just to branch out to others. I have and most of the people i find in my group are welcoming or friendly.

  9. 9

    I was shy and socially awkward. When I started a new high school, I reinvented myself. I made myself approach random people and start conversations. It was hard, but after a while became second nature.   Everyone at that school knew me and my name. That was a big ego boost for a prior outcast teen.
    Decades later after a failed marriage and feeling lonesome, I turned my socialization skillz back on. It was hard again at first, but soon I was going out a lot, dancing, singing karaoke and going to parties and other gatherings. It was all a good time and better than being alone.
    Once I met someone, I took her to some of my fave activities and realized what I wanted was to sit down someplace quiet with just her and talk. That was a real connection. I learned that my socialization was an amusing, but ultimately empty way to pass the time.
    After that lesson I am content to be alone or spend time with a few close friends. I still share a joke or observation with someone in the checkout line sometimes, but it isn’t satisfying.
    To the OP: Getting “out there” at first is hard and fun an good practice for developing socialization skills, but don’t put much stock in that and the fluffy friendships you might make. Keep your eye on the ball. Cotton candy is nice from time to time, but doesn’t compare to a three course meal plus chocolate torte for desert. 😉

  10. 10

    I agree that this is a common scenario. You are comfortable with life, and that makes it harder to take big leaps and make changes.
    But, that said, myhonestadvice is always that you get comfortable with yourself -first- before you start looking for Mr Right. Because if you look for him before you know you can be content on your own, you’re always going to hang on to men through a different fear – fear of being by yourself. And, in my experience, being on your own is far preferable to being with the wrong person.
    So either way fear is a bad thing we need to let go of – either staying in a rut through fear of change, or staying in a bad relationship through fear of lonliness.

  11. 11

    I was a bit shy and introverted with new people after my long marriage  and one thing I did that worked wonders to   make ME feel more open and social was to make eye contact, smile and even say hello to darn near everyone I encountered in my daily walk of life: men, women, children…

    That way I didn’t feel awkward as if I was targeting only men to get them  to notice me, I was just being friendly to everyone!

    It did open me up and people usually responded with a friendly smile back. I met some nice people just waiting in line on my daily beat. And even some cute men at bookstores and sporting good stores. Something that simple boosted my confidence at the time and made me a more open, friendly and approachable person.

  12. 12
    Kate Candy

    Laurie should get excited about her job.   She seems like she’s in a rut, but if she sets some job goals: promotion, professional development, mentoring, she will naturally come into contact with more people.   With her professional goals in mind, she will have to learn social strategies and see herself bounce back from rejection. Once she becomes more successful in an area that is already familiar, she can see if any of her professional relationships expand socially or romantically.

    I think socially dancing is great….for some people.   I’m interested in dance, have been told I’m a good “freestyler,” but I never felt comfortable in classes. For people like me who don’t have rhythm, may I suggest Zumba.   It’s a no-brainer and gets you energized and eager to stay out and about.

  13. 13

    Why not try speed dating? It provides plenty of opportunity to practice social skills and when you feel like you might not have handled a response the way you would have liked, you get to start over with a new guy just several minutes later and try again. Go into it with zero expectations other than practicing the art of small talk. It’s a structured event, so you don’t have to experience that feeling like you might get left standing in the middle of the room with no one to talk to. And you might just surprise yourself and connect with someone great in the process! Good luck, you can do it!! : )

  14. 14

    Speed dating is a good way to become comfortable with meeting people.   I hosted several speed dating events and I would say 50% of the people there were just testing the waters and trying to get in the groove of communicating with people outside of work.

  15. 15

    My thoughts are similar to myhonestanswer #10. Laurie needs to understand and recognize where her fear is coming from, learn how to work through her fear, and this will lead to feeling more comfortable and confident in her own skin before looking for Mr. Right. It’s inward first; outward second. This isn’t just about feeling comfortable in her zone, although that certainly doesn’t help her situation. Otherwise, all of her fear, anxiety and insecurity will bubble over and negatively affect a relationship or dating partner.
    She felt more comfortable in a one-on-one setting because she’s an introvert. A large crowd means that she has to extend herself and that creates fear and anxiety, doubt, and a general overall feeling of uncomfortableness. She might not like the feeling that by introducing herself, she’s directly bringing attention to herself which is something that an introvert often struggles with.
    She has to find, accept and love her authentic self without thought to others, so that she can receive what is meant to be hers. 🙂

  16. 16

    Why not rewire dating in her head like a work assignment? The profile is a report that you constantly tweak. Dates are work missions like interviews, the dating wardrobe/makeup/hair/outfits are assignments that you constantly practice and on and on. Have a little fun. I love the assignment of one date a week until you find a boyfriend. I have been on a lot of dates for 7 months and have found someone nice to go on a date next week.Fingers are crossed!! Sure, there have been a LOT that haven’t been right, and some downright bad. But I have learned a LOT about how to date in the process. I can get ready fast, carry on a great conversation about current events, have minimized the stresses in my life and put them in perspective and I have developed a great skill at spotting someone healthy. It is all good.

  17. 17

    One more thing. Although some might think that 38 and no dating experience is bad there is a lot to be thankful for – she has a whole clean slate and no drama! And she is young – she has a lot to offer the right person. I think she just has to go up in age a bit to someone who has also worked on their career but wants children. She does have a great career, no kids and no exhusband.

  18. 18

    Sometimes I like going to events alone because it forces me to join other conversations, actually listen and make an intelligent reply. Some of the most amazing conversations I have had at those gatherings have begun with “I don’t know anyone, but you’re wearing blue, and I like blue”. The guy in question opened up completely, he was warm, lovely friend and we had a great discussion about relationships travel and strangely enough mathematics.  

    I think its hard to get over that little voice in your head. Really hard putting yourself into a new area. Indeed its one of the reasons I love wine, it shuts up that little voice.

    The thing is though, those quiet guys are usually the nicest sweetest most loyal ones out there. Guys struggle with approaching girls, they don’t want to get rejected either.  

    One thing I have learnt about conversations though, is to find out what they’re interested in and talk about that. I actually met my current boyfriend by talking about soccer, tennis and music. He later told me he was instantly attracted to how easy it was to talk to me. :p

  19. 19

    Has Internet dating been ineffective for her? It’s wouldn’t necessarily be the most paradigm shifting thing because it cleanly circumvents a lot of these issues, but because it does, she might be able to find someone more compatible with her.

  20. 20
    Lisa M.

    I’m pretty much in the same rut.   The last date I went on was a disaster (almost a year ago) and the guy was a jerk and quess what he wasn’t good-looking and he was short. This was a guy I wouldn’t normally give the time of day to, but I was attempting to be more open and a little less picky than usual.   I still think about  this guy  and I cringe.  

    But anyway, I am a member of a wine meetup group but what I am finding is that the   men that  are members,  aren’t very…what’s the word?…manly, so I plan on joining a meetup that has more of the kind of men I prefer.   The only thing is that I just don’t know which group they  would belong to.  

    Stockbrokers group or something to do with liking cars, maybe. I don’t know.  

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