A 3-pronged guide to beating Approach Anxiety

Couple staring at each other on bench

For most guys that want to meet more women, Approach Anxiety is their first and biggest hurdle. Approach Anxiety is the overwhelming sensation of fear and impending danger that men often feel when they want to approach a woman.

In my own experience, when my AA was very bad, my heart would race, my body would tense up, and I would feel like I was standing on the edge of a cliff. As soon as I got close to the girl, my mind would sometimes convince itself that it didn’t want to approach– then as soon as I was far enough away, I would want to approach again!

I’m certainly not the first person to write about Approach Anxiety, but I’d like to explain my own (completely unproven) theories on what it is, and how to conquer it.

1. Approach Anxiety is an evolved survival mechanism

When AA kicks in, it can be absolutely overwhelming and it can completely override all logical thought. You can tell yourself, ‘just go over there, what’s the worst that can happen?’, but it makes no difference. Your body won’t move.

This is because Approach Anxiety is in part a survival mechanism coming from the most primitive part of your brain. All those symptoms – heart beating, adrenaline rush, muscles tensing – they are all ‘fight or flight’ responses. This probably comes from a time when our ancestors could have been killed by another male for approaching the wrong female.

The reason thinking logically or repeating mantras doesn’t work is that the process is not happening in the ‘higher reasoning’ part of your brain. That is why the only way to truly get over AA is to desensitise yourself to the fear in small increments. For example:

Exercise 1: Stand next to an attractive woman you like, walk away
Exercise 2: Stand next to an attractive women you like, ask a question, walk away
Exercise 3: Stand next to her, ask a question, make a follow up statement, walk away
Exercise 4: Stand next to her, ask a question, make a follow up statement, ask another question
Exercise 5: Stand next to an attractive woman you like, give her a compliment

I recommend Eric Disco’s book ‘She’s Six Steps Away’ to anyone looking to overcome AA. It breaks down the desensitisation steps for you and gives you advice on dealing with embarrassment, rejection etc.

2. Approach Anxiety is amplified by a general fear of talking to strangers

Approach Anxiety is related to general social anxiety. I found that on days where I ‘warmed up’ by talking to strangers that I wasn’t attracted to, my Approach Anxiety lessened.

This kind of social anxiety is totally normal. Most people do not make a habit of casually talking to complete strangers – at least not in London!

The solution is to talk to people wherever you go. Here’s a few exercises you can do:

Talk to people serving you in shop. Whenever I go into a shop, I ask the cashier how their day is going. They are happy to talk to you because they’re bored. This feels weird at first but after a while it becomes natural – I have some great laughs with people at checkouts now.

Practice ‘thinking out loud’. When you go into a shop, just say whatever you are thinking to the first person you see “woah, it is BUSY in here today”. Or say to the person next to you at the coffee shop “these cakes look amazing”. Just say what you’re thinking – you’d be surprised at how easily this turns into a conversation.

Talk to people on the tube/bus. This is a bit more advanced because nobody talks to strangers on the tube (except me). One way to do it is to just comment on unusual things that people are wearing or carrying, e.g “Is that a trumpet?” Another thing you can do is grab one of the free newspapers lying around, open it, read a couple of pages, then close it. As you’re closing it, turn to the person next to you and say “do you ever start reading the newspaper and just decide that it’s way too depressing?”

Sometimes it can be incredibly hard doing this stuff – you feel awkward, or the person you talk to suffers from shyness themselves. But just by saying something, you’ve won. As long as you’re going outside your comfort zone, it WILL get better. Eventually you will have balls of steel.

3. Approach Anxiety is amplified by shame you have about sex and pickup

Your Approach Anxiety is going to be worse if, deep down, you hold any of these beliefs:
• It is wrong to want sex or love
• It is wrong to talk to women you don’t know
• It is wrong to approach women with the intent of sleeping with or dating them
• It is wrong to approach women in daytime situations
• Other people around will judge you negatively for approaching her

You may hold some of these beliefs without even realising it, and they may be conflicting with other beliefs you hold e.g “I need to meet women”. This causes a kind of deep mental turmoil psychologists call ‘cognitive dissonance’.

You can figure out if you have any shame by looking at how much you hide these things from others. Are you afraid to talk about your sex life or sexual urges in front of others? If so, you probably have sexual shame on some level (that is what will make you ‘creepy’ around girls, by the way).

Do you hide your self-development and pickup activities from people around you? If so, you have shame related to those things too.

Here’s my advice for getting over your shame:

Go to therapy. Talking to a therapist will help you get over all those weird beliefs about sex that were ingrained in you by society and your parents.

Start telling people about your attempts to learn pickup. Why should it be a secret? You’re not doing anything wrong in wanting to improve your social skills and meet women you like.

When I first started working on my dating skills, it was this big secret. Over time, I told my friends, colleagues, my therapist, girls I was dating, and even my parents! Almost every time I told someone, their response was that they thought it cool. Getting it out there helped me accept what I was doing and I realised that my fear of being judged was unfounded.

The journey: What to Expect

Beating Approach Anxiety was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It took me nearly two years of regular approaching to get over the worst of it.

The journey was hard. There were times I would go out, feel like I was getting better, and have the same fear return the next day. Sometimes I even felt like my AA was getting worse.

But I kept pushing myself. Then one day, I realised I could approach without warming up. Suddenly I could approach on my lunch break or while I was making my way around the city. All you have to do is get to this point – then you can really start working on your conversation skills.

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