Feeling uncomfortable around others is one of the most common problems people have to contend with. The National Institute of Mental Health estimate that approximately 15 million American adults age 18 and over, or about 6.8 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have social anxiety. (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Social)
There is a subcategory of social anxiety sufferers who specifically have great difficulty communicating with members of the opposite sex. The greatest fear for such people is approaching members of the opposite sex, which is why this problem is often referred to as approach anxiety. Although women suffer from approach anxiety, it is much more common with men.
About two years ago I recruited male volunteers who complained of approach anxiety for a little study I wanted to conduct. I offered to help them eliminate the beliefs causing their approach anxiety so that I could identify what beliefs caused this problem. A requirement for participation was men who rated their fear of approaching women at least a 7 on a scale of 1-10.
Because most similar problems—like procrastination, fear of public speaking, social anxiety, and fear of rejection—were caused by fewer than twenty beliefs and conditionings, I assumed the same would be true for approach anxiety.
To my surprise I discovered a great variety of beliefs that contributed to this problem. There weren’t just a handful of them—there were dozens. Moreover, although every subject had some of the same beliefs, almost every one had several different beliefs.
I started the study
The age range of the participants was 20-38, with most in their 20s. (Had I included women in my study, I probably would have found additional and different beliefs.)
Here is how the subjects described their approach anxiety problem:
- Anxiety when talking to a woman
- Fear of being criticized or judged
- Fear of initiating a conversation with women they find attractive
I started by suggesting that all the subjects eliminate all the basic self-esteem beliefs on our Natural Confidence digital program. Although not all of the beliefs would be relevant to approach anxiety, most of them probably would be. I wanted to get those beliefs that underlie most common problems out of the way before looking for the specific beliefs that made these men afraid of approaching women.
Here is a list of the beliefs on the Natural Confidence program
- Mistakes and failure are bad.
- I’m not good enough.
- Change is difficult.
- I’m not important.
- What makes me good enough or important is having people think well of me.
- Nothing I do is good enough.
- I’m not capable.
- I’m not competent.
- I’m inadequate.
- If I make a mistake or fail I’ll be rejected.
- I’m a failure.
- I’m stupid.
- I’m not worthy.
- I’ll never get what I want.
- I’m powerless.
- People aren’t interested in what I have to say.
- What I have to say isn’t important.
- It’s dangerous to have people put their attention on me (something bad will happen).
- What makes me good enough or important is doing things perfectly.
Limiting Beliefs That Contribute to Approach Anxiety
Here’s the list of limiting beliefs related to approach anxiety that I discovered when I actually started talking to the subjects:
- I can’t do anything right.
- If a woman isn’t attracted to a man initially, she never will be.
- I’m a bother to people.
- I’m a dangerous person.
- I’m annoying.
- I’m a loser.
- I’m broken.
- I’m inferior.
- I’m not acceptable.
- I’m not attractive.
- I’m not interesting.
- I’m ugly.
- I’m unlovable/not lovable.
- I’m weird.
- It’s wrong to show sexual interest in a woman.
- It’s wrong to be attracted to women.
- It’s wrong to be turned on by women.
- My sexual desire is bad.
- People aren’t interested in me.
- Relationships are difficult.
- There’s something wrong with me.
- Women don’t want nice guys.
- Women don’t want to be bothered.
- Women don’t want to talk to guys.
- Women want more financial security than I could provide.
- Women want men who are assertive and get what they want.
- Women want attractive men.
- Women want interesting men.
- Women want men who are confident / flirtatious.
- Women want men who are witty / make them laugh.
- Women want men who treat them badly.
- Women want men with exciting lifestyles.
- Women want men with money and stability.
- Women want popular guys.
- Women want security/to be protected physically.
- Women want successful men.
What I noticed
I learned several things from my little study. First, approach anxiety is caused partly by negative self-esteem beliefs. Second, it also is caused by a few limiting relationship beliefs. Three, people with approach anxiety sometimes have a few negative beliefs regarding sex. And fourth, each man had slightly different beliefs about what women wanted that they were lacking. In other words, whatever qualities they thought they lacked, they assumed women required in a man. There probably could be scores of such qualities, many of which you can see in the above list.
There is a solution
Despite the large number of beliefs (and some conditionings) that can cause approach anxiety, the number that any given person with this problem has is about the same as people with other common problems. Thus it is possible to eliminate one’s approach anxiety relatively quickly and easily by eliminating all the beliefs and conditionings that cause it, just like you can eliminate a general fear of rejection, social anxiety, and a fear of speaking in public.
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Copyright © 2013 Morty Lefkoe