I once found my attention drawn to a young woman at a church I attended. We were acquainted, but I didn’t know her well. But from what I knew of her, I knew I wanted to get to know her more.
So, one Sunday I decided it was time I ask her out. I planned to do so after the service was over, but as I sat in my row, unsuccessfully trying to pay attention to the sermon, I felt overwhelmingly nervous at the thought of asking her out. My anxiety reached so great a level that I literally felt dizzy…while sitting down.
Some people can interact with a romantic interest as casually as they can eat a bowl of cereal, but others don’t find it so easy. Fear of intimacy (including romance, dating, and all that accompanies them) is recognized as one of the top human fears. This raises an important question. How can we overcome our fears of pursuing romance enough to actually find a future with a significant other?
1. Dig Up The Roots Of Deep Fears
Feeling nervous about revealing romantic interest is normal. The risk of being rejected by someone significant to you can give even a confident person a fast pulse. But some fears go much deeper than just simple nerves. Sometimes our experiences or beliefs cause us to have deeper fears of getting romantically involved with someone.
Take me for example. Some time before that Sunday, I came face to face with one of my own deeply rooted fears about romance. I used to be so skittish about romance it wasn’t funny. I was terrified at the thought of asking a woman on so much as a single date if I didn’t already feel strongly for her. Why? When I was a teenager, I got it deep into my head that to show romantic interest in a woman and later withdraw it without seriously pursuing her was “to lead her on” or “to play with her heart.” And if I led her on or played with her heart then I was a horrible person. I didn’t want to be a horrible person. It was my fear of being considered a horrible person that caused me to avoid pursuing any woman with whom I didn’t already think I would want to pursue a long-term relationship.
The crazy thing was I had no idea my behavior was driven by fear until I had the help of a counselor. The fear was subconscious, but its effects were real and present. By recognizing the root of the fear, I was finally able to challenge it. “Is it really wrong to pursue getting to know someone better when you don’t know if you’ll ultimately have a long-term relationship?” “Is it really treating a woman badly to explore the possibility of romance and be honest with her if you discover it’s not there?” I realized the answer was no. That truth released me from my fear.
You may have deeply-rooted fear of your own about romance or intimacy. It could come from all types of past experiences or mistaken beliefs. Take time to dig up the roots of those fears and challenge them against the light of truth. Since deeply rooted fears can be hard to recognize, invest in yourself by talking with a counselor if you suspect you have some significant fears to work through.
2. Ask Yourself, “What’s The Worst That Could Happen?”
Fears love to make you think they’re bigger than they really are. By taking a look at the man behind the curtain, it’s possible to see that the things we’re afraid of really aren’t as bad as we first thought.
Let’s imagine we go back and talk with me on that Sunday when I was terrified of asking the young woman out. Let’s ask me what the worst that could happen is.
So tell us, Justin, what’s the worst that could happen when you ask her out?
“Well, she could say no. She might not like me.”
Even if she does, what’s the worst that would do to you?
“Well, it would be disappointing. And it would be embarrassing. What if I look like an idiot?”
For having the courage to ask a girl out? For giving her the compliment of your attention? That doesn’t seem idiotic. And yeah, you’ll be disappointed if she says no, but what’s the worst that happens then?
“Um, I guess I’d have to accept her answer and go on with life.”
And will you get over the disappointment with enough time?
“Well, yeah, I guess so.”
And you’ll be able to ask some other young woman out in the future?
So it sounds like the worst that could happen really isn’t that bad.
“No, I guess not.”
So ask yourself… What’s the worst that could happen? When you work through the outcomes, you usually end up realizing that all the monstrous fears you imagined turn out just to be little mice casting big shadows. Find freedom in realizing there’s no reason to be terrified.
3. Just Do It
You can dig up the roots of your fears and use reason to tell yourself you shouldn’t be afraid, but one annoying little detail remains: You may still feel incredibly nervous or afraid. No matter how much you reason through the details, you’re still probably going to feel nervous about pursuing romance with someone. It’s at that point you have to JUST DO IT.
The old wisdom to face your fears head on isn’t a cliché. Every time you avoid doing something because of fear, you actually reinforce the fear. But when you push through the fear and accomplish the action, on the other side you discover that what you did is fine. You retrain your brain to realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. If you continue in this pattern long enough, things that were once terrifying won’t even worry you.
When I first started dating, it was somewhat nerve-racking. Now I feel comfortable with it. I still get nerves at times, but now it’s easy to push through them. So maybe you’re afraid to ask for a date or accept one. Maybe it’s more comfortable for you not to get involved. That doesn’t matter. Put one shaky step in front of the other, open your trembling jaw, and speak the stuttering words. Next time, it will be easier. JUST DO IT.
What other ways have you overcome fears in romance? Please share your tips with us in the comments below!
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