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Ask Michael - Confidence is attractive
Ask Michael - Confidence is attractive
by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

Michael, this year I want to find a boyfriend but I am shy and nervous when I am out with other guys ... I don't like the way I look and don't go out to the bars very often. I spend a lot of time at home because I get so nervous.

Michael: Thank you for your email. This is something that impacts more people than you'd think. There are a couple of important components to this that I'd like you to think about.

First, when people talk about being, "shy" they are often describing behaviors (ie. not going to the bars, hard to talk to people etc.) that are the product of beliefs and fears they have created about situations. It is common for many, "shy" people to believe that they are boring, they will be rejected, others will think negatively about them, or they are not good enough. The idea that any of these beliefs will be confirmed by others creates a lot of fear and, therefore, people avoid situations, such as socializing, and label themselves as "shy". It is a difficult cycle and it creates a lot of unhappiness for people who experience this. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In your email, you have addressed an important part that too many men and women struggle with: not feeling attractive enough. I am always shocked at how many people I know who are physically very attractive yet don't see it themselves. They complain about not being able to meet people and wonder why they are so lonely. This reinforces their inaccurate beliefs about themselves and, unfortunately, their negative beliefs about themselves strengthen and they act in ways that limit their connection with others.

Conversely, in my travels, I have seen people who could be considered less attractive than the average person and, socially, they are surrounded by lots of people, dates, hook-ups, offers, or in a relationship. We've all seen a "gorgeous" man or woman with someone less attractive and have wondered how this could be. We secretly ask, "what does he/she see in that other person?" (You know we've all done this at one time or another.)

I've come to the conclusion that it is less about actual physical appearance than it seems. It is about confidence! Confidence is attractive and people exhibit their confidence in various, subtle ways. Confidence allows you to smile, talk more openly, extend yourself and meet people you are interested in meeting. It keeps the focus on positive things and not on negative beliefs. All of this will change those subtle, non-verbal ways in which we communicate. Approximately 85% of our communication is done non-verbally and only 15% is through talking.

Have you ever had (or heard of) the experience of living in a city and feeling "shy" and that you can't meet or date anyone. Yet, when you travel to another city, it seems that there is a lot of interest from others? I have, and I know many others who have as well. People argue, "fresh meat" but not so quick. Regardless of where they are, when someone is not feeling confident, they end up alone more times than not and this perpetuates the negative belief system they have about themselves and they continue to think and act as though they are "shy".

The only way to break the cycle of the self-fulfilling prophecy is to start acting confidently. Acting confidently comes from thinking and believing positive things about yourself. I would encourage you to begin to find out what you believe about yourself - positive and negative - and challenge those negative beliefs. Look for the evidence outside of yourself. Get feedback from friends and family: ask others if they experience you the way you experience yourself. Challenge yourself to act a little differently when you go out. I love the quote from the TV series, Dead Like Me where the young teenage actress (main character) says, "I excel at not giving a shit." One way to increase confidence is to be less concerned with what others think. The reality is, most are not thinking negatively about you at all. At first, it will feel a little awkward because you are thinking about being more confident and trying to act more confident, but as you do it and as you experience more and more success, you will think less about it and it will feel more natural.

It is probably true that you are a very nice person, have a lot to offer, and would make someone very happy as you date. Good luck. I wish you every success.

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net .

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