by Niall Doherty

Note from Niall: This is a guest post from Anthony Middleton of Man Vs Clock. Video interview above to supplement, full version here.

I have competed at a very high level in extremely pressured running competitions, inside stadiums with thousands of screaming spectators. As a young lad, I had to face cruel physical violence and confusing animosity from bullies on a day to day basis. I couldn’t sleep at night as a result of being painfully aware that the next day would be just another soul-destroying ‘Groundhog Day’ in a life of anxiety.

Last year I followed my dream, leaving everything and everyone I knew and booked a one-way ticket to the other side of the world with hardly any cash behind me (and almost lost it all).

Scary shit.

And not one of these events seemed to compare with the stifling fear of approaching a beautiful woman. (Although writing this soul-bearing article is quite close).

What could be so scary about a woman? The soft skin, the calming sympathetic nature and the inability to not talk during a movie?! Oh God, where do I even begin to answer that? Give me a street fight with Mike Tyson any day of the week! Well I can’t take it anymore – I’m going to discuss the elephant in the room and a taboo that still remains in society today.

A taboo that most women take for granted and a lot of men feel ashamed to admit – chatting up a girl who you fancy the pants off. I know some men have the natural ‘gift of the gab’ and have never had to worry about this. And if you’re one of these guys reading this – I loathe you and your perfection. Piss off back to your local Abercrombie & Fitch store and go and adopt a baby seal.

For us men who don’t have the natural confidence of James Dean, the looks of Mr. Beckham and the alluring charm of Casanova, the story usually goes something like this:

You see the girl and you find her absolutely gorgeous. You want to know more about her and what makes her tick. What else is underneath that pretty little shell of hers? You should probably go over and strike up a conversation with her. After all, you’re single and she looks friendly. Oh shit, she’s seen you looking at her. You hope she doesn’t think you’re a psycho – you just find her interesting.

Now she’s smiling at you and opening up her body language in a kind manner and quite possibly wants you to approach her. What an absolute bitch! Doesn’t she know what you’re going through?! Your breathing gets faster and that familiar feeling in the pit of your stomach hits you like a SWAT team breaking through the internal doors of your emotions.

The pattern repeats…and you do nothing. Now she’s getting up. Be still, my beating heart. Maybe she’s coming over to talk to you (yeah, right!) She leaves and takes your wounded pride with her. You kick yourself for yet again not even trying to get over your fear and it puts a negative spin on your day/week/life. You even think about it in bed at night and beat yourself up – just how long can you go on like this?

This pattern sadly repeats in many men’s lives all over the world. That sexy girl in the club. That pretty bookworm in the café. The smiley girl next to you on the train. Interest level at boiling point, action taken: zero.

What exactly is the problem? Are women that bad to approach? Not at all, however FYI some are just downright rude and nasty and can ruin a man in a spiteful sentence. (Contrary to popular belief, blokes have feelings, too).

But the problem isn’t the woman. The problem is with you (the man). The anxiety you feel about even talking to her is symbolic of your inner demons. You’re insecure and paralysed by the fear of rejection and it has a negative impact on your life.

How would I know? Because I was that guy for many years! I was petrified of women. My hand used to shake uncontrollably at even the thought of thinking about talking to the object of my desire. The trepidation completely took over my life and made me feel ostracised from society. I had a feeling of unworthiness when it came to the opposite sex and not only did I worry about rejection – I expected rejection!

Fast forward to many years later and people around me have said things like this:

— You’re SO natural around women!
— I wish I was as confident as you, I can’t believe you just went over to her like that – without being drunk too!
— I hate you. Just how do you seem to meet women everywhere you go?

I don’t consider myself the Don Juan DeMarco of our time and I certainly don’t claim to be one of them “pick-up artists” either. I thought ‘The Game” was a hilarious and entertaining read, but most of them types talk about manipulating and lying to women. I have never deceived a girl to get her into bed and I’ve always been faithful in a relationship. I don’t feel the need to shag every pretty girl I talk to; the sex is merely a by-product of two consenting adults who are having a good time.

What I have done is simple – but not easy. I have done something that most people living and breathing today make excuses why they can’t do it. I have simply gotten over a crippling fear. It was far from easy and I have had setbacks when I’ve been feeling low, but I will always feel empathy for a man who is struggling with meeting women.

I read Niall’s post Everything But The Girl the other week and I found myself nodding like a lunatic. I can totally relate to what he said and I feel the message was overlooked by several female commenters, which made me rather sad. I’m not sure if it’s worth trying to get women to see it from a man’s point of view, but I hope that the ladies reading this can at least try to open up their mind to how hard it is for a shy guy who just wants to act on his most basic desire after breathing and eating.

I know some girls are shy too, but the scales will always tip more in the balance of the female of the species. Men need to act and those who do not, feel like less of a man. I also know that some girls like to make the first move – but why limit your options? In the real world, people tend to wait for good things to come to them. And by waiting, they miss out. Usually, what you wish for doesn’t fall in your lap – you have to sometimes get uncomfortable.

If I was to die tomorrow, one part of my life I could honestly say I was incredibly happy with would be meeting women. Long-term girlfriends, one night stands, holiday flings, passionate romances, a kiss with a stranger, a fun conversation with an interesting and cool girl.

It’s not about macho chest-beating. I love the company of a good woman and the fact of the matter is I wouldn’t have shared these experiences with them if I hadn’t manned up and got over my biggest fear of my life.

The ironic thing is I will never be 100% safe from slipping back into my old ways, as we are all a work in progress. If I was to become available again on the single market and seen a girl who interested me, I wouldn’t think twice about starting a conversation with her. And to the observer watching, I may come across as a confident, self-assured man, but the truth is that inside will always be the shy guy who is scared shitless of rejection. It’s important to me that I make sure I keep him at bay, as it is paramount to my personal happiness.

And as long as you don’t compromise your personal integrity, what is more important than personal happiness?

Anthony decided to ‘put a time limit on fear’ in 2010. You can visit his Personal Growth and Travel blog Man Vs. Clock where he aims to inspire readers to recognise their sleeping giant within and kick fear in the balls. (May contain naughty words).

Another note from Niall: I recommend starting with this post on Anthony’s blog.