Ask the Love Lady

Guys don’t talk to me and I'm too shy to talk to them, help!

Q: Hi. I am a 14-year-old girl. I make friends easily, and I have a lot of friends. I am very pretty and I have a good body. My problem is that I have no self-confidence. I can’t talk to boys. I simply can’t do it. I get really nervous, and automatically think I look fat, or that something is wrong with me. No guys ever come and talk to me and I don’t get why? It’s not like I'm hideous or anything. I really don’t get it. Can you please help me become more confident with myself?

A: While you say you lack confidence it doesn’t seem that way when you can frankly make statements like “I am very pretty” or “I have a good body” and admittedly have no problems making or keeping friends. The self-doubt you mention having when you do talk to guys is less an indication of low self-esteem and more an indication of shyness. Being shy and lacking self-confidence don’t always go hand in hand. Some of the most confident and successful people in the world get tongue-tied when dealing with scenarios that they find intimidating. In your case, you are intimidated by interacting with members of the opposite sex and believe me when I tell you that you are not alone. In psychology this is known as a “social phobia” and there is only one way to beat it… you must confront your fears.

So how exactly does one go about overcoming such a fear? The first step in confronting a social phobia, or any phobia for that matter, is a process called “visualization.” During the “visualization” process you literally imagine yourself engaging in the behavior that you find so overwhelming. Go somewhere quiet and private where you can really focus and think about talking to boys. Start off simple, just imagine yourself initiating a conversation with a guy or picture a scenario where a boy approaches you. Next, imagine yourself successfully navigating the situation. That is, imagine your ideal out come, the way you would like such a situation to play out under ideal circumstances. Picture yourself being the very definition of grace and charm. Imagine that you are totally at ease dealing with the opposite sex and don’t forget to include lots of smiling and laughing in the fantasy. After all, it’s supposed to be fun to interact with boys!

The next step is called the “practice phase” and as the name implies, in this stage you literally practice what you have visualized. Practice on a safe person, a guy friend for instance, and do not psyche yourself out by thinking that it’s easy to talk to a friend but hard to talk to other guys. This is not true. If you can talk to a guy you consider nothing more than a friend then you can talk to any guy. If you don’t have a guy friend you can turn to for help start off by talking to boys that you know you have no romantic interest in. You can ease in to talking to boys you may like by first getting comfortable with talking to guys who are strangers in general.

Now you are ready for the final phase, the “confrontation” phase. This is not as hostile or scary as it may sound. In this phase you do whatever it is that you fear, in your case talk to a boy you may be interested in. One thing you should always remind yourself of when talking to a potential crush is that you don’t really know this person well enough to be losing anything by losing their interest. While a crush can feel very real it is not based on anything more than simple attraction. If you can relax about what may happen then you’ll be able to focus on the moment without fear. Talk to the boy just as you would talk to a friend. Don’t worry about putting on an act or trying to impress him. Just be yourself and you’ll do fine.

As to the second part of your concern, why guys don’t come up to you, this too has little to do with your self-confidence. People who are shy often unconsciously put up a protective barrier that others easily pick up on. In order to avoid the thing they most fear shy people often appear aloof and unapproachable to others. As ironic as it may seem the fact that you are physically attractive may only make things worse. If you appear unapproachable people won’t try to talk to you, but when you factor in your above average looks that inapproachability becomes intimidating. It’s a cliché I’m sure you’ve heard before that the prettiest girls often have the fewest dates and the explanation given for this is that boys are intimidated by the girl’s good looks. There is more than a grain of truth to this. But fear not, the solution is simple; all you have to do is take down the barrier and give off a more approachable vibe.

When you face your own social phobia you will automatically seem more approachable but there are some other things you can do to put others at ease about making the effort to talk to you first. First thing you can do is smile, smile lots and at everybody you meet. You can also open up your body language; don’t cross your arms in front of you or clasp your books over your chest, don’t keep your hands behind your back, keep your head up and make friendly eye contact with the people you want to talk to, laugh, when talking to somebody put them at ease by quickly placing your hand on their arm or by smiling as they talk to you. All of these things are cues that you enjoy talking to people and that you are open to meeting new people. Be at ease with yourself (and show it) and people will be at ease with you; it's really that simple!