Thanks for taking my question Doc.
My question concerns whether to compete, and if so, how to compete, for a woman’s attention with another guy. As background, I’m 28 and have been without a relationship/or any meaningful dating activity for about two years. Besides a great relationship that lasted a couple years, I have never had much success in the dating department. That means I am nearly 29 years old, but with the dating skills of your average high school student (and this question practically shouts that from the rooftops). I know that I can make a relationship work once I get in such a position, but getting there for someone like me is tough.
I started taking German classes after work last week as part of my attempt to meet more people and hopefully find a date. Its a small class. There are 6 students, and we all sit along a table, four guys and two girls. There is an amazing girl (classic beautiful, and a huge brain and warm personality to boot) in the class, and two other guys are obviously interested in her along with me. Unfortunately, I am developing a severe case of “oneitis.” It is especially unfortunate, because from the way the seating is arranged, I don’t have the opportunity to work with her during partner exercises. The guy who gets to work with her is, admittedly, a much better catch than me. He is handsome, athletic, and has that reserved, detached cool of an ER surgeon. I, on the other hand, am more like a self-conscious golden retriever. I am friendly, but not at all cool, and sit squarely in the middle of the bell curve on most measures in life. I can barely focus on grammar and the like because I am too busy dying a little bit inside while she smiles her awesome smile and he tries to make her laugh with jokes about Paris Hilton. Doc, it kills me! I want to be in his shoes! I want a shot! If that dude wasn’t in class, I would already have introduced myself and asked for a drink. But now its tough, because making a move during class would be seriously weird, and after class, there will always be at least one guy vying for her attention while we walk to the parking lot.
At this point, I regret signing up for the class, because now I have 10 more weeks of watching another guy have a perfect opening with this amazing woman for whom I would happily poke out my eye with a sharp stick. I am not confident enough in the force of my personality or the awesomeness of my life to compete for her attention with this other guy, but I don’t think I could bear to watch if things kept moving forward between them without doing something, anything.
What should I do here?
First of all: good for you on getting out there and taking some classes. It’s a good way of making yourself a more interesting person while you’re trying to meet someone new.
Now having said that: slow your goddamn roll son. You’re locking yourself into a “what-if” death spiral. I’ve always said that nerds have the worst superpower in the world: they can perfectly map out all the horrible way that everything will go wrong and it freaks them out.
This is exactly what you’re doing. You’re imagining every possible worst-case scenario and reason why you can’t possibly do anything and you’re letting it intimidate you into not doing a damned thing. You need to quit war-gaming every scenario or thinking “if only I had X” or “if only there was a chance to do Y”; these are nothing more than self-limiting beliefs that slow you down and hold you back. The more time you’re wishing for something to happen is time you’re not spending making something happen. And if you’re not going to make your move, somebody else will.
Let’s run it down a little here.
Limiting Belief #1: Oneitis
By focusing like a laser on your in-class crush, you’re investing her with far too much importance and setting yourself up for failure. It’s one thing to think “hey, cute girl, probably awesome, I’d love to date her.”
It’s quite another when your attitude is “She’s God’s special angel and she’s made of light.”
Look, I’m sure she’s cute and has all sorts of amazing qualities, but she is just a woman, singular. There hasn’t been some sort of weird apocalypse and now she’s the last woman on Earth. She’s not your one chance at true love and if you miss out you’re doomed to be single for the rest of time. She’s a person. Same as you are. She puts her pants on one leg at a time.
She’s just the only one you’re spending your time on. There are hundreds, thousands even at the school where you’re taking classes. Tens of thousands or more in the town where you live. Millions in your state. If you ask her out and get shot down… well, that sucks and I’m sorry for you, but it won’t be the end of the world.
Limiting Belief #2: You’re Competing With Someone
The instant you start having a dick-measuring contest with someone over “who’s got a better chance”, you’ve lost. You’re spending precious time and mental energy trying to weigh your pros and cons versus his pros and cons… and you have no idea what his pros and cons really are.
You, my friend, are comparing your unedited raw footage to his highlight reel and you’re letting it psyche yourself out.
When you’re finding yourself in “competition” with other people, you’re psyching yourself out. You’re too busy looking for weaknesses in yourself to think about how awesome you are and how much you have to offer. You’re spending too much time trying to measure up against other people using a bullshit metric and not enough time building yourself up into an even more interesting and charming person.
You can’t look at other people as your competition. You can be inspired by them. You can envy them. But the only person you should be competing with is yourself, otherwise you’re going to be seeing every other person out there as a potential adversary instead of, say, a friend. Or even an ally.
There will always be people who are handsomer than you (general “you”, not you specifically, 2nd Place), funnier than you, richer than you, whatever-er than you… if you get together with this girl, are you going to spend your life looking over your shoulder for fear that someone better than you is going to come around and snatch her out from under you? Or are you going to live the best life you can and show her just how much value you have?
Limiting Belief #3: He Has A Better Chance Than You Do
You know next to nothing about this woman. You don’t know what she wants. You don’t know that this guy is her type. For all you know, she likes guys just like you – a little sheepish, maybe not the handsomest or cleverest but with a great heart. But it doesn’t matter whether that’s true or not because you’ve apparently decided it for her.
Right now: yes, he does have a better chance… because you’ve already surrendered. You’ve effectively conceded the game to him and you haven’t even gotten on the field yet.
The only way you can know for sure whether he has a better chance than you is if you get in there and make your play. She may still end up dating him… but she definitely won’t be dating you if you don’t actually make your move.
Limiting Belief #4: Wrong Time, Wrong Place
You say if it weren’t for this guy, you’d ask her out for a drink.
Well, why haven’t you already?
OK, so maybe it’d be weird in class. But after class… oh noes, more people want to talk to the pretty girl!
Guess what duder. There’s always going to be a reason why it’s not the “right time”… and the more you wait for the “right time” or the “right place”, the more chances you’re giving other people to ask her out before you do. If you don’t make your move, somebody else will.
OK, look I get that the guy’s intimidating. But unless he’s actively cockblocking you, the only thing really getting in your way is… well, you. You’re psyching yourself out again because you’re afraid of being rejected. And I understand. I really do. Rejection sucks. It hurts, literally. But that’s the price of entry when it comes to dating. You need to reach down into your core and say “You know what? Fuck this. I’m tired of being intimidated. I’m tired of being cowed. I am going to go ask her out and let the chips fall where they may.” Pull her aside with “Hey, can I talk to you for a moment?” and ask her out for that drink. Ask her after class, even with the looming “threat” of other guys vying for her attention. Ask her before class.
But you have to ask her.
There will never be a “right” moment, just the moment you make.
Limiting Belief #5: Your Life Isn’t Awesome Enough
Too many guys seem to think that they need to be perfect in order to get a girl. They need the Ryan Reynold’s washboard abs, Ryan Gosling’s dreamy eyes, George Clooney’s smoulder, Kanye’s swagger and Oscar Wilde’s wit in order to win a woman’s heart.
And if this were true, the human race would’ve gone extinct.
Look, just because you’re not in the top 1% of whatever doesn’t mean you aren’t “worthy” of a girl. Your life may not be where you want it to be – and if you’re living life right, there will always be more room to grow, more ambitions to achieve – but waiting until you’ve hit some arbitrary point is just another way of psyching yourself out and giving yourself excuses to avoid being rejected.
You’re taking this class because you want to improve yourself, right? Well, asking her out for a drink is part of the process of improving yourself. You can’t improve your skills without putting them to work.
You may not have a perfect life, but you should be able to look around and say “hey, good enough to give it a try right here, right now”. While you’re busy wishing you were at place Y, you may be missing the possibility that your crush would be very happy with you at place X in the meantime.
You may get rejected. Fine. It’ll suck and you’ll feel bad for a while. But that will fade – faster than you think – and you’ll realize that all it means you’re one person closer to finding the woman that’s right for you and one step further down the path at getting better at dating.
And that means that when you meet the next incredible woman – and there will be another woman, just as incredible – you’ll be even better prepared.