A major gripe I keep hearing is that online dates don’t turn up for face-to-face dates, as if the thrust of the flirty dirty chase is enough, the reality of actually meeting breaks the illusion. One aspect of ‘love and sex addiction’ is the romantic, trail of seduction, that is more important than the capture or physical orgasm. It’s a bit like Chinese Plate Spinning – will the plate fall? The tension keeping that plate spinning is like an immediate amyl high, or a diver about to jump, but another reason for not turning up on the doorstep has nothing to do with ‘love and sex addiction,’ but more to do with social phobia.
Social phobia is the hidden topic people are too shy to talk about. The tight-topped media image of the tweeting generation gay male can offer the impression that confidence is as big as our pecs, when in reality many have discovered never to grab a gym bunny by the love handles… it’s a no-go area. It’s easy to shrug off a few stone compared to a life time’s history of bullying, emotional editing and fear of rejection, but the stain remains. This is because many who go to the gym, first went to the gym to feel ‘good enough.’ They didn’t arrive with class A social skills or a diver’s waist like Olympic poster-boy Tom Daley; some were the fat shy gay at school, and the memory lingers. It’s a generalisation, but if truth be told, a mixture of body dysphoria coupled with shyness is rammed into the gym bag for quite a while until results materialise. In my own case I was very short in height, with bright ginger hair at school, so aside from the hidden desire to see cocks in the showers I always knew I wasn’t ‘one of the lads,’ the one that fitted in to the gang. Yup, a ginger homo was an easy target in my teenage years, oh and I stammered as well, plus a nervous squint to boot, so I used humour and a pretend thick skin in order to survive. No wonder I turned into a drunk. So you can imagine what it’s like if you act out or look like the contra-image of men in gay media. Having said that, even the handsomest of men stumble when it comes to social interaction.
Social anxiety or social phobia is not a one size fits all condition. It stretches from butterflies in the stomach to agoraphobia, with all manner of hesitations and emotional paralysis in between. It’s amazing how many people have negative unconscious thoughts like ‘It’s not safe to be seen,’ ‘I prefer to be backstage, invisible’ or ‘I am already imperfect, don’t judge me.’ With Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy, many escape from this trap, but sadly, often leave this condition for years without help, thinking ‘It’s just the way I am.’ It’s not, it’s a cover-up. Becoming a champion diver takes discipline and getting back into the water after a belly flop is the key in attaining a goal. When you naturally take to the water, granted it’s easier, but those who dive with hesitation just need to try harder and more often, and so it is with social phobic solutions. Susan Jeffers book ‘Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway’ published in 1987 still holds court as one of the best self help books for those with social anxiety. In her book she says ‘ You might already have been asking yourself, “Why should I put myself through all the discomfort that comes with taking risks? Why don’t I just go on living my life the way I’ve been living it? You may find my answer surprising. It is: Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying circumstances that come from a feeling of helplessness. She also adds wisely “the bigger your life, the smaller the fear.”
Expanding your life, means expanding social opportunities, so in reality ‘getting out more’ is usually the way forward, regardless of how you feel. Experience always develops with ACTION, not theory. Perfection in a craft, as Tom will tell you. It is not a given, it’s a hard task master, but ironically once you drop the idea of ‘imperfection’ the results deliver perfection, because progress, not expectation and projection is the ideal, and progression from helplessness is mastery in itself. When you consider how much effort and discipline is involved in maintaining fear, you are not far off in practice of a pattern that gets you into a space of feeling fearless. It just takes continued practice and a support system, so if social anxiety is your bag, share it and ask for help in solving it, which includes meeting more people, and turning up despite the worry, and remember, sometimes shyness is a virtue.
Next time you set yourself up for a date, then set yourself up as ‘not good enough,’ ignore the punishing voices in your head, – turn up and dive in. You never know, the likes of Mr Daley might be waiting for you. Not everyone wants a champion to love, one in a relationship is quite enough.
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