Approach Anxiety


Some of the worst feelings in my life have come when I have chosen to avoid something I wanted out of fear. Knowing that I logically wanted something and then didn’t go for it because I succumb to a bunch of emotional rationalizations that are 95% bullshit, is killer. It reminds me of the Jim Rohn quote, “We suffer one of two things. Either the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. You’ve got to choose discipline, versus regret, because discipline weighs ounces and regret weighs tons.”

As we all know, more often than not emotions steer the ship of our life and especially our day to day and moment to moment decisions..not logic. I feel like one of the biggest life challenges we all face is cultivating the ability to choose right action over fear. Fear can come in many forms, actual gut level pain, rationalizations, excuses, deflecting, blaming, comparison, etc. No matter what form it takes on, one of the greatest handcuffs we face, especially in the dating world, is overcoming that fear.

Sadly, the raw emotion of fear, is much much worse than the actual root of the fear. Actually approaching a woman is actually not as painful as the raw emotion of thinking about it. It’s strange how much your life changes when you learn to control this emotion and move more effortlessly through the world.

While the emotional feeling inside will never go away completely, you can condition your body and mind to be almost numb to it. Much like when you play baseball as a kid. It’s scary the first time you step in the batters box and have a kid throwing a ball at you. But after several years of playing, the fear melts away. Strangely, in the example of baseball, the fear should actually get worse being as the pitcher throws harder and harder as you get older. Even though you know this logically, your mind is numb to the fear.

What happens is that you develop a new habit. A habit of right action. If you always choose right action over emotion, you take the guess work out of it for your body and brain. Eventually your body and mind calm down and get on board through desensitization.

Guys come to me on bootcamp and think there must be something wrong with them because they have such bad approach anxiety. There is nothing wrong with you just because you have approach anxiety. If I took the best dating coach in the world who says he has zero approach anxiety and threw him in the batters box against a major league pitcher who throws 100mph, would he feel anxiety? Of course. If I took the most calm, cool, collected major league baseball player, who never gets nervous in the batters box, and took him a bar and forced him to approach a beautiful woman he didn’t know, would he feel anxiety? Of course.

You are feeling nervous for a whole host of reasons, which I will explore in great detail later in this article, but mainly it’s because you are doing something you have very few reference experiences for in a situation where you feel like you can’t make a mistake. In baseball, you get to start off on a tee, with noone watching. Once you have that down you can start hitting soft toss. If you mess that up, no big deal. Noone is watching and noone is judging you. Once you have that down, you can move to the pitching machine, then a real pitcher. You can do all of this in the off season with noone watching. By the time the season rolls around, you are ready.

In pickup you don’t get to slowly graduate up to the wold series. The first woman you approach feels essentially like it’s the world series. On bootcamp we almost always cure 85%-90% of a guys approach anxiety by the end of the weekend. The weekend forces the guys to get mass exposure like they’ve never experienced. Sure, you will always feel something when you approach, but you can make it manageable.

Develop the Habit of Right Action Over Emotion

If you really want your approach anxiety to go away it simply requires you develop a new habit. You must cultivate the habit of right action over emotion. Realize that everyone feels approach anxiety and those who feel the least, are the ones who have done the most approaches. These guys are not super human, they have just desensitized themselves to the pain through repetition and carry a mindset focused on long term gratification over short term gratification. They have faced that fear so many times, that it has lost its hold.

If you rode a roller coaster 500 times in a row, you would eventually lose the ability to get a rush from riding it. If you only ride that roller coaster one or twice a month, then you will surely feel the rush with the same intensity as you did the very first time you ever road it.

If you wanted to help a friend get over the fear of riding roller coasters would you have him read 300 books and spend 5 years on a psychologists couch or would you put his ass on a roller coaster again and again?

Just like any other habit you want to create in your life this is done through repetition. The fastest way to ensure that you have approach anxiety for the rest of your life is to only do one or two approaches every now and then.

My favorite self help guru Brian Tracy says, “Fortunately, the habit of courage can be learned just as any other habit is learned, through repetition. We need to constantly face and overcome our fears to build up the kind of courage that will enable us to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life unafraid.”

While there are infinite things we could be afraid of, at our core we are crippled with fear of rejection and fear of failure far beyond all else. The fear of rejection is the most damaging because it can literally be crippling. It is a cancer that can literally hold you in a self-imposed prison keeping you from taking the necessary action required to meet a specific goal.

Usually there are several factors in regards to approach anxiety that make this fear of rejection heightened. Some of them are unavoidable and in regards to those you need to man the fuck up. However, several factors are within your control. Remember, there are certain factors that predispose us to heightened levels of fear or anxiety. By removing those factors we reduce the level of anxiety to a manageable level. Remove the road blocks in your mind that are holding you back, especially early in the learning process.

Let’s look at a few that you can remove:

  1. Approaching In Front Of Old Friends:We all know that failure is unavoidable in any new endeavor and that the lion share of failure takes place at the beginning of learning something new. This means, that your fear of rejection is not completely unfounded. You will in fact get rejected quite a bit when you approach women, especially in the beginning. What can make this even worse is the fact that you are trying to learn this in front of old friends who have never seen you behave in this new way. You have a well-defined role within that circle and to get rejected in front of them could create a level of social pressure from them that you are not sure you are willing to accept. You don’t want the role in your group to change, you don’t want to be openly ridiculed by them, and you don’t want to be ridiculed behind your back.

Remedy: Knowing that you are trying something new and scary, the last thing you need is extra pressure from your friends. On the nights when you are going out to work on this stuff don’t go out with the guys who add to your stress. Go out with the one or two guys who you are most relaxed around and don’t feel like you would be judged. Once you are over your approach anxiety you can start chasing girls in front of those guys and it won’t be such a big deal.

When I was first learning this stuff, I couldn’t go out with my older brother and his friends because I couldn’t stand the thought of looking bad in front of them. As ridiculous as that frame of mind might be, by simply removing them on the nights I wanted to work on this stuff I was able to fight just one demon that night, my crippling approach anxiety. By going out with them and wrestling two demons at once, I was paralyzed into doing nothing. This was retarding my growth on a massive level. We all thrive when we deal with people who we feel understand us, respond well to us, and aren’t judging us. While this is less important in most situations, it’s very helpful when attempting something new and stressful.

  1. Approaching In A Local Venue: I’ve spent the last 2 years of my life studying every book I could get my hands on that had to do with the brain and how it works. One thing that I see consistently in the books I’ve read on neurobiology is the brain is a horrible multi tasker, especially in high stress situations. An area of our brain that this drastically affects is the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). Dr. Richard Restak says, “The MPFC springs into action whenever we direct our attention inward and think about ourselves or outward and think about others. As we interact with colleagues, compete with opponents, or watch our friends and family experience their own ups and downs, having insight into the feelings of others enables us to understand what they value, how they feel about us, to offer appropriate support or gain competitive advantage, and to predict their future behavior.”

The medial prefrontal cortex fires up not only when we actually experience an event, but also when we ‘think’ about experiencing an event. It also fires off when we think about putting our self in the shoes of another person looking back at us.

The more we are concerned with what the other person thinks about us, the more our MPFC will fire off, scanning to assess how they ‘might’ feel or what they ‘might’ be thinking. This means, that our attention gets scattered and fractionated like crazy in high stress situations. If you are scared of public speaking and you are speaking to a group of important clients your MPFC will be doing back flips trying to assess how they feel about you. You will osolate between: full attention on your speech –> What they are thinking about me? –> full attention on your speech –> What are they thinking about me? …Over and over etc.

Each time this happens, you are obviously pulled away from your speech and you lose focus. You become more and more self conscious every time you lose your place in your speech and the MPFC fires off more concentrated and much more often. Before you know it, you are so concerned with what the crowd is thinking that you can’t even talk. This is essentially like driving drunk. Your mind can’t keep up with all the inputs and it’s almost impossible to focus. You feel disoriented and anxious as a result.

This explains why you feel like you are naked on stage when you are in your local bar trying to approach. You are in a bar full of people you either know, kind of know, or have seen multiple times. Now all of a sudden you decide to approach either these groups of people or approach strangers in front of these people. The fear of rejection and failure kicks in and fires off your MPFC. Now you can’t stop thinking about what all these people in the bar who you kind of know are thinking about you.

“What if it goes wrong? I’ll never be able to show my face in here again. What if I use a line and she’s hear it before? She’ll tell everyone in here. What if I get blown out and she knows someone I know? My ex girlfriend is in here, what if she or one of her friends sees me get blown out? That asshole I knew in college is in here. If I get blown out in front of him, he’ll probably say something smart ass to me.”

Now your MPFC is scanning the room at lightning speed trying to assess the feelings of everyone in the room. You now feel like you have 50 video cameras on you and the thought of approaching feels about as scary as pulling your cock out on national TV.

Remedy: DON’T PRACTICE IN THESE PLACES!!!!!! It’s that simple. When I was learning this stuff and approach anxiety was my number one concern I would drive to cities 1 hour, 2 hours, sometimes even 4 hours away so I could practice in a place where I didn’t feel like I was on national television. Yes, you will still feel the pressure and your MPFC will still scan the room, but not wish such ferocity. You will be more apt to keep your composure and stay in the moment. You may still feel like you are on TV, but it will feel more like public access channel 13 at 3am, instead of HBO on Sunday night at 9pm.

Once you get comfortable with your approach anxiety in these places, you can slowly test the waters in the places that gave you the most pain. Eventually, your local bar won’t seem that daunting and you will have little or no trouble approaching a woman in these venues.

  1. I don’t know what to say:This is a pretty common, yet avoidable cause of approach anxiety. You might be thinking, “Any idiot can get the balls up to go over there and make a fool of himself. I don’t want to be like that. If I’m going to go over there I want to at least have something to say. What kind of fool goes up to a woman and says, hi, and then stands there like a moron?”

That’s actually a fair point. I know I felt the same way when I was learning this stuff. Sadly, this kind of thinking is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Thinking like this can cause more long term damage than you can imagine. What this causes is the death of action and the birth of a guy who reads for months and never actually approaches.

You begin to think that you should read and study pickup eBooks and memorize every possible routine and funny line. Then at some undetermined time in the future, you plan to start approaching.

What really happens is that you read an insane amount of information and NEVER digest any of it. Your mind never hardwires any of the concepts and you become a master of theory and you actually get worse with women instead of better.

Reading without practical application through real world experience causes you to develop major gaps in your learning. You become over stuffed with random knowledge. You need to start with small amounts of knowledge and digest those and really master them before moving on to the next piece. The act of actually approaching and interacting with women, bad or good interactions, will help you connect the dots between each piece of new information you acquire.

When you just read all the time or talk pickup all the time, you simply play a guessing game in your head. You read and assume. You build false constructs in your mind of what the author really means and you create some weird mutation of reality. When and if you ever do decide to take action your brain locks up and gives you massive approach anxiety because you have all this information in your head you have no idea what to do with it or what order it should go in. You are so nervous because you haven’t approached in a long time and when you finally do it goes either horribly bad or just ok. You feel guilty inside because you feel like you should be really good considering you know theory better than any dating coach on the planet and you wonder how it is possible with all that reading, you still can’t think of anything to say. This makes you feel anxiety and frustration so approaching the next girl makes you even more nervous, because each experience seems to validate that you are completely lost.

Remedy: As the quote goes, “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” Take one piece of information and go out and master it before moving on to the next. If you can’t open then there is no reason to be reading about the newest qualification technique or sexual framing. Your approach anxiety will go away in direct proportion to your amount of women you approach and your ability to master one step at a time.

Give up on the idea that you need to have the perfect thing to say before you approach a woman. While the lines and routines are extremely powerful, they are worthless in bulk. Pick one or two things to open with and one or two things to transition with. Stick with these 2 things for a while. Stick with them until your approach anxiety drops to a reasonable level and you feel like you have those down.

Change your mission. Take the 1,000 things there are to learn in game and learn them 1 at a time. Approach anxiety is the first one on that list. Advanced concepts mean nothing if your brain and body are engulfed with crippling anxiety. Give yourself a break and tackle this one thing first. Go out give yourself mini missions.

Also, realize that there is no reason why you can’t just walk up open, transition and then politely eject. The women won’t care and it will take tons of pressure off of you. You do not have to stand there like an idiot for an hour having awkward conversation. Yes, in time you will obviously need to stay longer, but for now you are just working on beating approach anxiety, right? As you become more and more relaxed with this process, you can begin to stay longer and longer.

The Recipe

To defeat your approach anxiety you need to expose yourself to gradual increasing doses of social pressure. The lowest form of this may simply be talking to a clothing store clerk and the opposite end of that spectrum might be smacking a girl on the ass. Between those two polarities you can expose yourself to gradual increases. Keep doing the same one until the anxiety it gives you is either manageable or non-existent. Once you hit that threshold, move on to the next thing on your list that gives you an increased dose of social pressure.

The more times you expose yourself to these situations, your brain will calm down and you will start to pick up conversational reference experiences. After numerous approaches over several weekends you will become bored just approaching and walking off. You might get nervous on the first few of each night, but most of them will feel like nothing.

Every time you approach and start a conversation, no matter how short or long, it’s like going to the gym for your brain. You will literally build conversational muscles. The first week you do this, you may run out of things to say after 5 seconds! However, as your mind calms down in these high-pressure situations, your brain will allow you more access to the creative side of your brain. It’s not about memorizing more lines, it’s about being calm in those situations so you can access what you already know. The more calm and the more internalized your openers and transitions become, the more material you can add if you like.

Please please trust me when I say that you will never memorize 300 routines and be able to go out into a bar and use them. Memorizing 300 routines is NOT a remedy for approach anxiety or a recipe to get laid. If anything, they will make things worse because your brain will feel clogged. You don’t need to memorize 300 lines to talk to an old friend, you just relax and talk to one another, right?

You will never completely eradicate your approach anxiety and that should not be your goal. Your goal should be to get it to a manageable level. The absolute ideal state is indifference. This is the feeling you have when you are talking to a friend or acquaintance. When you are talking to a friend or an acquaintance you are not to worried about what they are thinking and you have little or no concern about what the room is thinking. Putting yourself in these gradual-increasing levels of social pressure will help you reach indifference much faster.

Facing the harsh reality of “No, I’m not interested in you”: The fear of rejection can be a heavy feeling when you first start out. This one single factor is enough to keep most guys on the sidelines their entire lives. Because of this fear/pain they will be relegated to dating the women that come on to them or they will have to build a dynasty of a social circle and hope it creates enough gravity to draw women to them based on their lifestyle and social alliances.

Even if you are a guy who is lucky enough to have been extremely successful with women in your social circles, you will have to get used to hearing “no” in cold approach. You will hear “no” from beautiful women and from women you wouldn’t even consider dating anyway. This can be a mind trip, because you may be used to beautiful women in your old social circles being all over you or even nervous to talk to you. In the sloppy world of cold approach, it is not the least bit uncommon to have below average women look at you like you have a dick growing out of your forehead when you approach.

If you are not used to dating very many women or you are new to cold approach, then getting over the fear of rejection can feel daunting. Many guys take it personal. They assume that the woman sees some deep internal character flaw in them that must be true. They assume that if several women reject them, then most/all women must not like them.

If you are not careful this can create some deep seeded inner game issues that are hard to unwined. At the end of the day, it is successful reference experiences that breed confidence. You can only pump yourself up for so long and keep telling yourself that it will be ok or that “it’s not you, it’s them.” This is why it’s so crucial that, especially in the first 6 to 9 months, you write out clearly defined, measurable, and realistic goals. You can gain a ton of confidence by hitting small goal after small goal. These small goals, slowly give birth to bigger and bigger goals. While you may not be getting laid or getting the women you want for that time, you are still hitting those small goals and this is the path that will lead you to dating those women by giving you the positive reference experience you need to build durable confidence.


If you are new and you have MASSIVE approach anxiety..STOP MAKING YOUR GOAL TO GET LAID!!!!!!!! Ready for some real talk??? You are not likely to consistently get laid or get an extremely hot girlfriend through cold approach for several months or longer if you are at the stage where you still suffer from severe approach anxiety. So, stop beating yourself up with ridiculous goals and feeling bad when you don’t have some epic sexual conquest or get 5 phone numbers.

Step back and draw up a realistic 6 month game plan where you can have success. If you wanted to become a millionaire, would you get your feelings hurt and become deflated if you weren’t a millionaire tomorrow? 3 months from now? 6 months from now? Of course not. You would set up a game plan and a business strategy full of subsidiary goals all leading to the attainment of the big goal, a million dollars. Do the same with your dating life.

You can do this, just step up and make it happen!

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Alex Wise served over 5 years as relationship expert helping women from around the world figure out the men in their love lives from an honest, male perspective. Alex is one of the contributors and editors for dating website. He is passionate about thought leadership writing, and regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and online dating communities.