I’m an outgoing woman who makes friends really easily. I’m not shy around people and have an easy time talking to just about anyone.
But it’s the “just about anyone” that I wanted to ask you about. If I have absolutely no attraction to a guy or if I consider him “just a friend,” I have no problem with confidently talking with him. But the moment I am in the presence of a guy that I’m attracted to, I freak out and (literally) walk as quickly away from him as I can … or, if I can’t get away, I just stand there tongue-tied and can’t look him in the eye, feeling terribly nervous and wishing that I could bolt from the place!
It’s silly, I know, and I’m not quite sure why I do it, especially since I’m specifically known for being a confident person. I didn’t realize that I was doing that until recently when I paid attention to how I was responding to others.
My question is, how do I get over that fear of talking with him and be as comfortable and confident around him as I am with other people? I know that this has got to be one of those hindrances to finding a husband and getting married someday.
Remember that episode of the Brady Bunch where Jan had to give a speech at school? She was so nervous she just kept freezing up until her family members suggested she imagine the audience in their underwear. Apparently, the sight of her teachers in their T-shirts and boxer shorts was enough to put her at ease, and she gave the speech without a hitch. Remember that?
OK, now forget it. It won’t help you in this situation. But I do think it would be helpful if you could imagine that all the men you meet are your brothers. If they’re followers of Christ, they are. (And if they’re not, then they’re not marriage candidates, and you’ve already said you don’t have any trouble talking to them.)
First Timothy 5:1-2 says, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
To think of all single men this way will help not only you, but them. Consider for a minute the men you’re comfortable with. They see the best of your personality and sense that you feel at ease with them. You probably set them at ease in the process, and it’s likely more than one of these “just friends” men has interpreted the way you relate to him as a clue that you’d be up for something more. Ironically (and I suspect, to their frustration) it’s these men that you’re not interested in romantically.
If you treat all men the same — as brothers — it will be harder for those you don’t see as potential spouses to misinterpret your kindness as flirting. And this standard will also help you to be less nervous around the men to whom you are romantically attracted.
What will this look like? Regardless of whom you’re talking to, “in humility consider others better than yourself” (Philippians 2:3). Be kind (1 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 5:22, Titus 2:5). Consider early conversations a prime opportunity to ask questions about their faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 6:14).
On a practical level, you can remind yourself that men who are the most attractive (and the most likely to make your stomach flip somersaults) aren’t necessarily any more likely to make good husbands, and the “just friends” men aren’t any less likely. You might start by asking yourself whom in the “just friends” category might you be overlooking?
When Steve and I started dating, he worried that because he never felt nervous around me and was able to make conversation easily, some key romantic component must be missing. It was after he realized that feeling comfortable is a good thing and the lack of anxiety wasn’t bad that we moved forward toward marriage. (Contrary to the romantic comedy formula, the inability to talk in someone’s presence isn’t a prerequisite for romance, and a nervous stomach doesn’t mean you’ve met the one.)
Conversely, a knock-out guy who renders you speechless would need to be more than a pretty face to make a good mate. Give him the benefit of the doubt and stick around long to talk to him, even if you do botch the conversation. If he’s a man of character, that won’t be enough for him to rule you out.
If after all this you’re still unable to have a normal conversation with the cutest of guys, it may be more than butterflies. In her article “Whom Do You Fear?” Carolyn McCulley talks about the tendency to act differently around men you’re attracted to as a symptom of “fear of man.” If this is the root of your problem, shifting your focus to God will make all the difference. McCulley writes,
We don’t have to be slaves to the opinions of other, fallen creatures. We can be set free by seeking the approval and praise of God. This is what defines a godly woman: ‘Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious’ (1 Peter 3:3-4).
That gentle, quiet spirit is not limited to a certain personality type. … This passage echoes the wisdom of that Proverbs 29:25 verse: ‘The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.’ Some translations say whomever trusts in the LORD will be protected or exalted. The literal translation is ‘raised high’ — either to a protective place or to an exalted place.
The point is, a gentle and quiet spirit is one who trusts in the Lord.
If it is just butterflies, I suspect it will still take some self-control not to let the butterflies in your stomach propel you from the room, but you can do it. Even if your cheeks flush, stay put and force yourself to smile and ask a question or two. You can even practice these ahead of time so you don’t have the added stress of fumbling for words.
I suspect it will get easier, and in the process, you’ll hopefully realize that all men long for affirmation, respect, kindness, and friendship regardless of where they fall on the attraction spectrum.
Copyright 2009 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.