Editor’s note: This article comes from our forum, written by one of our very talented assistant coaches, Brian D. It was so good that I simply had no choice but to share it here. For the original post and replies, go here: http://www.thesocialforums.com/showthread.php?2382-Our-Perception-Our-Reality&p=18410#post18410
What is reality?
I spent the majority of college hooking up with girls whose names I never remembered, then latched onto a girlfriend whose daily existence and point of views pissed me off to the point where I once verbally assualted her for a half hour (come on’ she had $100 to her name and spent $50 of it on iTunes because she said it was the “mature thing to do”). Think about how messed up that is (both of our actions actually). I had so much social anxiety that I spent my days sleeping, working out, and getting so drunk that I wouldn’t remember if I got rejected. Then I wasted two years of my life with a girl who drove me crazy almost every night. I put up with all of this crap simply so I didn’t have to go out and subject myself to the humiliating fact that I had become an unmotivated coward who forgot how to say hi to a girl.
I blamed this on everything from becoming more mature than my peers (sounds like a crock of shit to me) to the absurd idea that I never fully fit in with the Long Island crowd at Binghamton University (note that it could have been any culture different to what I grew up around). What I’ve come to realize is that I made most of my friends in High School through sports. Once I lost my identity as an athlete, I lost the feeling of being accepted by people. I lost my self-esteem and began forming coping mechanisms that caused my views of others around me to be rather negative.
When I first grew tired of this lifestyle, I looked for ways to fix the most easily identifiable and repairable flaw in my personality. After a bit of soul searching, and learning about cognitive behavior therapy, I realized that it was my negative perception of my surroundings that needed to be changed before I could move any further. Reality is simply the way we perceive our surroundings and the events that occur within it. Change the way you perceive those surroundings; change the reality you live in. This is the heart and soul of improving any aspect of life.
Albert Ellis’ ABC model explains that our feelings are based on the beliefs we form to better understand why circumstances in the surrounding world play out the way the do. E.g. Below
Albert walks into a cafe & everyone he is friends with leaves the table
Belief Consequence: (feelings)
Nobody likes me, ” ” wants to sit with me, loneliness, left out, depressed
Its obvious that Albert feels sad only because he believes that everyone left the table because he was coming to sit with them. This may cause him to be hostile or closed off to these people later in the day, and affect his social life in the immediate or distant future. Its obvious that if we can change his perception of the underlying reason for the event, his feelings would change. If you can dispute your outlook about the reasons an event took place, you can gain a more positive view of the world. If you can change the way you perceive your surroundings, you may also be able to change the way you interact with others in it.
Ask yourself why you aren’t talking to more girls at a bar, asking more questions at work, raising your hand more in class, or making more comments during the ballgame with your friends. Is it because you are too concerned with protecting yourself from rejection, rather than making the most of a great situation? When we view our surroundings in a negative light, we become more worrisome of rejection and criticism and are less likely to approach strangers. With the wrong attitude about our surroundings, approach anxiety (the butterflies you get in your stomach) will handcuff your ability to socially interact with others, particularly strangers. Approach anxiety is the same feeling we used to get before we stepped up to home plate or took a big test. The only difference is that we can choose to avoid it in social settings by not approaching new people. That, of course, is the biggest problem of all. Since we avoid these situations, (basic coping mechanisms) we never get any better at handling them. We have literally conditioned ourselves to avoid the pain of rejection by isolating ourselves from strangers, thus limiting our ability to expand our circle of friends or lovers.
Lets take a look at a bar scene. Someone bumps into me as they walk by and we lock eyes as I proceed to give him the dreaded BALDO STARE (The look i’d give people when I was ready to kick ass). This is likely because I’m viewing the bar scene as an unwelcoming place where enemies are to be gained (girls are looking to reject and guys are looking to fight), rather than a place where friends are to be made. This puts me in a state of defensiveness where I seek to avoid pain rather than use the circumstances around me to attain maximum pleasure (fun) out of the night. People go out to bars to socialize, party, and meet new people. Girls go out to bars to meet guys and have fun. The majority of them aren’t there to reject you. In fact, most guys with their shit together are in higher demand then they can ever imagine. Its not a theory, its an indisputable fact. The only thing stopping us from meeting more women and making more friends is the way we choose to handle the anxiety we experience in these surroundings.
You’ll never fully rid yourself of approach anxiety (without it there’s no fun in chasing women). However, if you realize that girls are out to have fun and meet other cool people, you may just become more inclined to seek pleasure (start talking and hopefully go home with a girl, get a number, a make-out session, or just have a good time). So next time you’re in class think not about how everybody knows the answer to your question, but the fact that maybe nobody knows and you’re the only one with the balls to ask. When you’re at work don’t get pissed at your boss for giving you extra work, think about how good you must be at your job for him to trust you with something important (pending its not just busy work). When your watching the big game, ask questions. If you don’t know much about what’s going on, it will make people feel good about themselves as they show off their knowledge.
Finally and most IMPORTANTLY…when your out at a bar think about how everyone is just down to party and meet cool people, not because girls are waiting shut you down. Stop thinking so much about what you’re going to say… just say something. At the end of the day its less about what you say and more about having the balls to approach and say it. That hot girl who you think is texting her boyfriend is probably telling more girlfriends where she is and how to meet her, so man up! And if they do “reject you” (Ed note: “rejection” doesn’t really happen as a “negative” response says more about them than you), just smile, look in their eyes, and say, “It was wonderful meeting you, have a great night!” It will just make you look that much more comfortable in your own skin.