I Spent Two Decades Of My Life Stuck In Social Anxiety And Excessive Niceness & People Pleasing…
If you’re curious about my professional background and fancy-pants qualifications, you can go here to view that.
If you’re curious about my story, how I became intimately familiar with social anxiety and people-pleasing, and why I’ve dedicated my life to liberating myself and others then watch the video above.
If you’re curious about the long version, read on…
Two Life Changing Decisions
I didn’t start out in a cage, of course. As a little kid I was somewhat shy, but once I got comfortable, I was expressive, wild, and silly.
At the age of 11 I moved to a new school in a new city and was utterly terrified of being rejected and mocked for having a “strange” name and background. So I made a fundamental decision:
Do whatever it takes to fit in.
Overnight I changed the way I dressed, the way I talked, and even the music and hobbies I liked. Actually I didn’t stop liking things like comic books, Magic The Gathering and other “nerdy” interests. I just had to hide that from other kids so they wouldn’t make fun of me.
Over the next few years, I made another, even more damaging decision that set me up for decades of social anxiety and excessive people pleasing.
I noticed that other kids seemed to be more popular or desired than I was. Other kids started dating and no girls seemed to be interested in me. As a result, I decided:
There’s something fundamentally different or worse about me. I am less desirable and worthy than others.
Of course I didn’t actually say this out loud, or even to myself in my head. It just seemed like a natural conclusion about how things were, how I was. It all just seemed true, as do all our limiting conclusions and stories. That story became my reality—my identity—and I lived it out for an entire decade.
The Desperate Years
My entire teenage years and into my early twenties was characterized by two things: Quiet desperation and numbing.
Yes, that’s as exciting as it sounds.
I became firmly entrenched in my identity that I wasn’t good enough or desirable, and had 1,001 excuses why I couldn’t date and reasons why I couldn’t be socially free or connected.
Underneath these stories, however, was just fear and lots of pain. I wanted to connect, to fit in, and love and be loved… But I truly believed there was something wrong with me that made that permanently impossible.
So I did the next best thing. I numbed myself with a basically continuous stream of distractions and drugs. I played hours of video games daily, smoked cannabis regularly, and drank heavily on the weekends. I further numbed myself on a daily basis with rich foods and internet porn.
On the outside you would not have seen my suffering. I did a fairly good job of hiding it behind a stoic wall of not sharing anything about my inner world and a practiced habit of being sarcastic and comically critical of others and the world around me.
Inside was another story. I was desperate, discouraged, resentful, disconnected, and hopeless. I struggled with intense chronic pain, which further disintegrated my sense of optimism, faith, and joy in life. I’m not going to lie, this era of my life got pretty dark. Thank God for Futurama to get me through it.
Occasionally, my desperation would throw me into, well, desperate action and I’d occasionally try to do something to free myself. Once in a blue moon I’d even ask a woman out on a date.
And wouldn’t you know it, despite my wretched unlovability, sometimes they’d say yes!
But (insert sad trombone sound here), they’d always end up not wanting to go on a second date. Thus further shattering my oh so fragile self-esteem.
(I didn’t know it at the time, but beneath my social anxiety I had a layer of niceness and approval-seeking that was so thick it repelled any sort of real romantic attraction.)
After one particularly dismal failed first date, I shuffled home to my apartment to play five hours of Warcraft 3. Because, what else are you gonna do when you’re a loser man?
That night turned out to be quite different though. Not because anything “out there” changed, but because something inside of me changed forever.
Just as I was loading the video game, I heard my roommate and his girlfriend in the room next door talking and laughing, obviously connected and in love. I’d heard this many times before and felt a mixture of resentful self-pity and inadequacy. But tonight was different. Instead of feeling hopeless and helpless, I felt…disturbed.
I imagined another ten years like this. Another twenty. My entire life. Alone. Disconnected. Hurting. And it was all too much. Something snapped inside of me (in the best possible way) and I decided something life-changing:
Enough of this.
Enough. Of. THIS!
I can do better than this.
I am better than this!
I may be an unlovable loser (because I still believed my stories were true at this point), but I’m not going down without a fight!
I closed the loading screen and began to search the internet for solutions. This decision set me on a path that has been going for over twenty years now. A path of deep study of personal and professional growth and spiritual liberation.
The Pickup Artist Days (Sort Of)
When a lonely single dude looks on the internet for solutions on how to date he finds… dating advice!
Well now at least.
Back in the day he would find guys who dubbed themselves “pickup-artists” who were all about meeting and seducing lots and lots of women.
Mystery. The Game.
Yep, I learned from that guy.
As a young man who was starved of any real connection with women and who believed he was fundamentally unlovable, these pickup artists were speaking my language.
Imagine the power! If I could walk up to any woman, anywhere and make her want me. I’d be like… like… some sort of super manly demi-god!
So I went down that rabbit hole for several years, studying tons and tons of material on how to meet and date women.
Some of the material was sketchy and manipulative, and some of it was just basic confidence building advice, such as “if you’re scared to talk to women then get out there and talk to women.”
I’m not going to get super granular here about this stage of development. But it certainly had its utterly terrifying, utterly embarrassing, and totally liberating and euphoric moments. It was a profound season of discovery and breakthroughs.
Essentially, I discovered how to access my boldness (which was good). Unfortunately, I also further entrenched an idea that there was something wrong with me, and I couldn’t actually just approach women as myself.
During this era I learned 3 big things:
I can do things that scare me (aka fear doesn’t have to stop me).
In life, boldness is rewarded (I had many positive experiences in dating because I was willing to be bold and go for it).
I can “get” women, but I have to follow specific “mechanics of attraction” in order to do it (aka, don’t just “be yourself” who loser, that will never work).
Destroyed By Niceness
When you are facing a major problem in life, it’s oh so convincing to believe that if you could just solve that problem, all your problems would be gone forever and life would be easy and grand.
Of course, just past the problem you’re facing now is another problem. And guess what’s behind that problem?
I thought all I needed to do was have the confidence to approach women and get dates. Of course as I started learning this form of confidence I became fascinated and obsessed with learning about all forms of confidence from connecting, to making friends, to public speaking.
But it turns out doing what scared me and approaching people for friendship or romance didn’t solve all my problems.
In fact, once I got closer to others, especially romantically, I became an anxious weirdo. I’d be super into her, then one week later break up. I struggled to make deep friendships and kept most people at a distance.
Essentially, I’d gotten pretty good at creating a “confidence front” or persona. But underneath that front I was still riddled with insecurity and chronic feelings of inferiority.
Enter Elliot Geller, the man who transformed my life.
Elliot lead a men’s group that I participated in for over two years. After meeting me for the first time, he handed me a book called “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Robert Glover. I had never even heard of the concept of a “nice guy” but as soon as I opened that book I saw myself on every page.
This is why I wasn’t able to actually have a relationship or deep friendships. It wasn’t because I was broken inside! It was because I had no boundaries, couldn’t ask for what I wanted, and was utterly terrified of anyone ever being upset with me for any reason.
I then began another era of practice—years of conditioning myself to be less nice, more direct, and more real. Part of this practice lead me to a personal growth workshop focused on honesty and authentic communication, which turned out to change my life in ways I couldn’t even have imagined.
The Best (And Hottest) Teacher
I attend my first workshop one overcast Autumn morning in Oregon. I was there because I was still so stuck in my nice-guy ways and having a hard time sorting out how to actually be real with people.
I would feel so guilty and confused, constantly second guessing myself and wondering if I was being a bad, selfish person for speaking up more. I attended this course to build my skills of being more self-aware and skillfully expressive.
While at this course, I noticed several things.
- There were lots of people who were way bolder and more skillful at being honest than I was. I had a lot to learn.
- It appeared that being honest also coincided with wearing patchouli, dancing to hippie music, and cuddle puddles.
- I had a crush on the teacher.
I kept my distance for a while however. One because she was married, so that was awkward. And two I was there to grow, not make a mess of things by pursuing some married woman at one of these honesty workshops.
But life has a funny way of gently moving aside obstacles when the calling is strong enough.
One day after the workshop, many of the participants went into the sauna on the premises (naked of course). As the night wore on, people left the sauna one by one. I stayed. Not because I wanted to get more heat, I was already kind of dizzy. But because the teacher was in there and I wanted to be alone with her.
Once the last person had filtered out, I began a conversation with her. She seemed so…powerful. She was direct yet skillful and kind. She said what was so with such a simplicity that it pierced through people’s defenses. Plus she was sexy too.
I told her that I wanted to learn more and get better at this, and asked what the best way to do that was.
“I find that if people just spend more time around me, they naturally get better at being honest and real” she said, casually.
I don’t think either of us realized just how much time we’d be spending together…
I could go on and on with all the chapters in the middle of the story.
How my quest started with a hunger for connection and love, and became an all-encompassing obsession and life purpose focused on liberating myself and others.
How when you have the courage to step up, claim more, and go after what you want you can shatter any story and create a life that is truly extraordinary.
How one bold action opens the door to countless blessings that you could not have even foreseen…
…but I’ll save it for another time. Perhaps you’ll join me for a live event or even my mastermind group program and I’ll share more of my exploits, tales of woe, and victories.
Flash forward to now, I have been helping people liberate themselves from social anxiety, self-doubt, and excessive niceness for the last two decades.
I’ve written five bestselling books, appeared on over 50 of interviews, and shared hundreds of hours of liberating content for free on my YouTube Channel and Podcast.
Along the way...
I realized that my hunger to liberate myself wasn’t just about getting a girlfriend or a good job.
It’s a voracious spiritual hunger to move towards all things that scare me, to peak beyond the veil and see what’s there.
To be an adventurous explorer, probing the edge of possibility.
To live an adventurous life of faith and spirit.
I hunger to go beyond the stories, beyond the doubts, beyond the fears. I hunger to go beyond beyond.
And to guide as many others as who would like to join me on a quest into the unknown, into an extraordinary life of confidence, love, and freedom.
I hope this story has touched you in some way, inspired you, challenged you, or otherwise agitated you into claiming more, taking control of your destiny, and fully living this life.
I’d love to hear more of your story and see if there’s any way I can support you in becoming the most bold, free, authentic version of you. Click here to send me a message!
Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the PGSP-Stanford PsyD Consortium
Postdoctoral Residency at The Student Health & Counseling Center of Portland State University
Bachelor of Art in Psychology from the University of California at Santa Barbara
Professional Training Experience
Master Neuro-Strategist Certification Training with Steve Linder
Mastery University, Date With Destiny, & Business Mastery with Anthony Robbins
Certified Big Money Business Coach with Christian Mickelsen
Instant Miracle (TM) Healing Technique Certified Practitioner with Christian Mickelsen
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Training with David Burns MD and Matthew May MD
Graduate and assistant of Solsara trainings in Portland, Oregon
Practicum at the Shyness Clinic in Palo Alto, California
Practicum at the Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Project, Menlo Park, California