Photograph by Joana Meneses
So basically I go to an all-girls school which has deprived me from having any social interaction with boys for the past few years. Because of this sad fact, I find myself getting very nervous when encountering with other teenage boys (even when I know that there is nothing to be nervous about), almost like an automatic reaction which I can’t seem to get over. Do you have any tips on trying to get over this as I find it very embarrassing and irritating as it stops me from making friendships and brings down my self-confidence.
Firstly, a big thank you for getting in touch with us, we always love to hear from you and give advice (to the best of our ability!)
I am going to start by saying I can truly relate to this. Although I went to a co-ed school, I always felt awkward around boys. For me I think it is partly being an only child and partly because I was bullied a lot by boys in primary school. I am 29 and still often feel uncomfortable and nervous around boys and men and I would like to share how I have grown and what has helped me!
Firstly, the fallacy that boys are cool, calm, and collected is what made me very nervous and uncomfortable around them. I felt like a blithering idiot when trying to make conversation around boys, and they would often go straight to teasing as a first port of call, thus making me lose confidence in myself. A good thing to remember is that they are just as nervous as you. Probably more so. They get to seem “cool” and “nonchalant” because it’s more socially acceptable for them; but know that even though they may seem calm, they probably are freaking out a little bit too. Ultimately, remember that boys are just humans too–seriously, you can even tell yourself this as a reminder in your head when you’re talking to boys.
Sometimes with confidence, you have to fake it till you make it. As a teenager, and even now, I had extreme social anxiety. Whether I was invited to the movies, tennis, or just to hang with a group where boys were included, I would freak out for days in advance. A big part of me just didn’t want to go at all, but I forced myself to go despite my nerves. I acted confident to the best of my ability and was constantly reminding myself that I was worthy, intelligent, and fun to be around. People are so caught up in their own lives that they probably won’t even notice that you’re nervous. It may feel like the most obvious thing in the world to you, but the truth is, the other girls and guys are having the same internal conversations about whether they’re being weird or awkward or saying the right thing, so they aren’t noticing or thinking about whether you are! It may sound lame, but give yourself some affirmations such as “I am an awesome person and people enjoy my company”, “Whatever happens, I am worthy of love and respect,” or “These are just other people, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.”
I think one of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to focus on yourself. Do things you enjoy, work on hobbies that you like; grow and expand your own person. This will help with your confidence immensely. If you truly love yourself and are comfortable with who you are, you won’t worry about what boys think and you can truly let go and just enjoy the interaction for what it is. I know this is so much easier said than done, but start by working on something you are passionate about. Work on music, work on art, work on studying really hard for something you want and when you achieve your own goals, you will already feel like a worthy person and you will earn your very own respect. Also it’s good to note, even if you don’t achieve everything you would like, you are still worthy.
A few very small practical things to help in the short term:
– Exercise. If I am ever nervous, getting out that pent up energy really helps. Go for a jog, do some yoga, or have a little bedroom dance party!
– Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated will help you feel calm and in control.
– Breathe. When you are out with boys, remember to take deep breaths. It’ll help lower your heart rate and get your body out of fight or flight mode.
I hope this helps! Know that you are not alone and this is a very common feeling that many people have gone through.
Best of luck!