Short Guy Lacks Confidence

Q: I am a 20-year-old guy and have not dated for a while because I used to be smaller than most of my other friends and quite a few girls. I am now 5'9" but still do not have the confidence to ask women on a date. Almost every signature from the girls through high school contained "sweet, cute, and big-hearted." I find it hard to talk to girls also because I look more like a 16 year old than my actual age. What should I do?

Dr. Susan: This is partly about your lack of confidence and your terror of being turned down. As though that would confirm you worst feelings about yourself, when all it would mean is that THIS girl at THIS time isn't interested in THIS date. It wouldn't mean there's anything permanently wrong with YOU. All rejections hurt, and as a writer I've learned not to universalize when "bad" things happen. So that if someone (say, an editor) tells me no, I don't immediately assume it's about me. It's just as often about them: their mood, their insecurity, their immaturity, their outright inability to recognize a good thing when they're staring at it. I might suggest you read a book called Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman. It's terrific in explaining the ways we depress ourselves by thinking the worst of ourselves and giving too much credit to others. One negative reaction from someone else doesn't mean WE'RE no good forever and ever. Maybe their judgment is superficial -- which is often the case with young women!

Have you tried hanging out with girls with whom you have something in common and getting to know them as friends for a short while? That's a good idea before springing an invitation for a date. You need to have some sense of their interest before you lay yourself on the line too much. But you say you can't even talk with girls? Why? Because you think you look too young? Sounds like we're getting to a self-esteem issue here. I'm not much in the fashion area, but maybe you could find one of your girl pals to help you go shopping for clothing that is a bit more sophisticated so you look older. The right clothes can make a big difference, even if your face is still boyish.

And, by the way, being sweet, cute, and big-hearted is not a bad thing! If you check back into the archives of this column, you'll notice I answered another fellow who wondered how to get beyond this "nice" image so women would find him sexier or whatever. You might have to be patient until you can find women who are more appreciative of your good qualities, and meanwhile, check out your sense of humor and make sure it's not too little-boyish. I'm not saying it is -- but that's a turnoff, for sure. Right now, though, concentrate on getting up your nerve to TALK to girls. What's the worst that can happen? Some discomfort if they turn away or seem uninterested? Confidence means you believe in yourself enough so that such minor rejections don't blow you away.

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