I was reflecting back on the past few years and how my avoider tendencies and issues with avoidant personality disorder still crop up from time to time.
But the difference is that now I’m aware of them I can usually push through them. There are things I was EXTREMELY uncomfortable with that I’m now very open to — the biggest thing being having a monogamous girlfriend.
See, avoiders are afraid of real connection and love, where two people know who the other is.
It’s scary to be seen!
It’s easier to hide behind a casual string of one-night-stands, not-sure-what-to-call-us-what-are-we? type relationships. Relationships where we might have feelings but kind of not, but maybe we do, and all that.
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I wrote the book How to Overcome Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) and the Avoider Mentality based on the same system in Mastery of the Mind.
But after talking to a LWOT reader, I started thinking about the journey to getting over AvPD and the avoider mentality not just in terms of the mental wastes you need to get over (fear, worrying, negative self-talk,…) and the tools you can use to fight them, but also the concrete steps you need to take.
While everyone will have slightly different strengths and weaknesses and some people will be able to skip certain steps… there will always be a similar pattern.
Here are the concrete steps you should get moving on to overcome AvPD and the avoider mentality. I explain what I did (and why) and how you can do it too, or what your timeline might look like as your beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and actions change:
1. Stop trying to bury yourself in casual encounters and one-night-stands.
Before I thought all I wanted was lots of casual sex and one-night-stands.
Sure that stuff can be fun, but you have to treat it as it is — just for fun with another consenting adult who understands that it’s the same.
Many people go into clubs or try to aggressively date and fuck to feel validated and get a thin veil of intimacy, when in reality all they’re doing is covering up an emotional void or some hurt.
What happens is that there’s a disconnect when the person who’s treating it for fun says, “Hey, that was awesome and fun, nice meeting ya!”, but the other person expected something more.
This is going to make things worse. You should not be out looking for casual sex if:
- You can’t see casual sex just being what it is and aren’t OK with it leading anywhere else (it might, but chances are that it won’t)
- You have problems with people leaving you or running off, and you always feel hurt (abandonment issues).
- You feel shitty if you aren’t off fucking X amount of people (you base the validation you feel and your self-worth on sex and number of partners).
2. Hold off on dating for a while to work on yourself.
You might think this is partially avoidant, and you’d be right.
When I did this I went through a plan described in the forum dedicated to the book No More Mr. Nice Guy, which included a WHOLE bunch of book reading, exercises, and no dating for something like 6-9 months.
It ended up being really helpful for me as a person and fixing stuff going on inside. But, it was also just a creative way of avoiding women in general saying, “When I get these tools, I’ll be ready and better.”
When I realized this a year later, my friends all said, “We were telling you that all along, but you didn’t listen.” Sometimes you have to learn things for yourself.
If you don’t like or love yourself, you’ve got to get that right FIRST before trying to date or get into relationships…
Someone or someTHING isn’t going to magically make you like yourself or give you the acceptance you need.
They can help, but they can’t give you 100%, and looking for that in them will drive them away.
In fact, that’s why many people complain about the other person being excessively “needy” — constantly checking in to see that things are OK and that they’re being good.
You need to like yourself, be happy with your life, and be confident FIRST before dating.
Dating’s not going to magically fix you.
3. If you want to overcome avoidant personality disorder and the avoider mentality, you need to face the issues that are troubling you in therapy.
I initially went to therapy because some dating book said that I should. But a lot of stuff operating in the background that was emotionally affecting me came up. These were things like:
- Problems with emotional incest with my Mom (her treating me as a surrogate husband).
- Not feeling accepted by my Dad / always looking for validation from him.
- Being bullied in all of elementary school years growing up.
- Looking externally for acceptance and validation vs. internally.
- Not really being comfortable with women/a lack of experience with them.
- Having general anxiety and depression
Working through and talking out lots of this cleared my mind up. I still get held back at times, but I realize that in now being an adult, this stuff really doesn’t have to hold me back.
I’m not the same person I was back then, and therapy can do the same for you.
When going into therapy don’t be afraid to try a bunch of different therapists. The degree to how much therapy works is proportional to how much YOU are willing to work and how well you work with your therapist.
I suggest you stick with someone who’s the same sex as you, just so you don’t get self-conscious talking about deeper things. For example, a guy who has issues with women and getting validation from them is going to unconsciously filter himself in front of a female therapist to make her like him a bit more, especially if she asks about his dating life and views on women. He can’t help it.
Also, you should expect that things will get WORSE before they get better. Therapy brings up deep seated emotional problems from your sub-conscious, and you’ll be a bit emotional right after a session, and as you pursue therapy. Plan accordingly, e.g., no big/important meetings right after.
If you have stuff you’re holding in, it’ll come out in your relationships unless you sort it out before.
4. Confront the issues you have with your parents and learn to accept them as they are.
You form relationships with men and women starting from what you learned with your Mom and Dad.
As a guy, that means if you wanted Dad’s approval, you’ll want all of your guy friends’ approvals. If Mom always expected you to take care of her needs and you had to be there, you’ll learn that you need to sacrifice EVERYTHING in order for you to get intimacy with your girlfriends.
As a girl, if Dad got pissed anytime you didn’t do something 100% right, and Mom expected you to be perfect, then you’ll see the effects as well.
You need to work out these issues with a therapist, and also potentially talk to your parents about them.
Especially being an adult, you need to stand on your own and fix the patterns. Or, learn how to accept them but act against them.
As much as you can work on things, sometimes things can only improve by a certain amount. There’s only so much you can do.
For example with my Mom, I learned that I had a huge population bias and didn’t even see it. I assumed that all women acted the way she acts (communication through venting), which is, of course, super wrong.
You’ve got your own unconscious patterns playing out with both sexes and fixing the relationships with your parents is one of the main ways to get on top of them.
And also: Having reasonably healthy relationships with your parents is just a good thing to have in general, it can’t hurt.
You’ve only got one Mom and Dad.
5. Start meditating and don’t stop.
Meditation has so many benefits that it’s stupid not to do it.
Not only does it increase brain matter, but it helps with connecting and relationships, empathy, reduces anxiety and stress, and you get better sleep from doing it.
Getting into meditation helped me understand and deal with my emotions.
The #1 thing meditation helps with is the understanding that what you THINK is going on, and the stories you tell yourself, can be completely different and separate from the actual events.
It helps you become an outside observer to what’s happening. You don’t get as wrapped up in what you think is going on, and you learn to just take things as they come.
You’re able to be more objective and not react based on instinct or past patterns.
Is the girl being needy, intrusive, and weird? Or, is it normal for a person to want to be close and intimate, and it’s awesome to have someone like that for you?
Is the guy being distant and not giving you enough affection? Or, have you not made it clear that you’d like a deeper relationship?
I recommend you learn how to meditate by going on Vipassana meditation retreats (they’re free).
6. Find friends who are supportive and willing to listen to you. Open up to them FIRST before dating.
One of the most common questions I get when it comes to AvPD and the avoider mentality is what I think helps the most.
Personally, I think that it’s your friends.
If you don’t have a good support group of friends, and people you enjoy hanging out with, fix that FIRST.
In my opinion friends are more important than anything. Your family is amazing, but you can still be held down by past stories with them. And
With friends you aren’t held back by that. They can be the things that pull you to greatness, or drag you into the abyss, so choose wisely.
“You are the average of the five people you surround yourself most with.”
You should be looking for friends you can joke around and enjoy life with, but also those that can help you in the hard times and discuss troubling/emotional situations.
Guys, if your friends think talking about emotions or their problems is lame or that “You’re being a pussy,” they’ve probably got tons of stuff repressed deep down and you need to get new friends. Period.
If you try to get all your social needs met with your partner, they’ll feel crowded and like you’re being needy. There’s nothing wrong with spending time with your partner, but you can’t spend 100% of your time with them. You both need to have your own lives.
7. Get back into dating and find healthy people that build you up (even if you’re not “100% ready”).
Unfortunately as an avoider, you’ll always make excuses to not be ready for dating … speaking from experience *ahem*.
While I firmly believe that it’s essential to like yourself, have good friends, and be happy with your life FIRST, these are things you’re always going to be working on, which is why you need some sort of time limit on the “no dating” thing.
This is best done through accountability: telling someone that you’re going to start again and approach people, with a penalty of paying them money if you don’t.
For me as I slowly got back into dating, I in a way forced myself to commit to someone and have a girlfriend.
At first, I was still dealing with a lot of avoider stuff which led to figuring out these things to help people. But then, I had more relationships including one that was extremely healing with a girl who was very supportive and understanding.
With each “try” or “failure,” I got better at being more open, honest, and enjoying intimacy.
At first it felt weird to just be smiling and happy lying in bed with a girl, but then I said, “Fuck it! Why not let myself be happy? Why not enjoy this awesome moment?”
And you can do the same. But, you need to be willing to take some risks and put yourself out there. It’ll be scary and it’s not like you can or have to expect perfection at first (BAD IDEA), just slowly get out there and work on upping your levels of intimacy one date at a time.
You don’t need to rush into sex on the first date or a relationship, you just need to start connecting with people.
And as you work on this, you’ll be finding that you’ll be able to open up to other people as well: friends, family, and yourself too.
Overcoming AvPD and the avoider mentality is a process of accepting your own emotions and self, as well as connecting with others.
8. Cultivate the attitude: “If people don’t like me, fuck ‘em! I like me, and let me go find people who like me too.”
Why is it that you as an avoider need to work on loving and accepting yourself first before anything else?
“If you can’t love yourself, nobody else can either.”
Avoiders fear being seen for who they really are, because if they put themselves out there and get rejected or abandoned, what does that say about them?
That they’re bad, not worth it, and that people don’t like them.
You see, I realized I was scared of true connection, love, and people seeing the real me. If this pervades your core, then it’ll come across in your beliefs, actions, and mindset, and you’ll self-sabotage all of your relationships, cutting people off.
I still had some background fear from being told I wasn’t good enough growing up, and didn’t want to be left or abandoned.
That’s why you need to love and accept yourself FIRST, because otherwise, break ups and rejection will KILL you.
They’ll always sting or hurt, but if you’ve got the “I love myself” working in the background, you’ll be OK.
Once you accept that you have this fear, you can work on putting 100% of who you are forward everyday. By doing this, even as imperfect as you are, you carve into your mindset that if people don’t like you, then it’s better to find people who like you, or just be happy with yourself.
There’s a difference between choosing to be alone (solitude) versus being scared of connection (isolation): You’re aiming to find people who support you and make you a stronger version of yourself, and those will be the people who love you for who you are.
9. Be open to the idea and look for a potential monogamous relationship.
The final click for me was when I was OK, and felt comfortable, with wanting to eventually to have a girlfriend, and not hiding my true desires.
This might sound weird for some people but as an avoider, you’ll do anything to get away from closeness.
Now I think it’s normal and something I would love to have, if I met the right person.
In the mean time, I personally have no sexual shame (or at least try not to) in pursuing casual dating.
But, I don’t deny/hide the fact of what I truly want, which is one girl who really clicks with me.
Now that I’ve accepted that, things move smoother… and I’m happier.
10. Use accountability and penalties to get yourself out there.
As an avoider, you will ALWAYS find supposedly logical reasons and rationalizations not to date.
But there always seems to be something isn’t there? You need to finish the project at work, you’re tired, you’re busy…
That’s why you need to use accountability to override your mental BS.
Tell your friend you’re going to talk to 5 people this week and ask for their numbers at the end of the conversation no matter what. Say you’ll go to at least one social event.
And if you don’t, you owe them $100.
The combined pressure of potentially losing money and having to tell them you failed will get you off your butt and make you get going.
P.S. There’s nothing wrong with using progressive desensitization and other techniques if you have approach anxiety and need some help.
Looking Into the Future
This is what I hope will happen for you as you move forward with things… that you’ll end up with someone amazing despite your avoidant tendencies.
Once that desire for intimacy and genuine excitement overtakes the fear, you’ve won.
Yes it’s far easier said than done, yes you’ll have ups and downs, and yes it won’t be perfect…
But you CAN get the tools you need to overcome AvPD and the avoider mentality, find people who will support you, love you, and accept you for who you are.
How Can I Use This Information To Help Myself Or Someone I Know?
I created a free checklist that you can use to quickly see how much you or someone you are thinking of is affected by the avoider mentality.
The checklist contains the 9 most common traits to look out for.
…and how identifying and working through them can lead to more intimacy, connection, closeness, and most importantly – happiness in your life and relationships.
Enter your e-mail below to download the free checklist:
P.S. Thanks to reader Celine L. for inspiring this article.
Said and very authentic. Thanks for sharing your insight!
Thanks, Angela! Glad you enjoyed.