I started to feel my body get tense and then my dick get soft and I panicked.
This isn’t how this fucking goes! I thought.
I looked down and her face was in my crotch but it wouldn’t remain for much longer.
Both of us gave up in frustration moments later.
This wasn’t the first time that would happen and it wouldn’t be the last.
The honest answer is that my emphasis on performance has always been a soul-crusher.
And more often than not, it would end in a wave of deep depression and anxiety.
Like, should I end it all, right now? Levels of anxiety.
We’re just talking about sex.
Exercise: Think of something you’re terrible at.
Now, put yourself in a situation in which you’ll have to perform that.
Let’s say bachata, for example.
I am dog-shit at bachata.
Now, if you can stick with me on this, imagine that you’re tasked to perform bachata.
In front of an audience of thousands of people. A massive live audience.
And you have no formal training, limited experience with the dance itself and are almost certain it’s not going to turn out how you want it to.
How nervous are you right now?
That’s how I’ve viewed sex and performance for, well, decades.
But the reality is that nobody has given half of a fuck about the act or the performance.
Not as much as me, at least.
And so, I would envision these fictional scenarios in my head. That the sex would suck, that we wouldn’t have any fun. And that the person who I was seeing or intimate with would leave me.
When the reality was that because of that nothing ever changed in the relationship.
That it was almost always more disappointing and soul-crushing to me than it ever was to any of my partner(s).
Because most often the complete nuclear-holocaust that’s going on inside of our brains never pans out in real life.
The real battle.
I told her, exasperated, that, “I want to fuck you,” and she found it funny and kinda off-putting but was totally thrown off by my remark.
We’d been making out at that point, so it wasn’t off-the-cuff, it was how I felt.
And yet, moments before we’d starting making out I was fighting this inner turmoil that was going on inside my head.
My body was telling me, you want to fuck this person, but my rational mind was saying, doing anything would be inappropriate.
Keep it in your pants, hoss.
And so, the real challenge has been aligning how I’ve felt with my actions.
It’s easy for us to shut down and to not ask for what we want or to tell people how we feel out of fear.
But that fear’s a product of the scripts we’ve told ourselves again and again.
Mine was always, I’m not good enough.
Rewriting our shitty scripts.
I was standing in front of a handful of entrepreneurs who were far more successful than me and I was nervous.
I was asking them for money.
A meager amount of money, mind you, but money.
Absolute terror is how I felt.
And I’ve asked, I don’t know, 1000s of business-owners for money at this point.
More and more, I’ve been forcing myself into those situations.
I’m trying to rewrite the scripts that I’ve been telling myself that I’m not good enough for this.
That I don’t deserve any money for my services or what I’m offering because I haven’t done shit.
The real war that I’ve been battling and often losing is the one that’s been going on inside my head.
I’ll ask myself questions like:
- What if they think I’m a loser? Or creepy? Or a hack?
- They look entrenched in a conversation, what if I disturb them?
- If I ask for what I want in this moment – money, respect, trust – what if I overstep my boundaries?
And the problem is that if I’m asking those questions, I’ve already lost.
- What if this doesn’t go well? Translates to is this going well? and then I’m already so focused on my own thoughts and feelings that it doesn’t matter.
- Is that girl in my league? No, now she’s definitely not because you’re looking at her feet.
- Am I charging too much? If you have to ask, the answer is always yes.
Our minds are the masters of self-manipulation.
We can manipulate ourselves into believing that we’re good enough for something or that we’re not.
But those two thoughts can rarely ever exist at the same time.
Action is winning.
I was sitting in the coffeeshop and a cute girl sat down next to me and I liked her style and I wanted to tell her how much I admired it.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I opened my mouth, took a deep breath and then shut it before any of those words could fall out.
And then the only thing I could think of for the next 30 or 40 minutes was, I want to talk to this girl.
I need to talk to this girl.
Call me insecure, but when my subconscious starts hammering away at my nervous system like that, the only thing I can do is react.
I used to shut that feeling down.
I’d say, “this is bad, stop. STOP!” and then I’d hope it would go away and I’d feel guilt and shame afterward for not reacting.
I could already feel that intense anxiety and pressure. And like the next words that would come out of my mouth would be the stupidest shit I’ve said in a while.
I’d already lost.
My psyche had won by telling my body, this is a threat.
So I accepted the L.
I’m nervous and I’m anxious because I didn’t respond quickly enough, I thought.
But instead of shutting down, I spoke up.
“What are you reading?” I asked, and I could’ve said anything, like, “what color is the ground?” and she would’ve laughed and I could feel the tension between my words and what was coming out of my mouth.
I don’t remember, I was so focused on the fact that, I TALKED TO A GIRL! and the strange sense of accomplishment I felt after that.
All the while my body was buzzing.
“What’s your name?” I asked as I walked out.
“Jennifer,” she said.
“Mike,” I said.
“Well, see you around!” and then I left.
Happy as a clam.
Leaning into fear.
My hands were trembling and I was probably listening to every last word she was saying as she drove me home from the train station.
I’d only known her for approximately five minutes but something in my body was telling me that I liked her, at least enough that I should ask her out.
The problem was, she was my Lyft driver and so my entire moral compass was telling me that this is wrong.
You shouldn’t do this.
What if she has a boyfriend?!
What if she’s offended?
And so, I was reaching for my stuff and my body was telling me that you’re totally gonna chicken-out and not do this but mentally I’d already committed.
I didn’t care.
I’d spent my entire life living in shame and avoiding these scenarios and that had been working out okay.
But I thought, why the fuck not?!
And so, I opened the door, stepped my foot out of it and before I left said, “Hey, crazy question… do you wanna grab drinks sometime?”
And she paused and thought about it for a micro-second, “My boyfriend might have something to say about that.”
And I kinda laughed because my expectation was nada and even the act of asking her out was a huge win for me.
“No problem!” I said, and I left the car.
“But thanks for asking,” she said, and she smiled and I told her to have a nice day and I could see her beaming from the front-seat as she drove off.
I smiled as I stumbled into my apartment after a long-morning flying, sat down on my couch and smiled myself into a mild slumber.
Noticing the shift.
Mr. Pinky (that’s my dick if you have to ask) wouldn’t perform like I wanted him to, but instead of shitting all over myself this time, I kinda laughed it off a bit.
Was I disappointed?
But what would result in me frantically searching the Internet for articles on performance anxiety for hours didn’t.
Months earlier? I would’ve spent a day or two embroiled in hours upon hours of self-hatred and disgust.
Depression and anxiety would’ve spiked.
Alcohol consumption, too.
My Google search would’ve been crawling with searches.
The next day I woke up, same as it ever was.
Did it still hurt?
But not as much.
The next day, I barely even noticed the shift in my thinking, but I could feel it.
Huh, I thought to myself.
And then I went back to work.