Behaviour expert Dr Pam Spurr offers top tips to tackle your most common fears.
Let's be honest there are a number of areas where some men feel awkward, nervous or even fearful. While most women are happy to own up to their fears of delivering a presentation or making a speech and get the moral support they need, that's not always true of most men.
Many don't want to admit that they experience a variety of fears. Instead they try and maintain a confident, fearless exterior at all costs. But that means you don't get any better at the things you fear most, and the situation never changes.
So I've taken five of the most common areas of fears that men confide in me and will show you exactly how you can apply them to your own life and to practically any other fear.
Fear zone no 1: social fears: speaking in public and presentations
You're not alone if you have social fears around doing things in public. These are the most common fears men confess to in private with between 7 and 13% of people reporting them, according to the Institute of Psychiatry. Such fears revolve around being the centre of attention and knowing others are observing you and perhaps judging your social performance.
Typical fear zones include speaking in public, making a presentation at work, giving the best man's speech, having to take charge socially, eg in a restaurant with a large group or having to take charge of arrangements for the office party.
Signs you're feeling the fear: Feelings of panic, sweaty palms, palpitating heart, clamminess, blushing, dry mouth, coughing fits, losing your voice, lack of eye contact, etc.
What to do:
- Practice is crucial when having to do something in public. Giving presentations, allow plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the content.
- Visualise yourself as an audience member and what you'd like to get from the presentation. This helps hone your content.
- Pre-plan an outfit you feel comfortable and confident in. Never buy something new without trying it on and knowing it works for you. Tight buttons or short sleeves will make you feel self-conscious.
- Rehearse your presentation in front of a trusted friend or family member to get honest feedback.
- On the day allow yourself plenty of time so you don't arrive in a panic which would increase physical symptoms of fear.
- Go somewhere private to shake out tension in your arms, shoulders and neck and get on top of your breathing.
- Focus on one or two friendly faces while presenting and/or visualise yourself at your best.
- Finally, reject the irrational belief that everything hinges on this one performance it doesn't.
Fear zone no 2: romantic fears: meeting women
A lot of men feel the pressure when it comes to meeting women. You are expected to be confident and yet not arrogant, knowing and worldly without being a know-it-all, and entertaining without showing-off.
Typical fear zones include working out whether someone fancies you, striking up a conversation with said girl, once you're talking working out the appropriate moment to suggest buying her a drink or asking for her phone number.
Signs you're feeling the fear: Butterflies in the stomach, racing heart, excessive sweating, speaking too fast, going blank, nervous laughter, putting your 'foot right in it'.
What to do:
- A positive mindset is crucial to overcoming these fears. Talk-up your three best points as a potential boyfriend.
- Focus on these every day before going into social situations where you might meet someone.
- Posture is crucial to sending out an attractive vibe. Skulk into a bar inwardly thinking you're bound to make a fool of yourself if you meet someone and you'll get ignored. Walking in with great posture automatically puts you in the running.
- Practice good posture and body language at home checking out how different you look when you stand confidently compared to looking insecure and weak.
- Think through three relevant, topical areas of conversation - the last film you saw, book you read, gig you went to or new restaurant you tried. This should reassure you that you have a subject to fall back on if conversation slows.
- Remind yourself regularly that the women you'll meet will probably be feeling equally as insecure about striking up a conversation. They're also much more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt than you'd think!
- Make your motto 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'. believe it and repeat it.
- Finally, never take rejection as a failure it's not! A woman may say no to a date because you remind her of her ex, she's going out with someone or just isn't looking for a relationship. So it may be more down to her than you.
Fear zone no 3: practical fears: enclosed spaces and heights
Many people hate being in enclosed places such as lifts, small offices with a number of colleagues, packed into a car, squeezed on a tube or train, or being somewhere high up like a roof terrace or a glass lift, etc. So if this sounds like you, you're not alone.
Signs you're feeling the fear: A feeling that you can't get your breath, rising panic, dizziness, hyperventilation, sweaty palms, etc.
What to do:
- Take yourself through what's called systematic desensitisation essentially taking steps to gradually expose yourself to what you fear, such as enclosed spaces.
- Taking lifts as an example, discreetly stand outside a lift and while doing so relax your major muscle groups and shake any tension out of your hands.
- Next, practice slow and regular breathing breathing out on a count of three and back in on a count of three.
- As you gain control of your physical symptoms you can plan your next step.
- The next day this might be to press the lift button, and if no one is around, get on top of your breathing and relaxation as you look inside the lift.
- Keep reminding yourself that you can do it, you can stay relaxed and face your fear.
- Once you feel on top of your breathing and relaxation you should take the lift one floor. This might be the next day or within the same day.
- Now you can build to taking the lift as far as you need.
- Finally, all of the above can be done with a trusted friend or family member until you feel confident to do it on your own.
Fear zone no 4: personal attractiveness: body image
Fears around personal attractiveness strike to the core of male confidence, and not just about being attractive to women but also how you stack up against other men. Typical fear zones include feeling ashamed of being overweight, having a receding hairline and/or baldness or being short in stature.
Signs you're feeling the fear: You avoid undressing in public places like gyms, yo-yo dieting, wearing ill-fitting styles to cover up perceived body issues, choosing ill-suited hairstyles to cover up hair loss and avoiding social situations.
What to do:
- Begin with general confidence boosting reminding yourself that you are more than just one particular physical attribute.
- Highlight the best aspects of your personality to focus on anything from a good sense of humour, being kindhearted, thoughtful, intelligent or a good listener.
- A study from Aberdeen University has shown that a genuine smile can make you incredibly attractive. Women are attracted to natural warmth so go into a social situation reminding yourself of your best aspects and smile when you catch her eye.
- At the same time learn to focus on your best physical attribute, whether it's that glint in your eye, cheeky smile or a lovely laugh.
- Target your fearful thoughts acknowledge that if there's simply an aspect or two of yourself you're not happy with, it shouldn't distract from all your other good qualities.
- Fashion and hairstyles can be used to great effect to highlight your best qualities and play down your worst. Mostly women are mistresses of disguising tricks and there's no reason why a man shouldn't dress or groom to downplay their least favourite attribute.
- Finally, if what causes you fear is something you can change like drinking less beer to shrink that paunch then change it and stop wasting time worrying about it!
Fear zone no 5: sexual fears: impressing her in bed
Nothing is guaranteed to make a man more fearful than sexual fears. Common fear zones include seducing her and having sex with her the first time, fearing your foreplay repertoire will be lacking, your size will be lacking, you climax too quickly and not satisfying her.
Signs you're feeling the fear: Lack of desire, loss of erection, premature ejaculation or delayed ejaculation, avoidance of sexual activity, panic about impending sex.
What to do:
- First and foremost know how your own body responds sexually. Through unrushed masturbation (you won't learn much if you're trying to be quick for whatever reason!) get to know what feels pleasurable and also when your "point of no return" is.
- Once you know your point of no return, stop stimulating yourself when you reach it, relax and only restart stimulation when you've got control of that point. Repeat this many times and then take this into your next sexual experience, slowing yourself down before you reach your point of no return so you can last longer.
- Always be prepared to ask a sexual partner what you can do to please her. This is by far the best way to a woman's sexual pleasure and should reassure you! Armed with what she wants you can get down to it.
- Having asked her what she'd like, always be ready to respond when she asks what she can do for you. She's equally curious about what works for you.
- Don't be fearful of trying new things remind yourself that it should be fun to experiment and not anxiety-provoking. Spend time looking through a sex guide to get a feeling for new positions and techniques to try.
- Always take your time with a new sexual partner and don't go to bed until you feel confident with her. Don't buy into the myth that men have to try-it-on the minute they meet someone. It'll make a refreshing change for her if you're prepared to flirt, build to foreplay, and build to full-on sex over a period of time.
- Finally don't rely on excessive alcohol to relax yourself it can 'relax' you far too much!
We all have many different fears and the same method for overcoming them is this: acknowledge what you're fearful of, understand you're bigger than it, deal with both your physical and emotional response and, over time, you'll beat your fears into submission.