Dear Thelma: I'm shy, self-conscious and not handsome – will I ever get a girlfriend?


By THELMA
Do you need a listening ear? Thelma is here to help. Email lifestyle@thestar.com.my.

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Those contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 / 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 / 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); or Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 / email sam@befrienders.org.my / befrienders centres in malaysia).

Dear Thelma,

I'm 18 and very shy. I like this girl in my class but I don't have the guts to ask her out on a date, as I'm scared that she will reject me.

All my life, the girls that I've liked have not liked me back, anyway, so I don't think my chances are good.

Some of my friends already have girlfriends but I'm still unattached. I feel so lonely.

I'm not a good talker like some of my friends are. Nor am I attractive; I'm just an average-looking bloke with acne and buck teeth. My parents are not rich, so I don't think I should ask them to pay for braces for me.

I can't help feeling very self-conscious whenever I'm around girls. Is there a cure for this?

How do I go about asking a girl out?

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This is a great question and one that should be discussed more often.

Asking someone out is always tricky because in our heads we connect it to personal validation. As in, "If they say yes, it's because I'm a good person and, if they say no, it's because I suck."

But that's not true at all!

True, some people choose friends and partners by looks. Frankly, when I hear of a woman who only dates tall men, or a man who only dates women with long hair, I roll my eyes.

To put your life's happiness on such things is just asking for trouble. Heart and mind are what matters.

So if someone you want to know better says they're picking partners by looks, smile nicely and walk away, knowing you've avoided trouble.

But there are other reasons why you may get a no when you suggest a date.

Many teens are forbidden to date by their parents. They'll be too shy to share this, so they just say no.

Some are super focused on exams or university and they think this means they can't date. I think it's a mistake. Learning about relationships is just as important as school.

However, the idea that it's either dating or study is a common mindset. So they may say no to a date because they want to study but they may not share the reason with you.

What's even more complicated is that it's not just you being nervous; the girl is nervous too!

For a young woman, going on a date is nerve-wracking. It means dressing fancy, making conversation, wondering what he thinks of you – it's very taxing.

Some young women hear themselves blurt, "No" out of sheer nerves. Then we lie awake for weeks after, feeling awful.

So here's a suggestion: Don't put a young woman on the spot by asking if she wants to go on a date.

Dinner, lunch, cinema and concert all sound great in films, but in real life at 18 they can be overwhelming. A shy young woman feels put on the spot.

Casual is key to success here. Casual is coffee, online gaming, and a simple snack like curry puffs. Something low stakes.

And here's the step by step.

Start by picking something you know you both like. You can't pretend here, it's got to come from the heart.

Then kick off with friendly conversation.

For example, if you know she likes frappuccinos, you wait till you see her holding one. Then you say something like, "Oh, is that a Frappuccino? I love those too. Have you tried the Caramel Ribbon Crunch?"

Then you talk a few minutes. If you see her panic and look nervous, smile a lot and leave. Never push when someone is nervous because they're more likely to panic and say no.

Chat a few times or just say hi when you see her.

When you see she's more relaxed, you chat and then you say casually, "I'm going to X tomorrow. If you're not busy, want to come along and have a Crunch? My treat."

Hopefully, she says yes.

If she can't (for whatever reason), then you act as if it's just a coffee, not a date. You smile, say it was great to see her, and exit.

Most importantly, act friendly the next time you see her. Say hi. If you get the sense that she likes you, just chat a few more times. Give her time.

Wait a week or two and then ask her once more. If she says no a second time, that's your cue to move on. Keep it friendly, say hi when you see her, but don't ask her out again.

The rule of thumb is this: A person can say no once and it's OK to wait a decent amount of time and to ask once more. But at the second no, a gentleman respects her decision and backs off. If she changes her mind later on, it's up to her to ask you.

If you feel that coffee or curry puffs is too much, then online gaming is always good. You meet online, it's structured and you don't need to worry about what you're wearing or travelling to meet up.

Either way, this approach works better if you practise. Talk it through in your head a few times.

When you get to it, breathe, and keep calm. It's just asking a person to have a coffee. It's not a big deal. It's just coffee.

The first few times you ask, you'll be nervous. The way to get past the self-consciousness is practice. The more you do it, the easier it will be.

You can do this. So have a practice and then go for it. Good luck!

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