MY STORY: THE PUSH TO CHANGE MY SOCIAL HABITS
2018 was my year.
Everything in my life seemed to be falling into place. I had strong and supportive relationships with my coworkers, friends, and family. I had a six-figure income at a job that I was good at doing. I was healthy and in shape. I had a good work-life balance and enjoyed my free time trying out new restaurants and travelling often with the ones I love. And I finally (FINALLY) was in a relationship with someone who treated me with the love and respect I’ve always wanted.
Life seemed perfect.
I’ll call him Owen (note: all names in this book are fictitious for purposes of anonymity). And I still remember our first date. He showed up with a box of chocolates and was a perfect gentleman. He genuinely had no game, but his honesty with his feelings towards me were such a breath of fresh air that I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. He had made it clear that he was pursuing me, and he did it respectfully by listening and learning throughout our dates. By our third hangout, he ended the night by surprising me with a couple of self-help books that he thought I would appreciate based on our past exchanges. And as time went on, I kept getting swept away by his patience, thoughtfulness, and care. We eventually made it official after two months of dating, but his love didn’t stop there. I never had a man that was so amazing at expressing the five love languages equally (Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gift Giving, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch). He kept telling me how beautiful I looked, surprising me with gifts at least three times a month, helping me around my house and work, holding my hand often, and wanting to hang out with me all the time.
I felt grateful, blessed, and happy.
Approximately Two Years Later…
It was 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday night.
Everything had felt normal leading up to it. Owen and I went to the gym together, ran our errands as a couple, and laughed a lot in between. After getting ready for bed, as I was leaning in for a kiss, he blurted out, “I think we need to break up.” It felt so out of the blue that I didn’t even know how to react to it at first.
We had never fought before in our almost two-year relationship, which is perhaps a red flag now that I am writing this all out, but still...how could someone break up a relationship without ever fighting for it first? How could someone break up with another person when they couldn’t provide a reason for their unhappiness in the relationship? Was I not worthy? Was I never going to be good enough? Why was this happening to me? What did I do wrong? Was there any way I could save this relationship? These were all the initial questions that rushed through my head. I had always genuinely thought that Owen and I could work past our issues if they were to arise, but little did I know—he would never even give us that opportunity.
My family and friends told me I had dodged a bullet since it was a short relationship, but I didn’t know how to interpret the breakup at the time. I know on paper it doesn’t seem traumatic. It was just a stupid breakup. I still was able to function fine, and it never impacted other areas of my life. But I honestly believe breakups can crush a person's world like no other because, as humans, we crave love and connection. The feeling of rejection in a breakup or in any situation made me question whether or not there was something wrong with me. While my outside world may have looked like I still had it all together, in my inside world, I started to doubt my attractiveness, sex appeal, value, and worth.
I was constantly going through an emotional roller coaster ride from one minute to the next. In one day, I would feel confused, betrayed, and angry, and then the next minute I would go to sad and lost. I wanted to scream. I didn’t get what I wanted. Instead, it felt as though someone had been dangling a carrot right in front of me, and in one fell swoop, it was taken away. Old memories of fights and breakups with past boyfriends started to flood my mind, along with all the insecurities that came along with them. How could someone like Owen, who was so caring, attentive, thoughtful, smart, logical, etc. be the one to put me in the same position again? Was it me? How did I find myself heartbroken and alone again at the age of 33?
While I hated my reality, I was fortunate enough to recognize, deep down, that someone who didn’t love me back couldn’t be the one for me. I knew that I didn’t want to spend my limited time and energy on someone that didn’t want to spend their time on me. So, I took responsibility for my life and spent the next several months searching for a meaning behind this breakup. I spent a lot of time by myself, reflecting on the relationship I had with Owen and myself. I wrote my feelings out in a journal and read a lot of self-help books. I cried a lot throughout this time. Life was still difficult, but slowly I started to pick myself back up piece by piece with the consistent habits of writing, reading, and examining and releasing my emotions.
Envisioning a New Future
As soon as I began accepting my breakup, I started envisioning my future goals. Specifically, when it came to my love life, I imagined meeting a random guy by chance encounter and not through any dating app. While I have nothing against dating apps, I wanted tradition and mystery. I wanted to feel excited that I could randomly encounter someone and turn it into something more. Perhaps it was all the rom-com movies I’ve watched in my life that caused me to envision a winter night where I’d bump into an attractive lad while viewing Christmas lights. With a couple of flirty glances that I would initiate, he’d finally come up and say something to me. We’d flirt and then exchange numbers quickly. And then, of course, you can imagine what I had envisioned next was a series of dates where the relationship kept blooming.
When I envisioned this for my future, though, I started to realize that the behavior of giving an attractive guy some flirty glances wasn’t something I normally do. In fact, everyone told me I had a resting bitch face (also known as RBF). I probably also had a minor case of social anxiety too. Whenever anyone looked me in the eye, my heart would beat fast and my normal reaction was to look down immediately. While I had gotten slightly better as I got older, my common social habits of never smiling and waiting for others to initiate were still embedded within me.
I learned my bad social habits at a very young age. My mother didn’t do this intentionally, but growing up in an Asian household (I’m sure many of my Asian friends can relate), parents mainly cared about grades and how well you were doing in school because that was the gateway to having status and becoming rich and successful. My parents’ generation grew up poor and did not focus on human connections as much as basic human needs. Therefore, I was taught to solely focus on my studies and nothing else. My mom never experienced or perhaps even realized the benefits of developing relationships with the people around her. And since I really only looked up to her when I was little, I didn’t really gain knowledge in the social and relational aspects of my life.
So, I was super shy and socially awkward. You remember that teenage character in movies that dreads going to lunch because they have no idea who they’re going to sit by at their school? Well, that person was me. I often was too afraid to speak up in class because I didn’t want to say anything wrong. This led my teachers and peers to think I had a learning disability, which ultimately led me to believe I was “dumb.” I also had a major ego at an early age. I didn’t want to get rejected or teased, so I didn’t try to speak to people. Needless to say, I didn’t have many friends. I literally felt nonexistent at times because I was always picked last for things, only attended one high school dance in my life (which wasn’t even prom), and didn’t start dating until college because I had a hard time looking at boys.
Everything seemed to be stacked against me with the new realization: thirty-three years of bad social habits. I knew I was in for one heck of a ride.
As much as I hated knowing that I would have to change, I knew for damn certain that I didn’t want to find the love of my life through swiping right on a dating app. I knew it was going to be hard to change the social habits I had grown accustomed to for many years, and I honestly didn’t even know where or how to begin. I started looking up videos and searching for books to see what I could do to make a change. It was tough in the beginning. I searched “how do you talk to strangers,” “how do I start a conversation,” “how do I smile more at people,” “how to give better eye contact,” etc. Initially I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere, but as I kept looking at resources and websites every day, I started to pick up on the similarities in advice I was reading and hearing.
The only problem now was that even though I knew the advice would help, it was easy to say but hard to do.
It’s easy to tell someone to look at another person directly in the eye and smile, but if your body naturally looks down, how do you even break that habit? It’s easy to tell someone you just have to start a conversation with a random person by either complimenting them or commenting on their surroundings, but what if you’re the type of person who overthinks the whole process? I knew I just needed to smile a genuine smile, but I would be scared of rejection, so I defaulted to my RBF again! I knew that I had to go into a conversation with no intentions or expectations in order for it to be authentic, but it was hard to develop this mindset. Though each piece of advice made logical sense to me, it was so difficult to implement it into my own life because my mind and body had naturally built up the social habit of doing the exact opposite!
Why I wrote this book
“The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships.” - Harvey Mackay
I wrote this book for two main reasons. The first reason was because I sincerely wanted to help those who have a hard time starting, developing, and maintaining connections with people. As a person who used to be shy and socially awkward, I understand and know the challenges (especially the emotional ones) of talking to someone new and connecting with them. But through the practice of replacing my bad social habits with better ones, I now know how to overcome them, and I want to share this knowledge with you so that you can replace your old mindset and social habits with better ones—ones that make you more friends and help you find love.
The second reason is that I want to bring the excitement back into your life! I want you to meet people while doing activities that you love to do. I want you to see how beautiful life is through the new friendships you build. I want you to feel the good butterflies again. I want you to feel the energized feeling again of when you bump into a cute person at a random spot. Do you remember that feeling? Your heart pounding like crazy and your mind running in multiple directions? I want you to feel the high energy of success once you guys have exchanged numbers. I want to show you that life is unpredictable and fun. And I want you to find self-confidence and happiness that is different from what you had before. Yes, this all can come from just changing your social habits!
The ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and take the connection further is truly a lost art form nowadays, which means if you are able to do it well, you will be ahead of everyone. Every interaction is an opportunity to better all aspects of your life, whether it's for purposes of your career or your relational, emotional, or personal goals.
Not only would I get invited to more outings as I started to connect with people (thereby increasing my chances of finding Mr. Right), but my new relationships and friends have helped me out in all the random areas of my life. From helping me to furnish a home to connecting me with their finance loan offer to get a better refinance deal to even introducing me to books that will help me in my own sex life, having supportive people has enriched my life significantly. My heart literally expands at times when I see how much people are willing to help others. Lastly, the increase in self-love, happiness, and confidence continues to surprise me. The journey, for me, began with trying to find the guy of my dreams by building better social habits, but the reward that came from it was far more than I expected, and I truly hope this book does that for you.
Layout of the Book
There can be many reasons why you’d want to connect with someone. Some people do it for business and networking reasons. Some people want to make friends. And some people do it because they want to be able to get the woman or man of their dreams. While this book focuses mainly on building up the social habits to talk to your dream woman or man, most of the advice and actions from here can be applied to any situation, no matter what your reason may be. While you can find a lot of information out there on how to talk to people, I’ve found that most of it doesn’t go through the entire life cycle of the connection process.
What do I mean by this?
Most of what you will find out there today only focuses on what you need to do in the moment you want to talk to that person right in front of you. What it doesn’t teach you is what you need to do beforehand to get you comfortable in approaching that person you don’t know and what to do after to help maintain the potential connection. This book specifically sets you up with the right mindset so that when you start building your new social habits you won’t let your emotions scare you away. It also looks at building a connection not only from a moment in time, but as an accumulation of moments where you have the opportunity to show the best version of yourself to others.
The book is laid out in three parts: 1) Shifting Mindset, 2) Changing Your Social Habits, and 3) Development & Maintenance. The “Shifting Mindset” section emphasizes having the right mindset and clarity so that when you need to take the actions of talking to someone, you won’t let your emotions and fear hold you back. The second section, “Changing Your Social Habits,” talks about what specific actions you can take when it comes to talking to strangers. And the third section “Development & Maintenance” is to help you push the conversation that you just had to the next level.
This book is also different from others because I will be sharing with you some of my journal entries towards the end of the book so that you can see what the true journey of transformation looks like. I hope the stories serve as a reminder that some days it will feel like your wins are big and some days your wins will feel small. Some days you will feel like you are making progress and some days it will feel like you’re making none at all. Some days you will lose your patience and not think it’s worth it, while some days you’ll gain this sense of energy and hope. The journey itself is never a straight climb to the top, but rather it is a series of hills, ups and downs, to get to your final destination, and I hope you take that into consideration if you ever feel like giving up.
I hope that by the time you’re finished with the book, you will develop a new mindset, replace your current social habits with better ones, and experience the same feelings that I had during my journey.