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20 surprising signs he likes you but is afraid of rejection

I’ve had various situations in my life where I really liked a girl but I was scared of rejection. It was an especially big problem in my 20s.

I didn’t have high self-confidence or a very big friend circle and I felt doubtful that any really attractive, interesting girl could be into me.

I could flirt or strike up a conversation, sure.

But when it came down to actually asking her out or going for a kiss?

You could find me sitting awkwardly in the university cafeteria or lifting weights at the gym trying to work off that excess testosterone and deep inner lack of self-worth.

Fun times.

Hey, at least I got big muscles (you’ll have to take my word for that).

Thankfully I’ve made a lot of progress on loving myself and understanding the difference between true love and intimacy and codependency.

I no longer worry that much about rejection, nor do I overthink things when I like a girl. If I like her I ask her out. Simple.

But I still clearly remember what it feels like to be very into a girl but afraid to escalate in case you’re rejected, humiliated, and lose any friendship or connection you already have with her.

Here are 20 signs that a guy likes you but is too afraid to ask you out.

1. He does (sometimes dorky) things to impress you

Don’t I know this one all too well. When a guy is into you he will often do (sometimes dorky) things to impress you.

Maybe he’ll mention he knows how to do Taekwondo or talk a lot about the music he likes that he heard you also like too. He won’t ask you out, but he’ll sure show you a lot of things that a guy who might ask you out would want to show you. Like his skills and how great a guy he is.

Maybe he’ll even start going to your church and expressing a major interest in your religion.

Guilty as charged. But seriously, it wasn’t (just) for the girl.

2. He does whatever you need

“Trust what he does. Not what he says.”

You’ve heard that phrase before, right?

It’s a great line because it’s true (it would also save a lot of heartaches if people followed it)

If he is helping you whenever you ask, keeping his promises, and showing up when he needs to show up, then you can bet your bottom dollar that he’s into you.

After all, a man that wants to be in a relationship with you will show their intentions with action.

You’re important to him, you’re clearly a priority, and he doesn’t want to disappoint you.

In fact, he wants to be your hero and save the day, but perhaps he is afraid to ask you out because he fears that you don’t see him as a hero.

study published in the Physiology & Behavior journal shows that male’s testosterone makes them feel protective over their mate’s safety and well-being.

There’s actually a fascinating new concept in relationship psychology that’s getting a lot of buzz at the moment. It goes to the heart of the riddle about why men fall in love—and who they fall in love with.

The theory claims that men want to be your hero. That they want to step up to the plate for the woman in their lives and provide and protect her.

This is deeply rooted in male biology.

People are calling it the hero instinct. I wrote a detailed primer about the concept which you can read here.

The kicker is that a man won’t fall in love with you when he doesn’t feel like your hero.

He wants to see himself as a protector. As someone you genuinely want and need to have around. Not as an accessory, ‘best friend’, or ‘partner in crime’.

I know this might sound a bit silly. In this day and age, women don’t need someone to rescue them. They don’t need a ‘hero’ in their lives.

And I couldn’t agree more.

But here’s the ironic truth. Men do still need to be a hero. Because it’s built into our DNA to seek out relationships that allow us to feel like a protector.

If you would like to learn more about the hero instinct, check out this free online video by the relationship psychologist who coined the term. He provides a fascinating insight into this new concept.

So naturally, if he loves you, he would want to protect you.

The bottom line?

Focusing on his actions will tell you exactly how he is feeling. As we’ve said before, guys aren’t great when it comes to expressing their feelings, but their actions don’t lie.

So if he is there for you when he needs to be there for you, then get excited – it’s looking likely he wants a bonafide relationship with you.

3. He wants to spend time with you

This indicator seems obvious but it’s important to emphasize.

When a guy is into you but afraid of rejection he’ll play it safe. But he’ll still want to be around you as much as possible.

If he just saw you as a friend he’d still likely want to hang out, but he wouldn’t seek out spending time with you or want to connect the day after you just had a great time already the day before.

That’s what someone does when they are romantically interested in you.

Take a hint.

4. He’s a nervous wreck around you

OK, I have some experience with this one, too, I must admit.

I’m often a bit of a nervous and over-analytical person in general, but especially if I am starting to feel romantically intrigued by a girl I can become a nervous wreck.

In the past this included stammering words, fidgeting, acting strangely, and generally appearing to be a raving lunatic.

When I’ve been very into a girl I’ve said some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard and tried some of the stupidest ways to indicate interest imaginable such as telling her she looks nice in a new outfit but then not winking.

Never again.

5. He’s touchy

We’re talking here about the kind of guy who’s feeling something for you but doesn’t want to get rejected. He will tend to be shy, possibly inexperienced, or have other issues: mainly a lack of self-confidence and masculine assertiveness.

Nonetheless, if he likes you he will be into touching you now and then or cuddling up, even in a friendly way.

In my case massage used to be quite the friend activity with girls I was into. A nice, friendly massage and a movie.

And if she touched me smiling like a contented Cheshire cat.

Sounds exactly what you’d do with someone you don’t want to date, right?

6. “You’re such a nice couple”

Back when I was the Undisputed Master of Friendzoneship this used to happen to me very frequently.

I’d be out with a girl I’d been friend-zoned by at a drop-in sport or chatting and laughing with her outside a college lecture and people would comment that we were such a nice couple.

I wish.

Maybe they know something you don’t know?

It’s kind of obvious, no? They can tell he’s into you and maybe you’re a bit more into him than you know, too. They’re giving you a nudge: what are you waiting for? Get necking.

7. He laughs at your jokes

When I used to be into girls but afraid to ask them out I’d laugh at their every joke. There was nothing they could say that wouldn’t tickle my funny bone.

I’d even pretend to like TV shows they did or agree with radical opinions they had that I found absurd (is this a confession or something? I’m beginning to feel a little ashamed).

But let’s face it. When a guy likes you but is shy to take the next step, he’ll be hanging on your every word – and every joke.

8. He doesn’t talk much about his love life

Whenever she asks “what about you,” this shy guy who likes you clams up.

I know the feeling well. You don’t want to talk about your (lack of a) love life because the one you’re thinking of involves you and her and a romantic picnic and a perfect life togeth –

OK, where was I …

No regrets, right?

But seriously, if he’s clamming up every time you try to dig into your friend’s love life a little bit it’s because he likes you.

9. He remembers what you say

He could also just be a MENSA memory master genius. But chances are if he remembers what you say he’s into you.

It’s well known that when a relationship or marriage is going south one of the warning signs is that partners stop hearing (or caring) what the other one is saying.

It’s the opposite when a guy likes you. He will remember what you say and he will appreciate it, bringing it back up and building your rapport into a deep connection.

10. He cares about you

Friends care about friends, too. But when you like a girl you care about her as more than a friend.

I’ve experienced this a few times where I had a female friend I liked a lot but hadn’t asked out. I hoped that something more would happen but I was hesitant to take the next step and lacking self-confidence.

Still, I was her biggest confidante and cared deeply about what happened to her.

Because I saw her as more than just a friend.

11. He puts it out there

Been there, done that. A guy who likes you but is afraid of rejection may just tell you he likes you without actually asking you out.

He does this because he’s scared and weak. I’ve been there. I once asked a girl “what about us being a couple?” and she responded with disbelief as if it hadn’t crossed her mind.


If a guy tells you he likes you or asks if you’ve ever thought about dating he’s just trying to beta test the big moment.

12. He flirts with you and teases you

There’s a big difference between friendly teasing and romantic teasing.

If you get butterflies in your stomach when he teases you then you should be able to tell that it’s no longer friend teasing.

If a guy teases and flirts with you in the way that men do when they want to win a woman’s heart then you can be sure that’s exactly what he’s doing, too.

13. He feels essential to you

For a man, feeling essential to a woman is often what separates “like” from “love”.

Don’t get me wrong, no doubt your guy loves your strength and abilities to be independent. But he still wants to feel wanted and useful — not dispensable!

This is because men have a built in desire for something “greater” that goes beyond love or sex.

It’s why men who seemingly have the “perfect girlfriend” are still unhappy and find themselves constantly searching for something else —  or worst of all, someone else.

Simply put, men have a biological drive to feel needed, to feel important, and to provide for the woman he cares about.

Relationship psychologist James Bauer calls it the hero instinct. I talked briefly about this concept above.

As James argues, male desires are not complicated, just misunderstood. Instincts are powerful drivers of human behavior and this is especially true for how men approach their relationships.

So, when the hero instinct isn’t triggered, men are unlikely to commit to a relationship with any woman. He holds back because being in a relationship is a serious investment for him. And he won’t fully “invest” in you unless you give him a sense of meaning and purpose and make him feel essential.

How do you trigger this instinct in him, and give him this sense of meaning and purpose?

You don’t need to pretend to be anyone you’re not or play the “damsel in distress”. You don’t have to dilute your strength or independence in any way, shape or form.

In an authentic way, you simply have to show your man what you need and allow him to step up to fulfill it.

In his new video, James Bauer outlines several things you can do. He reveals phrases, texts and little requests that you can use right now to make him feel more essential to you.

By triggering this very natural male instinct, you’ll not only give him greater satisfaction but it will also help to rocket your relationship to the next level.

Here’s a link to his unique video again.

14. Wild ride

This storyline is familiar from Hollywood movies: a guy who a girl sees as just a friend but who wants to be with her suddenly goes cold on her when she doesn’t feel the same as him.

She shakes it off as nothing but feels alone and empty, eventually realizing she’s in love with him.

Of course in reality women rarely fall in love with the kind of whimpering “nice guy” who won’t assert himself or believe in himself, but in the movies anything is possible.

Either way, if this guy shuts off when you make clear you see him as just a friend you can be sure you hit a nerve: the unrequited love nerve.

15. No distractions

These days smartphones are everything. It’s downright dumb.

Even during a date someone texts another person on the dating app they just met the new girl or guy on.

But if this shy guy is into you he won’t be scanning his phone when you’re hanging out.

Instead, he’ll be all about you and the time he spends with you.

16. He wants to let you know how great you are

Compliments are a classic sign of a guy who’s making a long move. He’s feeling it and wants to let you know.

Maybe he talks about your beauty, but chances are as a shy guy – and I’m speaking from experience here – he’ll tend to compliment you on more neutral things like how dedicated you are, how he admires your sense of humor or how he’s touched by how deeply you care about your family.

This is a guy letting you know he sees you for who you really are and wants to make clear how special you are to him.

17. Getting the message

When a guy likes a girl he often tells his friends. Then his friends joke and talk about it.

And it can sometimes find its way back to you. “X likes Y oh my gosh.” Yes, yes, ‘tis true.

Keep your ears open. These idle rumors you’re hearing from his friends could have more truth to them than you think.

18. He doesn’t love other guys flirting with you

I know this feeling too, although not in too crazy of a way, but when you like a girl who you’re not actually dating but are friends with it can make you uncomfortable to see her showing interest in other guys.

Or in my case what seemed like every other guy except me on the residence floor in my first year of university even though she seemed to be showing clear signs of being into me on a deeper level.

Did I walk around looking overjoyed when I passed her in the hall? Take a guess.

Dostoyevsky needs to write a book about me I swear.

But really, when he’s into you he’s not going to love you getting it on and flirting with other fellows. Basics, basics.

19. It’s in the eyes

Eye contact is the spark that lights the fire and when we’re attracted to someone we tend to look at them a lot.

If he’s making prolonged eye contact and seeking out your gaze then he’s probably not exactly comfortable staying forever in Friendship Flats.

Pay attention the next time he locks eyes with you.

Are those the eyes of a guy who’s content chilling with you or are they the eyes of a tiger (of love).

20. It just feels right

When you feel the chemistry and the personality and physical connection with someone it can be hard to put into words.

But it’s not hard to tell if it’s there or not.

If you’re feeling it then there’s a good chance he is too (or at least we can hope).

Many potential great love stories are sunk by someone doubting the feelings of the other person and giving up prematurely.

Remember, you’ll never know unless you ask or make a move, so do it before it’s too late.


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Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.
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