In movies and, yes, real life, you see drop-dead gorgeous women on the arms of average Joes. Whether your dream girl is Kate Upton or the bookworm that lives down the hall, we spoke with sex and relationship expert Megan Fleming, Ph.D, to find out how to tip the odds in your favor.

We’re not talking about being phony or tricking a woman into falling in love with you. We garnered the best dating and life advice for becoming—and showing—the very best version of yourself.

Be confident in who you are

A man who knows his worth, who he is, and what he wants is unbelievably attractive. “The first step is always identifying who you believe you are and aren’t,” Fleming says. In other words, you have to know what you want and need both in life and a relationship before you’re capable of being with any woman. What’s more, if you’re unhappy with who you are, that insecurity with your identity can be the root of your dating insecurities—and why you don’t feel worthy of an incredible girl.

Don’t put her on a pedestal

Get to the root of why you want to be with her. Sure, you can be intimidated by her education, job, social standing, attractiveness, maybe even her height. But are these factors influencing you? “Absolutely check yourself,” Fleming says. “Be curious about feelings of longing, frustration, and desire.” If you’re only infatuated with her because she’s a swimsuit model or you’ve got an ex you’d really like to make jealous, well, that’s going to cause some problems. Take her off the pedestal and evaluate whether or not you can really see a relationship with her.

The classy man's guide to dating an older woman

The classy man’s guide to dating an older wo...

The classy guy's guide.

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Make the first move

Just go up and say hello to her—on the subway, street, wherever. Women have the same internal struggle to strike up conversations with men. So, for the most part, yeah, you have to make the first move. “Before you say ‘Hi,’ check out her energy and body language,” Fleming says. If she seems closed off—like she’s facing the corner of a subway car, earbuds in—it’s probably not the best time to approach her. If she seems open, “speak to her from a place that’s interested in getting to know her,” Fleming adds. You have a much better shot of getting her number and maybe even a date this way.

Show her a good time

Ok, so you got the date. Whether you’re out to dinner or doing something out-of-the-box (like these fun first dates), ask her questions that dig a bit deeper into the surface. (Just not these.)

“Make small gestures that connect the two of you on a physical level—far away from the friend zone. Feel out the situation first and see how she reacts to you leaning in when you talk to her. If you make it to a second and third date, kiss her. Hold her hand. Make your moves genuine and if she’s responsive, great; that’s your green light. “If she’s not responsive, try again—once!—to see if she’s more receptive,” Fleming says. “If not, maybe friendship is all she’s interested in.” And if that’s the case, then it’s on to the next one.

Ask for what you want

In the end, you have to be real and genuine—and just put yourself out there. Whether you want a second date with her or want to make things more official, ask for it. “In life and with women, always ask for what you want,” Fleming says. “Ask for it nicely and be prepared to hear no. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know and be left wondering.”