I want you to think about control for a moment. Are you the sort of person who believes in fate and destiny? Or are you the sort of person who believes in consequences?
Fate is an attractive thing to believe in; there’s a certain comfort to be found in believing that there is something that guides our existence whether it’s God, the Force, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn or three anthropomorphic representations of Feminist Theory with a fetish for knitting and yarnwork.
You are absolved of responsibility; it’s destiny that X happened instead of Y, there’s nothing you could have done. But it also means that you have no control. You are utterly powerless to direct your life; things will either happen or they won’t and there’s nothing you can do about it. You are utterly adrift in the universe, cast about by forces you can never see that affect you in ways you can’t even comprehend.
Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this philosophical talk.
One of the issues I see in people having dating issues is one of control. You see this a lot when people talk about “getting lucky” or finding The One or the idea that chemistry is something that’s either there or isn’t. Some people will ascribe their success to intangible external factors – luck, essentially – rather than to the results of their own actions.
But the problem is that in doing so, it ultimately means that you can never take credit for your success. Even worse, it renders you powerless to improve your situation; you are who you are and there’s no doing anything about it.
It all comes down to a question: who – ultimately – is in control of your life?
Is it you?
Or are you ceding your agency to somebody else?
Where Is Your Locus of Control?
The locus of control is the idea of how much influence you have over your life. Do you believe that you are the captain of your fate or that you’re helpless before the power of outside forces? Someone with an internal locus of control is someone who believes that they and they alone are the ultimate arbiters of their lives. Someone with an external locus of control, on the other hand, is someone who has, in a very real sense, conceded their power to others. Someone who has an internal locus will attribute their success ultimately to their own effort – “I had sex last night because I am charming and delightful!” – while someone with an external locus will attribute theirs to the influence of others whether it be as nebulous as “luck” or needing to get revenge on an ex-boyfriend or simply lowered standards via the magic of booze.
I spent a lot of time with an external locus of control back in the bad old days; I believed that I was The One Who Was Bad With Girls and that the few relationships I did have were because due to the stars aligning just so. This belief, this external locus of control, meant that I had to stay in my relationship no matter how miserable I was – or how toxic it had become – because I didn’t believe I could ever do any better. When I lucked into – there’s that word again – a relationship that I thought was perfect, I couldn’t relax and enjoy it then either; I was always waiting for the sword of Damocles to fall or for her to realize she could do better than me. I was always on the look-out for signs that things were about to come to an end… which, ironically enough, played a major role in several of my failed relationships.
The Curse of Neediness
When your locus of control is external, you come to rely on external validation. Because you don’t believe in yourself, you end up seeking the approval of others. In doing so, give them control over your emotional state and self-worth – and by extension, over you. You have essentially placed your identity and value in the hands of others and are forced to rely on their views rather than your own. Because you have prioritized the opinions of others over your own, you end up alternately demanding and pleading for the attention of the people in your life – after all, without their attention, their judgement, their validation, you’re nothing.
You’ve allowed yourself to become needy – the anti-sex equation. There are few things more prone to making naked-fun-time disappear faster than needy behavior. It tells others that you don’t believe that you have value or that your self-esteem is so fragile that you need constant reassurance that yes, you’re cool, a good person, worthwhile, whatever. Excessive neediness is physically and emotionally exhausting to those around you. You’ve become a psychic vampire of sorts, draining others of their energy and patience as you constantly struggle to gain their approval. This in turn drives people away; anyone with an ounce of self-worth has better things to do with their time than to constantly prop up another person’s ego… which reinforces the self-limiting belief that you have nothing of worth to offer others.
The Power of Self-Validation
A key to internalizing one’s locus of control is to be self-validating; to reach the state where you define your own sense of self-worth.
While someone who as an external locus of control looks to others for approval, Someone who has internalized their locus of control, however, is someone who may value the opinion of others… but doesn’t require it, because they believe in their own value. They don’t seek validation from others because they are capable of validating themselves. To take a lesson from Swingers: ya gotta know you’re money and be willing to let other people know you’re money.
Being self-validating means that you don’t require approval or opinions from other people because you trust that in the end, your opinion is the only one that counts. Someone you met at the bar shoots you down? It doesn’t matter; you know you’re awesome and there’ll be plenty of other people who will have the opportunity to find out just how awesome you are.
When you’re self-validating, you don’t fear emotional vulnerability. You aren’t so afraid of being open and honest about who you are and what you want because you have the strength to be who you are without worrying about what other people think. You are willing to let someone know that you’re interested in them because you don’t see expressing your emotions as a sign of weakness. You’re able to tell others that you’re comfortable with who you are, warts and all, because who you are is pretty damn money.
To be self-validating means that you don’t measure your self-worth by external metrics; not by the number of women that you’ve slept with, how expensive your car is, how high-status your job is or how much money you have. To do so is to allow others to define your worth – to externalize your locus of control.It means that you can look at your life and say “You know what? I’m pretty damn cool,” even when other people doubt it.
Choice and Responsibility
By internalizing your locus of control – by accepting that you have the ultimate control in your life – you are accepting ownership of your actions. This means, amongst other things, that you have no need for excuses or playing games. To be in control means that you can admit to your mistakes and take responsibility for your desires – which means that you have no need for excuses. Being able to accept that you’ve screwed up is a liberating experience. By shouldering the blame for your mistakes, you have the opportunity to learn from them. Putting the blame on others – “She’s just a bitch,” or “women like her just want the highest-status, most alpha-male guy they can find” – is another way of shielding yourself from responsibility; it takes away your part in the interaction, even if it’s in accepting that sometimes other people aren’t going to like you and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
Taking control of your fate doesn’t suddenly mean that you are in control of the universe and that random chance no longer exists; life is dangerous and shit happens so wear a hat. You are still attempting to impose order upon what’s ultimately a chaotic system and just deciding you’re the captain of your fate doesn’t mean that everything you dislike is now just an illusion.
But while you can’t control everything that happens to you, you can control how you respond to it.
You can’t stop other people from rejecting you. You can, however, choose to let it break you and make you angry and bitter… or you can choose to move on from it by accepting that in being rejected, she’s done you a favor. As odd as it may sound, acknowledging this simple truth – that you can’t win them all – can be incredibly liberating. You free yourself from being defined by a failure, constantly basing your value on what you “lost” and desperately trying to avoid rejection by letting yourself be paralyzed or trying to play games rather than being emotionally straight-forward. You no longer have to fear someone not liking you and instead are able to accept it for what it is – one person’s opinion – and move on.
So How Do We Take Control?
The process of internalizing your locus of control isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a matter of changing your mindset and destroying self-limiting beliefs; it’s a matter of consciously breaking habitual thought patterns and consciously reshaping new ones until they form a groove in your brain.
To start with: learn to focus on what you have direct control over and to accept that which you don’t. You can’t control whether someone likes you. You can’t control whether they’re the sort of asshole who’s going to call a guy creepy as a fucked up power-play. You can’t control somebody else’s attitude, preferences, prejudices or even whether they’ve just had a shitty day or not. You can only control you – how you approach them, how you look, how you conduct yourself, what you say and how much you let their opinion affect you.
If you can’t control it, ignore it. It’s of no use to you. Accept it and keep moving forward. This includes your physicality as much as everything else. If you’re short, then you’re short and you can’t do anything about it. If you’re an ectomorph, then you’re an ectomorph. This is the build you inherited; you can’t change it, so embrace it.
Next: be honest with yourself. This means more than focusing on your flaws; you have to acknowledge what’s great about you too. Saying “Ok, all I am is just fat, ugly and horrible” while ignoring or minimizing your sense of humor, your talent for singing and striking green eyes is as equally dishonest as trying to pretend you are practically perfect in every way.
Be willing to recognize what you don’t like in yourself and work to change it. But you need to focus your attention on what makes you awesome, embrace it and enhance it.
Adopt an attitude of positivity. This can be difficult; it’s honestly easier to be negative. But by choosing to be positive will require that you actively be more aware of your attitude towards yourself and others and in doing so, better able to consciously change it. And by choosing to change, you are taking one more step on the path of taking control of your life… and all of the benefits that come with it.