Let’s take a moment to do a thought experiment.
Look in the mirror. Now back to me. Now back to the mirror. Now back to me.1
Tell me what the first thing that comes to mind that describes who you see. Don’t think about it, just one word off the top of your head that describes the type of person you see in the mirror.
Keep that word in mind. We’ll be coming back to it in a little while.
Now tell me: what image comes to mind as soon as you hear the word “nerd”?
Probably something like this:
What about “geek”? Something along the same lines, no? Not exactly something to set hearts to racing and loins on fire, now is it?
A little infuriating, isn’t it? In this day and age, when geek culture is in it’s ascendency, the general concept of “geek” or “nerd” is sold to the public as one of social awkwardness, a personality that seems to have been compiled from a checklist of Asperger’s Syndrome symptoms, slovenly habits, poorly-fitting clothes and a complete and utter lack of sex appeal. You say you’re a geek – or worse, look like one and people immediately flash to these negative impressions built up for years via popular culture.
That’s stereotyping for you; wrapping up a wide and various culture within a few stock ideas of how we look and act.
Clearly, if you want to have any success in dating, you’ll have to hide the fact that you’re a geek, right? The stereotype of the geek is just too much to overcome.
In fact, it’s time to make stereotypes work for you.
Let’s be honest: no matter how much we’re taught that stereotyping others is wrong, we all do it. We’re taught that we’re supposed to evaluate everybody on the content of their character and who they are as a person rather than proceed with preconceived notions based on outward appearances. And yet, that’s exactly what we do anyway. We make snap-judgments about people within a few seconds of seeing them and those initial judgements color how we respond at first. That guy in the stained hoodie and shredded jeans with the ratty beard and unkept hair may well be a Nobel-winning physicist, but if you saw him hanging around a street corner, your brain immediately snaps to “homeless man.”
The fact of the matter is, humans are built for pattern recognition. We associate certain trends or looks with particular behaviors. It’s part of how we survived long enough to develop civilization, and those instincts are still with us. Our initial attraction to people is often built on those outward looks; it’s part of how we filter out the world. You can’t tell from a glance whether that cute girl hanging out on the couch at your friend’s party is a Rhodes scholar or if she’s as dumb as a post, but we’ll backfill the justification for our attraction later as we get to know them.
We may want people to judge us based on who we are inside, but that can take time – time we don’t always have or, frankly, want to spend on people we may or may not want to get to know. And so we go with our gut, basing our initial impressions on outward characteristics.And thus: stereotypes.
We do it to ourselves, too. Let’s face it: we’re pack animals; we willingly segregate ourselves into certain “types” and adopt the uniform of that type as part of how we demonstrate our association with the group. By doing so, we adopt it as part of our identity and we take on the aspects of that association… including the gut-reactions that people have to that type, for good or for ill. To a certain extent, we choose the stereotypes we fit into.
Stereotyping doesn’t have to be bad, though; in fact, you can make stereotyping work in your favor if you know how.
Still, stereotype has become a loaded word with negative connotations. So don’t think of it as stereotyping yourself’.
Think of it as finding your archetype.
Who Are You?
Let’s get back to that thought experiment.
I want you to describe yourself in one or two words. I want to know who you are and who you want to be, distilled down to your very essence via a word or two off the top of your head. Think about those words. What are they? Writer? Parent? Player? Artist? Musician? Joker? Biker? Goth? Business man? Hold onto that thought for a moment. We’ll come back to it.2
For now, let’s talk about archetypes.
Archetypes are symbols, the prime model of concepts, personas or people. When we think of “rock star” we have a very distinct image that represents the concept. Similarly, when we think “movie star”, we have an instinctive idea of what one looks like and acts like. We associate particular looks and behaviors with archetypes; those archetypes in turn have emotional responses associated with them as well. By harnessing the power of the archetype, we can directly influence how people see us and react to us.The more you resemble the archetype, the more that people will associate you with that archetype. By modeling yourself towards that archetype you influence how others see you… and how they respond to you.
So let’s get back to the words you used to describe yourself. Think about it for a moment – is that who you are, or at least who you want to be? Even if you’re not there yet, is it something you’re striving towards? That model of who you want to be: that’s your archetype.
So now that we have an idea of who you are, let’s start the process of modeling your look on the outside to match that of your archetype – who you are on the inside.
- Sorry, I couldn’t help myself [↩]
- I know a few of you have picked “loser” “dweeb” or “pathetic”; I refer you back to this post about labels and how they become self-reinforcing. You can be a loser or a dweeb… or you can take responsibility for your life, spend the time and effort and make yourself incredible. [↩]