So AggieCon was last weekend and they
made the mistake of graciously invited me to be their Internet guest of honor and to run a couple of panels. The crowds were excellent, new friends were made and a great time was had by all; I’d definitely be interested in coming back next year. Hopefully I didn’t make a complete ass out of myself.
One interesting aspect of the con was walking around talking to some of the attendees and, occasionally, getting a chance to listen in anonymously to other people’s conversations. Over the course of the weekend, I made some very interesting – and honestly, kind of depressing – observations.
To whit: nerds and geeks are their own worst enemy when it comes to self-improvement and fixing their dating lives. There are a lot of you out there who are letting themselves be held back based on what can only be described as self-limiting beliefs. Nerds – for as progressive and forward thinking as we like to imagine we are – have a tendency to hold on to outdated or just plain wrong beliefs and attitudes. These ideas take hold and we just automatically assume they are right, granting them power and authority over our lives without ever even questioning their validity.
These beliefs sabotage our progress. They’re the annoying voices that hide in the back of our minds and whisper poison in our ears. They’re what cause us to self-reinforce our identities as “The One Who Isn’t Good With Girls” or “Hopeless Virgin” or “Pathetic Loser”. They cause us to miss opportunities because we can’t possibly believe they’re real.
It’s time to take a good hard look at what you believe and how to break these chains holding you down.
The Binary State
One of the longest and strongest held beliefs amongst men, is the binary state of skill with women. Put simply: men are either good with women or they aren’t. There are naturals and there are losers and there is no in between. If you are blessed with natural charm and ease amongst women, then the world is your oyster.
If you aren’t… well you’re fucked. There is no hope for you; the only thing to do is accept your fate and resign yourself to a lifetime of being alone.
And God help you if you try to improve yourself with women. Nothing says “Loser” like someone in the library or book store picking up a copy of “How To Meet Women”, amiright?
Even amongst people at the Dating While Nerdy Panel agreed: yeah, that’s kind of sad. This is part of why the pick-up community is derided as nerds and losers1 : because they’re people who’re bad with women trying to get better. Hell, this was part of what held me back for years.
Think about it though: why do we feel this way? If someone were doing poorly at Calculus or Organic Chemistry, we don’t think that they’re losers for signing up for tutoring. If someone was bad at basketball and sought out extra training and coaching in order to get better, we wouldn’t make fun of her; we celebrate the underdog who starts from a disadvantage and works hard to master a skill. Why does this not apply to dating?
Being inexperienced at something isn’t something to be ashamed of. Wanting to improve isn’t shameful. So what gives?
This sort of belief is actually comforting in a perverse way. The Binary State absolves us of responsibility. It removes the need to take ownership of an aspect of our lives. “I’m not bad at dating because of a lack of experience or an unwillingness to make potentially uncomfortable changes in my life, my love life sucks because of fate! It’s out of my hands!” Believing that there are two distinct states – Good With Women and Bad With Women – and that there is no transitioning between the two, means that we don’t need to take responsibility for the actions – or inaction – that put us where we are. We don’t have to face the unpleasant aspects of ourselves, nor do we have to face the risk of failure and rejection that comes with trying to make improvements.
Self Esteem and The Power of Deservedness
Low self-esteem and self-confidence are prominent issues amongst nerds and geeks, especially when it comes to dating. Most of us have histories of being bullied by others; others have abusive backgrounds that they fight to overcome. Others still have issues with depression. The origins may differ but the end result is the same: nerds tend to think of themselves as losers.
It’s not terribly surprising; it’s an unfortunate trend in human nature that we tend to absorb and internalize how others label us and make them part of who we are, especially if it comes from someone in a position of emotional power. When enough people are saying the same thing: you’re a loser, you’re pathetic, you’ll never succeed… we tend to believe them, even when we don’t want to. It can take an incredibly strong will to reject labels in the face of that much pressure.
Even amongst ourselves, full of the knowledge that geek culture is pop culture, the stereotype of the geek is someone who is something of a social maladjust. A nerd is someone who is, amongst other things, Not Good With Girls. We tell ourselves that we’re pathetic.
Small wonder that we have problems making the improvements to our love-lives. We don’t believe we deserve them.
When you don’t believe that you actually have a right to the love that you want, to the dating life you wish you had, you will inevitably get in your own way. You won’t take risks; after all, you know well in advance that he or she will only reject you, so why subject yourself to that pain in the first place? If you do make your move, you’ll find that you subconsciously sabotage your own efforts. You will chase after the wrong relationships. You’ll act in ways you know to be out of character. You’ll look back and say “Why did I do that? I knew that was the wrong thing to do. What’s wrong with me?”
What’s wrong is that you’ve internalized the idea that you don’t deserve happiness. That you’re a loser. A freak. Someone destined to be forever alone.
You need to be willing to tell yourself that you’re wrong. That the people who taught you that you’re worthless have no idea what they’re talking about. That you can shout down that voice inside your head that tells you that everything you’re trying is doomed to failure and that nothing can change.
Now, that being said…
The Double-Edged Sword of Deservedness and Entitlement
Just as belief that you don’t deserve happiness or love can hold you back, belief that it’s owed to you just because… well, because, is equally as toxic.
Witness The Nice Guy. Even in the comments on this blog you will find people who feel that they are entitled to a sex – relationship optional – because they’ve put in the “work” of being someone’s “friend”. They see the duties of being someone’s friend as being akin to collecting cereal box tops; collect enough Nice Guy Points and you get to trade them in for A Night Of Passion. When the object of their obsession doesn’t follow these unspoken rules, they get angry and bitter.
There are those who feel that they shouldn’t have to put effort into their relationships. They believe that the world should revolve around them and that others need to conform to their demands. The people around him should realize that it’s their duty to make him happy. They make a virtue of not changing because they see standing steadfast to their beliefs and identity as being something noble and good… even when it’s those beliefs, attitudes and identity that’s been holding them back.
You frequently find this in the geek community – the attitude of “you owe me”, without cause or justification. “You owe me because I am your friend.” “Women should flock to me because I choose to stand apart from the other people.”
Just as a lack of deservedness can lead you to sabotaging your own progress, entitlement without cause or effort will ruin your attempts to fix the holes in your life.
The Power of the Self-Limiting Belief
I do a lot of travelling. I love visiting new places, meeting new people and collecting new experiences. Sometimes they’re awesome moments like watching the sun set from the top of a temple in Cambodia or visiting an ancient Chrisitian church in Turkey that’s been lost to the world for centuries. Other times it’s a collection of near death experiences such as nearly being trampled by a pissed off elephants or encountering agressive venomous snakes.
The best part, however, are the moments of every day life that are so out of line with my day to day existence that they seem unreal, such as watching elephants being guided down busy streets in Bangkok by their mahouts. What makes it amazing is watching the mahouts drive the elephants with nothing more than words and a goad; the elephant follows the mahout’s commands despite outweighing him by thousands of pounds. When I asked why the elephants never push back or put up a struggle, our guide explained: “The elephants, they are raised by the mahout from infancy. They grow up thinking that the mahout is bigger than the elephant is. As long as the mahout doesn’t make himself look smaller to the elephant, it always believes that the mahout is bigger.”
Self-limiting beliefs only have the power over us that we give them. One of the quirks of the human brain is that we unconsciously look for evidence to confirm our already-held beliefs. This is known as confirmation bias: the tendency to gather or interpret information selectively. The more deeply emotional or strongly held the belief, the stronger the bias. The stronger the bias, the stronger the reaffirmation.
We hold on to beliefs because… well, we’ve always had them. We look around and passively take in evidence that everything is correct, never stopping to question the validity of the belief in the first place. We just assume that the world is the way it is because that’s the way we’ve always seen it.
And like the mahout’s size, these beliefs are illusory, built up by our own brains. We have the real power to shape ourselves if we quit ceding our power to these self-limiting beliefs.
- as opposed to the people who deride the PUA community for it’s casual sexism and antagonistic relationship with women [↩]