Identity and Resistance To Change
One of the insidious things about accepting others’ definitions of who we are into our self-concept is how difficult it can be to get rid of them.
After passively accepting certain labels into our identity, we begin to define ourselves by them and – by extension – accept them as part of our limitations, often without bothering to explore or examine them.
To continue with the personal example from above, for nearly a decade, I accepted that I was The Geek and The One Who Was Bad With Girls. I allowed it to not only define me, but to limit what I was willing to do or try. I wouldn’t approach girls I liked because, frankly, I was The One Who Was Bad With Girls – my destiny was to be rejected and humiliated. The few times I did make an approach, I was timid and almost apologetic; as far as I was concerned, my approaching someone was a hideous inconvenience to them that would only serve to give them reason to reject me. I decided early on that I would just have to let them come to me… or else try to back-door my way in via the Platonic Friend Gambit.
Needless to say, I spent more time in the Friend Zone than Tim Tebow spends in the end-zone1 .
After a while, I had so internalized things that they became a point of perverse pride. I would adamantly refuse to see how my attitudes towards women (alternately obsequiously worshipful and jealously dismissive) were unattractive or how my style – whether in clothes or decorating my dorm room – could be a turn-off. I was A Geek and by God I would not budge from this – any woman out there would have to accept me for who and what I was or else they were simply unworthy of me. Now I wasn’t being rejected; I was preemptively rejecting them.
Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.
Now as fine as that sounded in principle, it’s only in hindsight that I could see that what I was really doing is insulating myself against things that I found uncomfortable. I was uneasy approaching women, therefore I wouldn’t. I knew with absolute certainty that I didn’t like singles bars or clubs and looked disdainfully at all of the people who attended them… despite having spent next to no time in them or having talked to anyone in them. They were just not part of Who I Was, therefore they were bad. And if I would just repeat that to myself enough times, I might actually stop being jealous of the ease that others had with women…
Similarly, I didn’t like dancing – despite having studied and enjoyed ballet when I was younger. I knew this to the core of my being. I was a Geek and Geeks didn’t dance… until the girl I was dating in college dragged me to a swing class and I learned I had a knack for it.2 So, ok, maybe dancing. Swing dancing could be suitably Geeky to be included in my identity. This far but no further.
Knowing what I do now, it’s not hard to see why it was so hard to make the changes I needed in order to get better with women; I had allowed being The Geek and The One Who Was Bad With Women to become so deeply ingrained into who I was that I couldn’t imagine who I would be without that. I made my resistance to change who I was a virtue, despite the fact that there were many aspects of myself that I knew were holding me back from what I wanted.
This is something I see often in my geeky and nerdy brothers and sisters: the attitude of “I am just fine as I am and the rest of the world can either accept me or fuck off.” And to be sure, there is something to be admired in being willing and able to be steadfast in your identity against societal pressure to conform and change. But at the same time, that stubbornness that you so admire can also be your reaction to fear and uncertainty, just dressed up in more appealing clothes.
Think about it: if you knew that aspects of who you are at this moment that were keeping you from achieving what you want, if they were negatively affecting your life, would you be willing to change them and reach your dreams or would you choose to keep them because you refuse to change who you are for the expectation of others?
“…it’s the world that’s evil and selfish.”
It took years for me to come to grips with the fact that my attitude was holding me back. It wasn’t until I went head to head with Miles over the same woman, that I had what I refer to as “my Batman moment”3 , the moment when I realized that in order to get what I wanted, I was going to have to turn my life around and take responsibility for my life.
I had to realize that I, as do many nerds and geeks, that I was allowing the locus of control in my life to be external. It was reassuring to believe that I was powerless to change my fate and I was beset on all sides by a cold and uncaring world that conspired against me. It made me the hero of my own little drama, a bastion of purity in a corrupt and cynical world.
However, in reality, all this did was provide cover for the fact that I didn’t want to admit that, ultimately, my state was my own fault. It was the cumulative result of choices I had made over the years and if I wanted to improve, I would have to man up and accept responsibility for my life.
And then came the hard part – dismantling every pre-conceived notion I had about who I was and what I was capable of.
At first, I, like many others before me, went looking for the magic bullet. That one single, simple thing that would do all of the work for me, whether it was pick-up, hypnosis, or any other form of snake-oil out there that promised to turn a loser into a lady’s man.
They don’t exist. Once I understood and accepted that, the hard work began… and with it, genuine change, and genuine improvement.
If you want to change your life and get better with women, you have to accept that it just isn’t going to be that easy. If you want to fix your dating life, you may well have to do things that you found uncomfortable, even painful. “It’s too much trouble,” “it’s too hard,” and “I don’t have the time” are excuses, aspects of an old identity holding on for dear life. If you want something badly enough, you will make time. You can and will find the internal strength to power through your doubts and insecurities.
I had to willingly subject myself to things I dreaded; I had to make myself emotionally vulnerable and submit myself for rejection from women I was attracted to. I had to face up to having what others call “approach anxiety” and muscle my way through it even as my heart was pounding and my head began to swim. I had to be willing to approach and be rejected hundreds of times in order to pinpoint what I was doing wrong and fine tune what actually worked.
Change is hard. Change is scary. Change can be painful. But to quote a wise man: “Without pain, without sacrifice, we have nothing. What you’re feeling isn’t pain, it’s premature enlightenment.”
Don’t worry about what some infographic says about who you are as a nerd or a geek; define it for your own damn self. You can be a nerd or a geek and still be popular. You can be a geek or a nerd and still have an rich and incredible love-life. It’s only when we quit ceding our identity, our self-concept to the definitions of others, when we take back our locus of control and internalize it, that we can progress.
I made it. So can you. I have faith in you.
- Look at me! I’m relevant! [↩]
- This, incidentally is one of the few things I am grateful to her for. The rest of that relationship was incredibly toxic. [↩]
- “Yes father! I shall become a pick-up artist!” [↩]