Here’s a secret a lot of dating coaches won’t tell you: most of your dating problems are in your head. This isn’t to say that they don’t exist – it’s that most people’s sticking points tend to be the result of self-limiting beliefs. And the crazy part is that we tend to want to keep them. In fact, more often than not, people will fight harder to reaffirm their self-limiting beliefs than they will work to change things – no matter how miserable it makes them.
We get a lot of things wrong when it comes to dating. We tend to make a lot of assumptions about what our partners find attractive in others – usually based on incorrect information. We let intellectual fallacies color our conclusions, which quickly become self-limiting beliefs, and those beliefs quickly become the TRVTH as though they were carved into stone tablets from the top of Mount Fedora.
The problem is that – as I’m fond of saying – most of dating success is in your attitude. Your attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you believe you’re already rejected then you will be. The more you buy into these self-limiting beliefs, the more impossible you make it to get better. If you’ve been stuck in a dating rut – if you can’t get over that metaphorical hump1 – then it’s time to start checking your attitude. If you’ve been holding onto these self-limiting beliefs, you’re not going to progress until you learn to let them go.
5) You’re A Perpetual Victim
This is easily one of the most common self-limiting beliefs out there: that you are uniquely fucked by life, the universe and everything. There is literally nothing you can do. Through no fault of your own, you have been singled out by a cold and uncaring universe to be utterly and completely screwed over. It’s game over man! GAME OVER!
The reasons are as variable as they are creative: you aren’t rich enough to attract naturally hypergamous women, you aren’t tall enough, you aren’t handsome enough, you’re too nerdy, you’re too “nice”, you have the wrong jaw angle/hair line/eye color/job, you’re just too “beta” in general, your parents ran over an old Romani woman’s goldfish… the list can go on and on. Sometimes there isn’t just one reason or the reason is unknown and unknowable; all you know is that the universe has deemed you to die alone, unloved and untouched.
It’s actually a very seductive mindset because this self-limiting belief absolves you of responsibility. By being a victim, you no longer need to take ownership of any personality flaws or issues that push people away. You can’t be blamed for your failures because they’re not your fault, it’s just “how the world is, maaaaan”. You’re not an asshole, you’re just a victim of circumstance. There’s no need to try to change because what good could it possibly do? You’ve been fucked by the infinitely long dick of fate; anything you do is doomed to fail.
Not surprisingly, people with this attitude tend to make sure that people around them know that they’re victims. They tend to demand validation of their status as perpetually screwed… and therein lies the key to this particular mindset.
You see, the complainers and victims need other people to validate and acknowledge their victim status because that makes it real. Deep down – usually shoved down as far as they can possibly make it go – they have glimmers of doubt. There is this little voice that says “Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe you need to try something else.” By demanding other people confirm their victim status, they can shut that voice down. It’s why people with this self-limiting belief tend to seek out fellow travelers: they can provide the emotional circle-jerk of mutual fuckedness that vindicates their dating misfortune of being not their fault.
This is actually a hard belief to shake. Not only is it self-reafirrming, but there’s an almost reflexive desire to slap back with the bite-size nuggets of wisdom that are best expressed in motivational image macros:
The problem with this response is that it’s not helpful. It essentially tells people that if they can’t immediately solve their own problem, they should just shut up. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that dating can be hard, frustrating or confusing. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging a problem when you don’t have an answer at your fingertips. In fact, the first step to making things better is to admit that you don’t know what to do. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing that the solutions are frequently difficult and challenging or you simply don’t want to pursue them.
The problem with the victimhood belief isn’t recognizing that you have a problem, it’s denying that there’s a solution. It’s the unwillingness to try to fix things at all. It’s the demanding that other people support your victimhood, that everyone buy into your particular worldview. If you have given up, that’s fine. That’s a valid decision for you. But demanding that other people confirm the rightness of your beliefs – especially when they want to help you – is an asshole-ish thing to do and ends up alienating people who might otherwise support you.
Yes, you’re fucked… but you’re fucking yourself.
4) You’re Looking For Someone To Blame
Another of the most common self-limiting beliefs, this one is actually a sub-variant of the victimhood belief. Just as with perpetual victimhood, it’s a way of absolving yourself of responsibility for your dating life. However, not only is everything not your fault, but other people are actively conspiring against you. It’s the antagonistic relationship model for sex and relationships only now there’s a literal antagonist.
On the milder end of things we have the classic “friend zone” conundrum. People talk about being “friend-zoned” or being “put in the friend-zone”, implying that this is something that is actively and willfully done to them. The unspoken implication is that they’ve been used – tricked even – and now they’ve been consigned to the Sexless Zone… when in reality, it’s just a case of “she just doesn’t want to touch his penis.” Complaining about being “friend-zoned” in the active sense takes the scenario from a case of unreturned affection to being wronged.
On the more extreme end of things… well, that’s where you get the Men’s Rights Movement, PUAHate and the Red Pill devotees. In this case someone – usually women, but not always – is the enemy. They are working to deprive men of what’s rightfully theirs. A man’s struggle in dating isn’t because of a poor attitude or a lack of skill, it’s because women are deliberately excluding him. Women are creep-shaming men because it’s a means of controlling them (or punishing them for being unattractive). Women won’t date him because biology and evo-psych. Feminists are trying to restrict men’s access to sex because FUCK YOU THAT’S WHY.
It’s an appealing belief because now there’s someone to blame for your misfortune. You’d have the sex-life of your dreams if it weren’t for X. You can blame women for only liking assholes or only liking rich guys. You can blame “alphas” for hogging all the women. You can blame socialism because now women don’t need men to support them.
Just as with the perpetual victimhood, it’s not that person’s fault. These self-limiting beliefs, on the other hand, make him more than just the universe’s butt-monkey, they make him a hero. He’s not unlucky, he’s being persecuted. He’s special, a lone man struggling against unseen forces that are aligned against him. He’s taking arms against the slings and arrows of those monsters who’re standing between him and the sex he wants.
3) You’re Comparing Your Life To Everybody Else’s
Teddy Roosevelt2 has an excellent saying: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. And he’s not wrong. One of the best ways to make yourself absolutely miserable is to constantly measure yourself by other people’s lives.
The worst thing you can do for yourself is decide that other people mark the standard for what you consider “success”. It inevitably sets you up for failure and disappointment because you will never see yourself as measuring up. It robs you of the ability to take satisfaction in your own life or accomplishments because you’ve given yourself a completely artificial benchmark based on your fantasy of that person’s life.
The need to compare yourself against other people is a particularly insidious self-limiting belief because you can’t possibly measure up. It’s equal parts seeking external validation – “If I have all the things in my life that this person has, I’ll be happy” – and cargo cult mysticism – “I want to be like this guy, so I have to have everything he does.” And when your life doesn’t measure up – and it won’t – then you end up making yourself miserable. You will always find some reason to believe that other people have it better than you because you’re dealing with incomplete information. You’re comparing your unedited footage to somebody else’s sizzle-reel. Worse, it’s not even an objective reel; it’s your interpretation of somebody else’s life. You have next to no information about what’s really going on in this person’s life – how happy they are, how satisfied they are, how they got to where they were or even if this is their real life and not some desperate attempt to live up to somebody else’s example.
And here’s the hell of it: sometimes it’s not even a real person. There are far more people than you’d realize who compare their lives to characters from tv shows, from movies. Their standard for success is if they could have a life like Barney Stinson, like Don Draper3, like Jordan Belfort4. Literally impossible standards because their lives are fiction.
Using other people as your yardstick for success, for happiness or for achievement only ensures that you’ll never be satisfied. You won’t be able to appreciate what you have because you’ll be too busy trying to measure up to somebody else’s bullshit example.
2) You’d Rather Be “Right” Than Lose Your Self-Limiting Beliefs
While this often happens on its own, it’s amazing how often this appears as a form of comorbidity with other self-limiting beliefs.
Some people put more value on having their beliefs validated than on changing them… even when those beliefs are actively making them miserable. Sometimes it’s a matter of a principled stand: they have staked their claim on who they are. To change this now would be a form of self-betrayal, a sign that you’re one of the weak-willed poseurs who change their beliefs with the fashions of the time. They have taken “be yourself” to heart and will stand steadfast to their chosen identity… even when being “themselves” is the problem.
Other times however, it’s less about refusing to change so much as demanding that other people conform to their reality.
Remember what I said earlier about perpetual victims? This is part of that behavior: they want acknowledgement that they’re helpless… and that it’s not their fault.
When you’ve bought into the idea that you’re uniquely defective for so long, you end up running into a form of the sunk-cost fallacy: you’ve made this so much of a part of your identity for so long that you almost can’t let yourself give it up. It’s a form of a fear of loss; if you let go of this self-limiting belief then you’re forced to confront all of those months or years when things could have been different. It’s time you can’t get back and it’s time you have essentially squandered. That realization hurts. In a lot of ways, it ends up making you afraid of success because… well, you’ve blown all that time and now what?
Except there’s no way to move forward without admitting you were wrong. Yeah, it’s going to hurt… that’s inevitable. I look back on my bad old days and I resent the time I lost to depression and self-inflicted misery. But there comes a point when you have to be willing to ask if you’re willing to lose even more time in order to avoid feeling the sting or if you’re ready to invest in the rest of your life.
1) You Define Yourself By Your Limitations
In a lot of ways, this is the end-result of holding on to your self-limiting beliefs: you make your limitations and your failures dictate who you are as a person. You are literally making being a failure part of your identity. Never mind any of your accomplishments. Never mind the people whose lives you’ve touched. Never mind the things you’ve achieved in your life, the goals you’ve met, the friends you’ve made or any of the other positive qualities5 in your life. No, you have decided that your defining traits are the things you think you can’t do.
This is literally self-limiting. When you define yourself by your limitations, you make it impossible to change or to grow. You’re setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy because you’ve turned failing into part of who you are. You’re preemptively choosing to fail by deciding in advance that you can’t possibly succeed. This belief sabotages any possibility you have of accomplishing anything because you’ll end up sabotaging it. This identity infects every aspect of your life. It colors the way you see the world and alters how you interact with people. It changes your body language, your word choice, even the way you think.
I should know. For decades I was “The One Who Was Not Good With Girls”. I made that part of who I was. It was the background noise to every interaction I had with women; I knew there was no way they could like me and so I saw even the slightest sign of interest as a trick. They were trying to fool me. To get my hopes up just to kick me down again. Or, worse, I was just imagining it, getting my hopes up for nothing.
There was no way I was going to be able to improve until I was willing to redefine myself. And believe me, it wasn’t easy. It took a long time to be willing to reconsider who I was, to unlearn the helplessness and give up those self-limiting beliefs. But every triumphant little challenge to my old identity, every successful micro-revolution, put just another crack in the wall.
And over time, those cracks added up. The wall came tumbling down. New worlds were open to me, vistas and horizons I never thought I’d be able to see.
For the first time, I didn’t have anything holding me back.
You can too. Let go of those self-limiting beliefs. Challenge those limitations, those negative, toxic thoughts that tell you that you can’t do it. Even the tiniest victories count.
And soon you won’t have anything holding you back from your dreams, either.
- fnar [↩]
- seriously, he’s just going to keep coming up today. [↩]
- Much like with Fight Club, you have to wonder if people actually watched the show… [↩]
- Who is a real person, but it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of him that suddenly made him an icon again [↩]
- “What positive qualities?” Thank you for proving my point, Mr. Clever Boots. [↩]