The only sure path to improving your dating life is to improve yourself. But what happens when nobody else seems to notice these changes?
Going from the sad sack loser – an “average frustrated chump” in PUA parlance – to being someone who was confident and at ease with himself and who actually was skilled at meeting women, getting dates, getting laid – took years of work. I had to fight a lifetime of ingrained bad habits, self-limiting beliefs and the adoption of somebody else’s identity of who I was.
I was, frankly, rather justifiably proud of the improvements I’d made in my life… but while my friends in my adopted home town revelled in my newfound identity, my childhood friends didn’t seem to notice at all.
In fact, at the time it seemed to me as though they were actively working to force me back into my old identity: The One Who Was Not Good With Girls. Any stories I had about the women I was meeting or the dates I had gone on were seen as exaggerations at best – outright lies at worst. Any opinons I had about approaching women were met with disdain. In fact, if we were out at bars, they’d treat me as a joke for their entertainment – “Ok Cassanova, show us what you’ve got. Go talk to that girl at the bar! Ooh, ooh, and you have to use this line!”
It can be frustrating, maddening even, when nobody wants to acknowledge just how much you’ve improved. It can make you doubt that you have actually changed at all. To make matters worse, it can make you lose that progress you fought so hard for. When the people whose opinons matter to you seemingly refuse to acknowledge how much you’ve changed, it can lead to you falling back into your old, bad routines. What’s the point in changing when nobody notices or even cares?
Why is it so damned hard to change the way people see us?
Turns out that it’s a mix of social dynamics and how our brains work.
Why Do You Care?
We all have a core group of people – friends, family, maybe an ex-lover or two – whose opinions carry more weight in our estimation than most do. It may be that you are trying to prove a point – “When she sees how much I’ve changed, she’ll totally regret dumping me/beg me to take her back/start seeing me as more than ‘just a friend’.” It could be that these are the core group whose esteem and opinion of you carry more weight in your life than in others and you want them to be proud of how much you’ve improved and changed over the years
Or – and let’s be honest here, this has happened to almost all of us – it may well be that these are the people whose validation you are seeking in order to prove a point to yourself. It’s easy to say “yes, I am completely different from who I used to be; I am no longer the loser I once was” to yourself… so easy, in fact, that you can still feel that little germ of doubt, that annoying little voice in the back of our heads that says “Are you suuuuuuure? Maybe you’re just deluding yourself…” Having others acknowledge how much you’ve improved has more emotional heft, more validity, than just your own estimation.
The problem with this all-too-common issue is that by relying on the acknowledgement of others is ultimately a loser’s game; you’re ceding your locus of control to an external source – which in practice means that you’re putting your self-esteem and sense of self worth in the hands of others. By letting others influence your identity, you are tacitly giving up your right to define yourself and allowing others to define you. By allowing others to define you, by not being self-validating, you will ultimately never be happy or satisfied for very long; you will be far too concerned with the opinions of others rather than focusing on yourself.
That having been said, not having the acknowledgment by your peers can actually make it harder for those changes to stick. When it seems as though you can’t escape your old identity – when you’re being treated exactly the way that you were in the bad old days, you can find yourself falling back into those old behaviors. Much like with recovering alcoholics, those old behaviors and habits are easy to fall back into – and your friends and family may end up reinforcing those old habits.
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that most of the time that our friends aren’t maliciously trying to hold us back. In fact, it may well be that they literally can’t see the changes.
People Are Mentally Lazy
One of the odd issues about the human brain is that we don’t perceive as much as we think we do. We like to think that we see people in their totality – treating them as a holistic person and making rational assumptions based observations and experience. Instead, we rely heavily on shortcuts, first impressions stereotypes and pre-conceived notions of who we think other people are. These mental images can be affected by a few traits, both positive and negative. Known as the halo effect, we will take a few key impressions – how physically attractive they are, how friendly they are to us off the bat, how extroverted they are versus how introverted – and extrapolate these into an entire persona out of it.
The fact that this persona may not bear any resemblance to reality is beside the point. Someone we think is stuck up and snobbish may just be shy and withdrawn. The funny, outgoing charmer with the boyish good looks may be a horrible human being who delights in kicking puppies and burning down orphanages… but we refuse to see it because how could someone who makes us laugh be a bad person?
Once we have these mental impressions, it can be incredibly difficult to shift them. We are all prone to confirmation bias – we prefer to believe we’re right about everything, so we will naturally mentally filter out information that contradicts what we believe and focus with laser-like intensity on the tiniest scraps that confirm what we already believe.
On the personal level, this meant that, even when I would go out with my friends and chat up women who found me to be charming and delightful, my friends would dismiss it as random chance – if they even noticed it at all. If I happened to screw up or walk away without getting her number1 then it was just further confirmation that I was exaggerating (at best) or inventing a new life out of whole cloth, rather than a reminder that nobody hits a home run every time.