Dr. NerdLove asserts that it’s not your lack of looks, money or power that’s holding you back in dating.
You are your own worst enemy.
I realize that this is a cliche that’s passed around in self-help circles like a joint at a midnight screening of Dark Side of the Rainbow, but all too often we are the agents of our own misery… and we fight to stay that way. It’s a form of confirmation bias; we want to be right no matter what, even when being right causes us pain and holds us back from everything we wish we could be.
Case in point – your dating life. Odds are that if you’re reading this, you’re not happy with the way your dating life is going right now.1 So I’m going to let you in on a little secret that most dating coaches aren’t going to tell you: 99% of all sticking points in dating boil down to two causes. Of those two, the first is just a matter of skill; either you’re inexperienced or else you’re not as accomplished as you would like to be. These problems are easily fixable – it’s a matter of practice.
The other problem is self-limiting beliefs – that little voice in your head that tells you that you’re never going to measure up and gives you all of those plausible reasons why you’re going to fail. Like the elephant and the mahout, they’re the threads that we convince ourselves are a chain. Once these beliefs latch into our brain, we perversely hold onto them because… well, we want to be right. They become part of our worldview and we all want to believe we’re gimlet-eyed viewers of TRVTH, seeing the world as it really is. Questioning the rightness of our beliefs throws all of this into doubt, leaving us confused and uncertain… and we’d rather hold on to what we “know”.
There are at least a dozen of you who just said “Bullshit” to this, thus proving my point.
We hold these self-limiting beliefs close because they reinforce the idea that we – as individuals – have been singled out by fate, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, what-have-you, to be fucked over and that we’re unique in our circumstances.
Except we’re not. In fact, over the years, I’ve seen the same ones come up over and over again. And the first step to finding more satisfaction in our love lives is to realize that we hold the ability to quit giving these beliefs power over us.
5) “I’m Too Fat/Skinny/Short/Tall/Hairy/Bald/Ugly…”
There are more variations to this belief than I can count and they all come down to the same basic message: “Nobody could possibly love me if I don’t match the default physical ideal”. Your nose is too big, your mouth is too small, your waistline is too wide, you shoulders are too narrow… the list of physical imperfections is almost infinite.
Men agonize over their looks more than most people would realize; in fact, reports of eating disorders and body dysmorphia in boys has been on the rise. Even men who others would think are damn near perfect are often crippled by the idea that there’s some aspect of themselves that makes them ugly beyond redemption.
Men spend tens of thousands of dollars on gym memberships, cosmetic surgery, and chemical enhancements in hopes of meeting some arbitrary standard of beauty, for fear of being excluded from the dating pool. The incel2 forums teem with men complaining about how their looks render them undatable, while others complain about being unfairly labeled as “creepy” because they’re not as attractive as, say, Tom Brady.
And yet, guys who aren’t classically handsome find love and get laid all the damn time. Ron Perlman – who based a career on being an odd-looking romantic hero – is happily married. So is Patton Oswalt. Hell, Peter Dinklage is a sex symbol these days.
Now, while nobody argues that being conventionally attractive isn’t an advantage in life, we tend to forget that attraction isn’t just about looks. In fact, what we find “attractive” is wildly variable and covers a broad spectrum of looks, builds and body hair coverage. While we all agree that Brad Pitt is a good looking dude, there are many, many women who wouldn’t touch him with a borrowed vagina and Charlie Hunnam standing by to tag in when Brad gets tired. For every hairy, chubby guy who thinks that he’s doomed to a life of lonely masturbation sessions with Redtube, there’s a woman who thinks big-boned and beardy is the bee’s knees and the badger’s nadgers. Some women prefer a guy with dreadlocks while others love nothing more than to rub their hands (and other parts) over a freshly shaved scalp.
Moreover, physical appearance is only a small part of looking good; dressing well in clothes that actually fit, correct posture, proper grooming and hygiene and even your attitude will improve your outward appearance above and beyond your facial symmetry. These all speak to your level of self-investment, which in turn is a measure of your confidence. By taking the time and effort to invest in yourself, you’re making yourself feel better – and this will make you more confident and attractive to others.
How you feel about yourself is critical to your being attractive; feeling like an unattractive blob of misery is going to make it almost impossible to actually charm others. Adjusting your diet and spending time in the gym will help – not because you need to muscle up or slim down but because exercise releases endorphins into your bloodstream and makes you feel good and eating a healthier diet – no junk food, more water, more veggies, fewer refined carbs – will improve your mood and outlook. The act of doing something good for yourself will help make you feel better; whether you turn into a sculpted Adonis or not is secondary.
The final component of attractiveness is how you make others feel. The Abercrombie and Fitch model with all of the personality of an especially boring rock is far less appealing than the short, fat man who can make a woman laugh so hard she hurts herself and makes her feel like she’s the most important woman in the world. You can’t make other people feel good when you’re tied up in knots about how nobody could possibly find you appealing.
4) “I’m Not Rich/Important/Alpha/High-Status Enough.”
The idea that you need to be rich, ”alpha” or otherwise “high-status” is equal parts a sense of personal inadequacy and intellectual fallacy. The idea that you’re too poor/beta/plebian reflects a sense of anxiety and a feeling that you don’t measure up to “traditional” definitions of masculinity; you aren’t as aggressive, say, or as outgoing as others. You may be more emotionally expressive than men are allowed to be by society or not as athletic. You don’t make as much money as other people or have as socially impressive a job, therefore you don’t rate as a potential provider. Then – adding to the anxiety – you consistently see rich, flashy douchebags surrounded by hot women all the time. So it only makes sense to assume that the x-factor you’re missing is being a rich, showboating asshat.
Of course, as you’re focusing on the ones who have everything you don’t, you’re committing a fallacy known as “confirmation bias”; you’re giving undue importance to the people who confirm your idea – that you’re not X enough – but ignoring everybody else who contradicts it. Even basic math belies the bullshit in the idea that only the rich/high-status/alpha/whatever get laid; humanity would’ve died out millenia ago if only 20% of the population was able to reproduce. Moreover, as a dating coach I’ve run into more people than I can conveniently count who had money or a flashy job but couldn’t get a date to save their life. The professional poker player3 who drove the high-performance sports car, for example, was just as bad at getting women as the guy working the dead-end retail job at the mall and driving a busted-ass Hyundai coupe that was 90% rust and Bondo.
But what you need to realize is that focusing on others’ advantages – real or imaginary – brings you precisely jack shit. There will always be people who have things you don’t have, whether they won the genetic lottery or just happened to be born at the right place and at the right time. Their advantages don’t magically make you lesser. You can either wallow in envy or you can do something.
The issue isn’t that you aren’t rich or suitably hyper-masculine, it’s that you’re not maximizing what you bring to the table. Cultivating your talents and personality will go far further towards finding you lasting happiness in relationships than winning the Powerball; having a life, even if you’re not rich beyond dreams of avarice is what makes somebody appealing. Can you show somebody a great time without spending a fortune? Then you’re a step ahead of somebody who gets by only because he’s able to overwhelm people with his ability to spend money or who’s basking in reflected glory from his job or his supposed VIP friends.
Sure, money can bring you opportunities – but women who are interested in you because you’re rich care less about you than about the fact that you have money.
3) I’m Too Inexperienced
One of the traps of classic masculinity is the belief that a Real Man™ is defined by the number of sex-partners he’s had; a man who’s had as dozens, if not hundreds, is to be lionized while someone who is in the single digits – or worse, a virgin – is somehow lesser, if he’s even a man at all.
Lots of guys who are relatively socially or sexually inexperienced see themselves as permanently stuck in a catch-22: women supposedly only want partners who can wow them in bed, but men can’t get the necessary experience to get women off without finding someone to sleep with them.
This self-limiting belief ties into the idea that he’s in competition with every single one of his partner’s former lovers; if he can’t outperform all of them, then no woman is going to want him. As long as the experience differential isn’t too broad – part of the classic madonna-whore complex - then he stands a chance of at least reaching the top 5. Otherwise… well, he’s never going to be able to compete so why even bother?
Others feel ashamed of being a virgin in the first place. If they haven’t had sex by some arbitrary cut-off – more on this in a moment – then clearly something is wrong with them and women can sniff it out because women are like Wolverine when it comes to detecting sexual dysfunction. And again, they’re caught in the never-ending spiral of needing to lose their virginity by somehow concealing their virginity in the first place because reasons.
Here’s the secret though: every new lover is like starting from scratch. The first time with anyone new is going to be a learning affair because no two people fuck exactly the same way. Even the most experienced cocksmen and sultry femme fatales have to restart from the beginning when it comes to adapting to a person’s likes, dislikes, must-haves and never-do-that-agains. You’ve may have had great success having learned the Albigensian Swirly right up until you find that it makes your current’s lover’s skin crawl right the hell off of her and hide in the closet until it all stops.
The key to being an incredible lover regardless of your experience or the number of notches in your bedpost is to be willing to listen and to learn. If you have an open mind, a willingness to follow directions (and handle criticism without falling to pieces) and a can-do attitude, you’ll be miles ahead of most of the other men that she’s going to meet. You don’t need to be the greatest lover that she’s ever known in order to go to bed with someone, you just need to be the man she wants right then.
2) It’s Too Late For Me
Tied in to the fear and shame of being a virgin is the idea that there is an arbitrary deadline for somebody to have lost his virginity/ sewed his wild oats/ found a partner and settled down and if you’ve missed your window of opportunity then, shit son, it’s too late for you. I’ve lost track of all the people who think they’ve passed the point of no return in some aspect of their dating lives and now they want to know how they’re supposed to carry on.
The crazy part comes in that everybody seems to think that they’ve passed that magic line. I’ve had letters from people in high-school who are convinced that they’ve missed their shot and now are doomed to walk the Earth with an eternal case of blue-balls and dodgy fedora/trench coat/turtleneck combo as The Phantom Virgin.
Whenever I get one of these letters, I have a very simple question: are you dead yet?
Then it’s not too late.
This special form of misery comes from believing that – once again – there is some universal standard by which all relationships are measured. You have average ages, but that’s all they are… averages. In the grand scope of the human experience, you are going to find people who lost their virginity or found love profoundly early or far later in life. Speaking for myself, I was on the trailing edge of the median when I had sex for the first time and got married later in life than most of my contemporaries. I’ve got friends who did both even later than I did – one who didn’t get married until she was in her 40s. This doesn’t make their love or experiences any less meaningful or valid than somebody who got married to their high-school sweetheart or was getting blow-jobs in the eighth grade.
You may not have sex, find love or any other experience on the human spectrum as soon as you might like, but that has absolutely nothing to do with your value as a person or the potential to have those experiences. It simply means you might be an outlier on the chart… and not only does that not mean anything other than statistically, there are millions of you out there.
Love and sex don’t come to a screeching halt just because you’ve hit some random age. In fact, STD rates among seniors are skyrocketing; turns out Gramps and MawMaw have all been friggin’ in the riggin’ like bonobos on molly in the Assisted Living home and forgetting to bring the condoms.
Those deadlines exist only in your head. Quit treating every dating experience as an attempt to make up for lost time; constantly lamenting what you didn’t get in the past is only going to rob you of your ability to enjoy the present.
1) Women are All X/ Women Only Like Y/ Women Don’t Like Z
This is one of the most common self-limiting beliefs out there, and the one that most people don’t realize is a limitation. The idea of course, is that women are an unyielding monolith, a hive-mind that marches in perfect lock-step with one another like Cybermen with mammary glands.
This sort of belief frequently gets tossed around any place where frustrated men gather to bemoan their lack of sex or dating success; women are all hypergamous bitches who instinctively only want rich men, they’re puppet masters who make men jump through their hoops because it’s easier for them to get laid… the list goes on and on.
Obviously, there are components of a compositional fallacy to be found in this – assuming that because some women act or behave in a specific way, all women do… but deep down, this self-limiting belief is much more interesting.
You see, the roots of this belief come from externalizing one’s own insecurities and anxiety and projecting it onto others. It’s a way of letting others shoulder the burden of your emotional baggage and then turning around and blaming them for your own issues. Almost every time that somebody laments that they can’t get a date because all women only like $CONDITION or are only attracted to $QUALITY, it’s something that they are lacking in themselves – and it’s totally unfair that women require it from them. It speaks volumes to a lack of introspection and self-awareness or a willingness to take responsibility for their own lives; instead they’re demanding something that they feel is being unfairly denied to them rather than addressing their own emotional needs first.
As I’ve said many times before, you need to be confident in yourself, to actually like yourself before anyone else can like you or be attracted to you. When you’re blaming all women everywhere for having unfair conditions that keep you from the sex you deserve, then you need to stop and look inward. Be willing to examine yourself, embrace the truth of who you are and address it. It’s your own emotional issues that are holding you back, and the sooner you are able to confront them, own them and resolve them, the happier you will finally be and the more success you’ll have.
- Or maybe you’re just an advice column addict, in which case, hey, thanks for the page-views! [↩]
- Involuntarily celibate [↩]
- Oddly, I’ve known many of these… [↩]
Photo: Flickr/davide vizzini