“If you’re powerless, then you never need to face the idea that perhaps you’re in a hole of your own making.”
Originally published on Paging Dr. Nerdlove
I’ve talked a little before about how my life was back in the bad old days when my idea of wooing a woman was to follow her around like a newly hatched gosling in the hopes that she might somehow turn around and see all the amazingness I had to offer. I had all sorts of brilliant theories1 but they were all going sorely untested, and I was bitter and resentful. There I was, radiating “for fuck’s sake, somebody love me” as hard as I possibly could and it was getting me nowhere.
I couldn’t talk to girls without coming off either as sarcastic and angry (my default state) or sarcastic and depressed (my other state) with occasional helpings of tongue-tied and utterly desperate for any dollop of attention2 women might be willing to bestow on me. At the same time, I would chase after women I subconsciously knew were unobtainable, developing crushes that were clearly A LOVE TO LAST THE AGES! and getting even more depressed when nothing ever happened.
I know that feel, bro.
On the rare occasions I DID manage to get a date with someone, I was so determined to make up for lost time3 that I usually ended up screwing things up by pushing too hard or dating women I really should have known were bad news for me.
So the majority of my dating life was misery to put it mildly. After all, I was The One Who Wasn’t Good With Girls. But none of this was my fault. I was a caught up in the cruel whims of an uncaring universe, tossed about in a world where the path of the righteous man – as I surely was – was beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.
When I was in high-school I could look at my lack of success and point at others as to why I was bad with women. I blamed my brother and my friend Miles – how was I, a beta male if ever there was one, supposed to compete when these two were around, radiating all their jockish-charm? I literally watched a girl make a point of ignoring me in order to hook up with Miles. I blamed all of the women I went to high-school with – they were too status obsessed or into dating the assbags from the other schools to recognize how cool I was deep down and how much I had to offer.
When I got to college, I couldn’t blame Miles and the others any more. But it was a culture where clearly women wanted superficial qualities instead of someone who mostly had inner beauty. How was I, a nerd, supposed to compete in a world where anti-intellectualism was cool and I was just a man unappreciated in his time? The relationship I did find in college was great for helping me lose my virginity… but it was also incredibly toxic and emotionally abusive. I stayed in it for years to the dismay of my friends because I thought that this was the best I could do. This was the life that I was fated for, right?
(Spoiler alert: it totally wasn’t.)
THE MOMENT IT ALL CHANGED
Between escaping my first relationship and the night that changed my life, I hit what I thought was the pinnacle of my life. I found a girl – my own personal Geek Girl, in fact – who I thought was the answer to all my prayers and a job that seemed like a dream come true… for all of six months. I got dumped by my dream girl and lost my dream job within the span of a week. My next relationship was even shorter and ended via an e-mail. I dated a dwindling handful of women that went nowhere and left me more depressed than before. I was trending towards a nadir, raging futilely against a universe that seemed to have it out for me personally.
Then came my Batman moment. The night that changed things around for me. That was the night that I went head to head with Miles over the same girl and lost… badly. To me, it seemed like a final confirmation that I was destined to die alone and unloved; the best I could hope for was a relationship where the most I could expect was to be slightly less miserable than before. Alone in my room, trying to decide whether getting stinking drunk or crying myself to sleep after masturbating out of frustration was the better answer, I realized that I really wasn’t willing to live like that any more. I had two options: either accepting the inevitable fate of “forever alone” (if I didn’t end up taking the shorter way out) or giving it one last shot.
There was just one catch. If I were to be willing to take up arms against my personal sea of troubles, it meant that I had to give up the idea that I had ended up the way I was because of forces outside of my control. I couldn’t put the blame on either Miles or my brother. I couldn’t blame “society” for not acknowledging my value. I couldn’t just point to fate and say “I’m not where I want to be because of this thing.”
I had to be willing to take 100% responsibility for where I was in my life. I was alone and miserable and it was my own damn fault because of the decisions I had made.
RESPONSIBILITY AND THE CULT OF VICTIMHOOD
We live in a culture where success and skill with women is considered to be a binary state: either you aregood with women or you aren’t and there’s nothing you can do about it… and there’s something reassuring about that. For all of the pain and negativity that comes with feeling as though you’re a victim of circumstance, there’s a certain comfort that comes with it. To be a catspaw to fate, to be helpless in the face of society, women’s arbitrarily cruelty, fate, genetics, whatever you may want to call it – absolves you of all accountability. It maintains the view that nothing is your fault; you cannot control the forces that lead you to where you are, therefore you have no blame.
Do you see just how seductive this belief is?
If you’re powerless, then you never need to face the idea that perhaps you’re in a hole of your own making. You never need to face the consequences of your own actions because you can’t possibly be held responsible for them. If nothing’s your fault, then there’s no need to change, because what good would change do? Being a victim means you never have to acknowledge that you may have made mistakes, that you have been lazy, that you’ve been blaming other people for your own mistakes.
When we paint ourselves as struggling valiantly against a cold and uncaring destiny even as we know that we stand no chance of changing it, we’re not just losers – we’re heroes, fighting against forces beyond our comprehension or ability to change. We paint a narrative that encourages us to embrace our victimhood, even to revel in it… because our suffering makes us special, even if the rest of the world doesn’t want to acknowledge it. We’re better than everybody else who has it so much easier than we do because our struggle makes us more noble.
To be a victim is to be holy.
It’s all too easy to reinforce this self-limiting belief. Like-minded fellow travelers are all too eager to shout in solidarity about how unfair the world is, to blame women for being cold, cruel bitches, Alpha Males for having an ineffable quality that can only be inherited, society for enforcing the idea that only a select few can be the chosen ones, reveling in women’s bounty and denying it to everybody else. The great echo-chamber of the Internet amplifies the negativity and helps to buttress this idea until it becomes a tautology of circular reasoning – est ergo est.
HARRY POTTER AND THE LOCUS OF CONTROL
If you are not willing to take full responsibility for your life, you are ceding the ability to improve. You have externalized your locus of control; you have declared that you have no ability to affect your own life. By shifting the blame to others, you are saying that you are powerless. By giving up your own power, you have tacitly declared any change impossible. There is no point to trying to break out of the cycle of negativity that you let run your life because you have no animus.
You are admitting that all you are is a puppet and that all you have to offer are excuses and reasons why you can’t possibly be held responsible for your failures.
The problem is, if you can’t be held responsible for your failures, you can’t possibly take credit for your victories and successes. At its best, it’s intellectually dishonest thinking; you can’t claim credit for things you did that worked while also claiming that every failure is somehow magically not your fault. It’s an all or nothing proposition. Either fate has total control over you or it has none.
Taking responsibility for your life – by assuming ownership and accounting for your decisions, for your circumstances – is actually one of the most liberating things you can do. You are internalizing your locus of control, freeing yourself from the imaginary chains that you’ve let hold you back for so long.
SO HOW IS THIS SUPPOSED TO WORK?
It’s very simple: you accept that you are where you are because of your actions and your inactions. You are where you are because you have chosen to be there. Every day you draw breath is the culmination of every choice you have made over the course of your lifetime. You may not have realized that this is where you were headed… but it’s where you ended up.
And now it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to stay there or not.
This means being willing to throw away your labels; you can be The One Who’s Not Good With Girls or you can change and grow. You can either choose to be a victim or you can choose to fight, struggle and change.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Simple?
It’s not, and you shouldn’t assume that I’m saying that it is. What I’m asking you to do is to give up an identity that you likely have had ingrained in you for years, if not decades. You have to give up the comfortable illusions that you’ve held on to, the myriad reasons and excuses that we use to insulate ourselves from pain and rejection. You have to give up the idea that “women force me to do all the work” or “women only like Alpha Males and I’m just a Beta”. You have to sacrifice the idea that women make you jump through hoops or that you can only be “successful” with women4 by fitting into a narrow definition of “man”. By taking responsibility for your life, you can no longer say “Women are cold/snobbish/closed off/bitches/games players”. You can no longer blame men or women for your lack of success, for not recognizing how amazing you are and mobbing you until you’re swimming in pussy like Scrooge McDuck diving through his money bin.
But at the same time, you are saying that you can improve. It means that every day, you ask yourself whether you want it badly enough to put in the effort and sacrifice that it takes to get better with women.
NO MORE “I CAN’T”
It sounds like I’m being exceedingly negative – “blame blame blame”, right?
It’s really not. Taking responsibility means removing the negativity from your life. It means eliminating the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. Words have power and the words we use wear a groove in our brain that colors the way we perceive and interact with the world – and “can’t” is a blocking word. It’s a way of putting up barriers. You may choose to not do something. You may have failed at something. You may not have done something yet. These are matters of will. Can’t means an impossibility – and it becomes an excuse.
To put it another way:
I have to be honest: there are few things I hate worse than “trying” to do something. “Trying” to do something is pre-excusing defeat. It’s a way of trying to insulate yourself from pain. It’s an attempt to inoculate yourself from having to take ownership of the fact that you failed. It’s not your fault. You tried.
The problem isn’t failure – the problem is trying to not admit that you failed.
There is nothing wrong with failure. We all fail. It can be frustrating – maddening even. We can put 110% of our soul and effort into something and still fuck it up. We can fail at things we know to the core of our very beings that should have succeeded. But the difference comes in whether we accept that we failed or whether we try to excuse it, justify it or rationalize it away. It’s tempting. God knows it’s tempting – saying “I tried” is a way of preserving our ego and sparing ourselves from pain.
But it also means cheating ourselves of the opportunity to grow.
THE COLD TRUTH OF “FOREVER ALONE”
Let’s acknowledge a hard truth: some people are forever alone. Sometimes there isn’t someone for everyone. People die having never found romantic love or a “successful” relationship. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.
Now that we’ve acknowledged that, let’s acknowledge another hard truth: nobody knows if that’s going to be them. The fact that some people never find love is no excuse for giving up. There is literally no way of knowing whether or not you’re going to be one of those people until you die. Nobody knows which moment is going to be their last; you could be hit by a bus tomorrow, you could have a cerebral hemorrhage 40 years from now. You could literally be on your death bed and find love even at the very end. The fact that we don’tknow when or how we’re going to die means we have an obligation to live in hope.
Using the metrics from my Facebook page as a representative sample, the majority of my readership is between the ages of 18 and 34; are you really trying to tell me that you know with full certainty that you are going to be spending the next 40 to 60 years alone and unloved?
It can be frustrating beyond words to feel that way; I know exactly what it’s like. I’ve been there myself. If you asked me 20, even 10 years ago whether I’d be where I am with my love life, I would have laughed in your face… probably while crying. Your current situation is no guarantee of how your future will be and to assume that it will always be thus is just one more way of ceding responsibility.
THE ONLY EASY DAY WAS YESTERDAY
This is not to say that changing your life is as easy as waking up one day and declaring “That’s it! My entire life is my own responsibility!” and then things are magically rainbows and blowjobs for all.
I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying that everybody is starting from the same place. I’m not saying that chaos and random chance don’t exist and don’t affect you. But accepting responsibility for your life, internalizing the locus of control means fighting to change things, even in the face of failure. Even in the face of repeated failure. You may not have control of everything that affects you, but you and only you can choose how to respond to it.
Some people will have an easier time of it than others. That is a part of life. You will have it easier than other people will. This is also a part of life. It’s going to be a struggle. And it’s going to suck. This is unavoidable. One of the wisest people I know once told me “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
It was in taking responsibility for my life that I was finally free to improve. By puting the onus on me to fix my life – to fight towards becoming the man I wanted to be – I was able to start breaking through the self-limiting beliefs and change my life.
I want to close this with something I’ve listened to when I needed to remind myself of what was at stake.
You’re better than that.
- in the sense of – “I’ve read all the wrong books and watched all the wrong movies about how love works” [↩]
- i.e. sex [↩]
- i.e. losing my virginity [↩]
- for suitably variable definitions of “success” [↩]