About a day ago, we had a commentator on the post on how to become romantic who weighed in to let me know that it's silly to try and get better with people, and that most people have better things to do, and that in fact you really should just be yourself, and anyone who doesn't realize how awesome you are is simply intellectually stunted.
Where do people come up with this malarkey?
I know he represents a vanishingly small minority on this site -- and likely was just a passerby -- but this mentality represents the majority of the thought on the subject in mainstream society.
"Just be yourself. If people don't like you for who you are, who needs 'em?"
Quite likely one of the most counterproductive mindsets a man could possibly have. Anyway, I addressed that commentator's individual points pretty thoroughly in the comments section of that article itself, so I won't revisit it here, but I do want to talk about this mentality of "just be yourself" -- and why it's such terrible, terrible advice.
The Rise of Feel-Good Political Correctness and the Decline of Steady Self-Improvement
Somewhere between 1960 and 1970 or so, the West decided that it was bad to make people feel bad, and that the most important thing you could do for another human being was to tell them they were fantastic, just the way they were.
Before that, if you were doing a bad job, people told you. They didn't hold their punches. Watch old movies and you'll see it; "shape up or ship out" was a commonly used phrase back then. It meant you'd better get your ass in gear and step it up and get yourself improved, or else you were getting kicked to the curb.
But then things changed. We collectively decided in the West that we were hurting too many people's feelings by telling them they needed to improve themselves, so instead we pulled a one-eighty and started telling them that they were lovely, just how they were.
And what ended up happening was, people bought it. They really bought into it and believed it; they breathed it, ate it, and slept it.
"Why should I have to change myself?" people said. "The world should accept me just the way I am!"
And large numbers of people really gave up trying to improve themselves. They started believing that everyone else should value them for who they were, and everyone else should see and understand how incredible and amazing they were on the inside, and that that was all that really counted.
So, Western people stopped working on their bodies, and many of them became fat and obese. And Western people stopped working on their careers, and many of them ended up in meaningless dead-end jobs. And Western people stopped working on their style, and many of them continued dressing the same way their parents dressed them as children. And Western people stopped working on their personalities, and many of them kept the same personalities they had as children -- selfish, lazy, and filled with a sense of entitlement.
And maybe that would've been fine, had everyone made the switch. But not everybody did.
You see, some people in the West didn't buy into the feel-good political correctness that everyone else swore by. Instead, some people retained the values of their parents, and their parents' parents, and their parents' parents' parents. Some of those values, discarded by the feel-good folks, included:
- A strong work ethic -- if you want something to get done, you work hard and make it happen
- A thick skin for criticism -- if someone doesn't like you, that's fine; consider why, maybe there's a valid opportunity in there for improvement, and if there is, you take it. If there isn't, you just shrug it off and get back to work
- A sense of personal responsibility -- it isn't other people who have to recognize how amazing you are and make sure you have all the things you want -- it's you who must make people realize your benefits and get the things you want for yourself
That last one's the most important for this article here today. Because the people who tell you to just be yourself think that the world should give you everything you want, if you are just "true to yourself."
A girl could be a hairdresser who dropped out of high school and genuinely enjoys toking up as her favorite pastime, but if she wants to get a gorgeous, high-flying attorney as a husband, all she has to do is just be herself and of course she'll find him.
A guy could be an overweight, balding construction worker who works the midnight shift and watches a little too much porn, but if he really wants to date a model who spent time on the Olympic tennis team, all he has to do is just be himself and he'll get her eventually.
Extreme examples, but they're there to illustrate why not everyone making the switch has caused problems: it's because the vast majority of society today is non-improvement "just be yourself"ers, but the people they all like and admire and want to spend time with the most and desire most as mates are the driven, accomplished "pull yourself up by your bootstrap"ers.
Get that? Most folks don't want to have to improve. But almost everybody wants to have a mate who's radically improved him or herself.
Needless to say, the feel-good politically correct people get left frustrated and bitter they didn't get the kind of mate they wanted, while the improvement-focused people all pair up with one another and end up comparatively a lot happier, as they conduct their joint self-expansion and keep getting better and better.
And yet, the feel-good politically correct people keep marching along, beating the drum of "just be yourself" and fervently trying to get others to believe.
Funny thing about those who go out seeking converts: it's always the people who are struggling the hardest to justify their beliefs who yell them the loudest and try the hardest to win new converts; it's as if getting someone else to believe reassures them just that much more that yes, in fact, they're on the right path.
But the people who're certain of their beliefs? Most of the time, they don't bother talking about them at all. They're too busy getting stuff done and living fulfilling lives to worry too much about what other people think.
It's a Bad Idea to Just Be Yourself
Seven years ago, I couldn't get a date to save my life. If I'd decided back then that, rather than trying to steadily improve myself and turn myself into a man that women found irresistible, instead I would continue to "just be myself," I don't know where I'd be today, but I know I'd be a lot angrier, a lot more bitter, and a lot less happy than I am right now. In fact, I'd probably be that same old angry, bitter, miserable self I used to be. Hell of a prescription from the feel-good politically correct camp -- thanks for that, team!
Actually, I used to be the perfect example of the "just be yourself" mentality. I went through a period where I legitimately believed that if people didn't realize how awesome I was, then screw them, they were morons. That went on until I started recognizing I didn't have the kind of people I wanted in my life.
See, the problem with being yourself is that you don't get any better. But life isn't about staying in one place; it's about continually improving.
There's no such thing as stasis. Either you're getting better, or you're getting worse... all the time.
That's the difference between the "just be yourself"ers (they think they're standing in place, but they're really in decline) and the folks who're focused on continuous improvement (they're continuously getting better).
I'll give you one other way of thinking about it. If I told you:
- That I wanted to climb Mt. Everest but I'd never mountain climbed before, would you tell me I should start training now, or that I ought to not worry about it and I should "just be myself?"
- That I wanted to go to law school but I hadn't started studying for the LSATs, would you tell me I should start studying now, or that if the graders didn't like my answers they were just fools and that I should really "just be myself?"
- That I wanted to be in a rock band, but I was pretty bad at singing and guitar, would you tell me I should work on getting better in those areas, or that if audiences didn't like my stuff they were tone-deaf numbskulls and I'll be fine so long as I "just be myself?"
Yeah, that's right. It sounds pretty damn silly when you put it like that.
So why the heck do so many people think that "just be yourself" is great life and dating advice?
Just Make Yourself
This ought to be the mantra for all the non-feel-good politically correct folk.
Andrew Carnegie didn't become a steel magnate and philanthropist because he decided to just be himself. Instead, he made himself -- into an entrepreneur, a businessman, someone who gave back to his community. He turned himself into something that at the start of his life he was not.
I feel like the "just be yourself" mentality comes from a deeper problem in mainstream society, and that's the problem of people thinking life should all happen naturally and effortlessly. Like, if you just wait long enough, eventually you'll meet the girl of your dreams! And you'll find your dream job! And you'll have a happy, amazing life!
Judging by all the unhappy middle-aged folks there are out there who've been following that motto since 1960 something, I think it's safe to say the "wait for life to give you what you want! It'll all work out on its own!" crowd is getting mixed results, at best.
Nobody gives you what you want. You learn how to get it, and then you go get it.
If you want to climb a mountain, you start training for that.
If you want to go to law school, you start studying for that.
If you want to be in a band, you start playing for that.
If you want success with women, you start learning that too.
Who's going to do better with women and get the kind of women he really wants? The trained seducer who:
- Moves fast with women
- Gets to know women well and deep dives
- Uses chase frames and gets women pursuing him
- Handles logistics and invites women home
- Closes out on the last 5%
Or the guy who just kind of sits there and doesn't really know what he's doing but he's just being himself?
Right, hands down -- it's the guy who knows what he's doing. It's not even close.
Some guys still think there's some kind of "realness" vibe that a man who has no idea what he's doing has that a man who's trained himself up lacks that gives the "just bein' myself" guy some sort of mysterious advantage.
To me, this sounds suspiciously like the French esprit de corps. If you don't know about that, in the run-up to World War I, France and Germany knew they were going to go to war. So, Germany focused on building itself up -- it produced tons of bullets, machine guns, airplanes, u-boats. France was confident that it didn't need to improve itself, and that its esprit de corps -- the French fighting spirit -- would carry the nation to victory over any opponent. It kept its old foot soliders with old rifles and mounted cavalry.
Result? France and Germany went to war and France got crushed. The French mounted cavalry didn't do so hot against German machine guns and airplanes.
If you don't want to end up like France in World War I, my recommendation to you is that you never, ever listen to anybody who ever tells you to "just be yourself" ever again. Instead, you should take every opportunity you can for improvement and advancement -- because life isn't about standing still. It's about continually putting yourself into better and better positions to get the things you want.
And goddamn, what other things do you have to do that are better than that?