It’s not your flaws that you are aware of that cause insecurity and self-esteem issues. It’s the flaws you’re not aware of, the self-defeating beliefs you don’t even know you have.
Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains this problem brilliantly, “We’re blind to our blindness. We have very little idea of how little we know. We’re not designed to know how little we know.”
Your analysis of what’s causing you social problems is inaccurate, limited, and completely biased. If you want to change, you must first learn the true cause of your social problems.This fundamental understanding is the foundation for all social self-improvement.
Self-confidence and charisma (or the lack of them) are largely the results of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Psychologists have found that social expectations become social outcomes. Research on the powerful psychological force known as the Pygmalion Effect has shown this time and again.
Imagine a friend warns a babybsitter that the kid she’s going to babysit is impatient, annoying, and arrogant. He’s a real shithead. After hearing this, the babysitter becomes anxious about meeting this kid. When she finally meets him, just as expected, he’s horrible. This kid won’t listen to her, he has a short temper, and he treats her with total contempt.
There’s something the babysitter was totally blind to. The kid she babysat wasn’t usually a shithead, he was usually a perfectly normal kid. He acted like a shithead because she expected him to act like a shithead. Psychologists believe this happens because when we expect people to act a certain way, we treat them differently (often without our awareness). The person that’s a total asshole around you might be a saint around someone else.
Common sense matches this. If you’re a Trump supporter and you met Hillary Clinton, you’d probably treat her very differently than a supporter of hers would, and she would probably treat you differently than she would treat a supporter of hers.
We don’t just cause people to treat us differently based on our expectations of them. Our negative beliefs about ourselves cause other people to treat us differently too. If you don’t respect yourself, your behavior will reflect this (and people will treat you with less respect.
Someone who is self-pitying gets pity, not respect. If you believe you’re a weird who doesn’t deserve to be liked, you’re going to act uncomfortable around people. You will be shy and closed off. This behavior will repel people, and as you notice that people don’t seem to like you, you’re going to build even more evidence that you’re a weirdo who doesn’t deserve to be liked.
Then you’re going to act even more shy and closed-off around others, and this pattern repeats itself ad naseum. If you were aware this was happening, it would be easy enough to deal with, but we don’t notice this happening. We only live in our own mind which can easily become a vacuum chamber of negative, self-defeating beliefs.
We can’t understand how a better mindset would change our life for a similar reason that a deaf person can’t really understand how hearing would change their life.
We don’t have the proper context to understand what our mindset is doing to us until we become aware that our mindset is damaging us and is negative in ways that it doesn’t need to be. Lack of this awareness is why you don’t think it’s your behavior that’s repelling people, but that it’s the ‘fact’ that you’re a weirdo that’s repelling people.
Without knowing it, we become our own worst enemy. We might believe people are assholes, but we don’t realize they’re just reflecting our own beliefs back at us. We might believe we’re not worthy of affection, but we don’t realize that we wall ourselves from vulnerability and make it impossible to receive affection.
We might believe we don’t deserve a girlfriend, but we don’t realize that we could easily get a girlfriend if we just took the right actions. In countless ways, we fuck ourselves, and because our brain is constantly looking for an explanation for our problems, we blame those problems on something we don’t think we can control to free ourselves of responsibility.
We do this because it’s easy. Our brain was designed to take the easy route. Facing insecurities is never easy. The truth is that you are in control of (and therefore responsible) for all your social shortcomings, but it’s intrinsically difficult to notice the damage you’re doing to yourself.
Changing yourself isn’t hard because it takes so much willpower or hard work, change is hard because it requires openminded introspection and honest questioning of your own thoughts, behaviors, and values.
Case Study: A Man Who Fucked Himself Over Without Knowing it
I had a friend, Nick, who was an interesting case, he was good looking by societal standards, 6’2, blonde hair blue eyes, athletic build. He generally seemed socially confident, you would never guess that he had a crippling anxiety towards meeting women.
He hooked up with some women by getting wasted and trolling the bars, but they were rarely the kind of women he wanted in his life. He would date the first girl who would sleep with him. Once he dated a girl he wasn’t physically attracted to for an entire year.
After a few years of drunken debauchery, he met a girl who actually met his standards, she was athletic, ambitious, confident, caring, everyone loved her.He was super nervous when he met her, but with some nudging from his friends he managed to go on a few dates with her. After they started dating, he began acting incredibly neurotic.
Because of his nerves about this girl, he decided he needed to meet other women. He found a girl on tinder, slept with her, then on the same day (while the tinder girl was still at our house), he invited his crush to come by.
His dream girl came over, and the situation quickly deteriorated into sitcom-level awkwardness as Nick told his dream girl that he had slept with this other girl. Unsurprisingly, this turned his dream girl off, and they stopped dating.
A couple months later, Nick met his dream girl again, he was afraid to approach her, but another friend and I convinced him to do it. Surprisingly, she was happy to see him and they made plans to hang out again. Nick never followed through with these plans.
Nick hasn’t slept with another girl in six months since this happened. He will declare that he needs to start meeting women again, and he’ll go out once or twice (for 30 minutes before he drives back home), and then he’ll say he needs to focus on his career right now.
Recently he decided this dream girl of his fucked him up. He said he doesn’t go out anymore because she scarred him.
The Downward Spiral
From the outside looking in, his behavior is clearly neurotic. But to him, it all made logical sense. That’s the real problem, it’s so obvious how other people unnecessarily fuck themselves over, but we all have a bias to be blind to our own similar behavior.
It’s easy to notice when someone else is falling into a neurotic, self-destructive pattern, but it’s incredibly difficult to admit this to yourself.Nick’s mindset has a foundational issue that’s preventing him from growing. He is dealing with his relationship problems using what psychologists call a static mindset.
A static mindset is a belief that people don’t change, that we are the victim to external circumstances. A static mindset is a ruthless self-fulfilling prophecy.
For example, you can have a static belief that you aren’t intelligent.Maybe you didn’t excel in school early on and you got negative feedback that made you believe school just wasn’t for you. This calcifies into a static mindset that you are not smart, that you, as a person, aren’t able to be a good student. This mindset becomes self-reinforcing.
When you are assigned homework, you tell yourself that you’re not a good student, so you avoid the homework or approach it halfheartedly. When you read for class you don’t pay attention, because, what’s the point? You’re not going to get anything out of it anyway, school’s just a waste of time for a dumb kid.
Then the grades come in, your parents are disappointed, and the negative feedback is stressful. The easiest way to interpret this feedback is to blame your failure on something outside of your control. Something essential to who you are, like your lack of intelligence.
By doing this, you relieve yourself from the pain of knowing that your own decisions are causing you to fail. By doing this, it’s not your fault. Instead, it’s like a disease, something you don’t have to blame yourself for, something that you’re a victim to.
This is a negative self-belief that can only lead to negative feelings about yourself. Sure, you alleviate yourself from responsibility for your problems, but you accomplished this through negative self-evaluation. This frees you from one source of stress, and traps you in another, far more damning stress- the feeling of helplessness. You paralyze yourself and make action impossible, because your mindset says action is pointless, that you’re not good enough, no matter what you do.
Victims to Ourselves
Nick believes that he doesn’t deserve a healthy relationship based on mutual respect. So, he makes it impossible for himself to get in this kind of relationship. He avoids meeting women unless he gets wasted, and when he does meet a woman he really likes, he self-sabotages the relationship so that it’s doomed to end before it ever really begins.
He tells himself a story about why this is happening, a story about who he is- a person that is fundamentally damaged, wounded, a victim. And through making himself a victim, he entitles himself to continue acting in self-destructive ways, sabotaging his relationships with ridiculous decisions like inviting a second girl on a date with the girl he really likes.
And those self-destructive behaviors reinforce his static, negative self-beliefs. He must be damaged or he wouldn’t keep acting in such self-harming ways. If he weren’t a victim, then why does he keep making the same mistakes without ever escaping the cycle?
Most people do this, the differentiator between those who change and those who don’t is how effective you are at becoming aware of the damage you’re doing to yourself.
Every time you catch yourself falling into a self-destructive social pattern, you are opening yourself up to change. This is the only way to make real, substantial growth. Ask yourself how you might be doing this to yourself right now. It may be mild, it may be extreme, but self-destructive patterns are there, no one’s mindset is perfectly enlightened. We all have negative beliefs about ourselves.
The path towards deep confidence is a path of building awareness of the ways in which your mindset is damaging yourself, and then finally being free to let go of them and disprove them.
Don’t think of your mindset as something you need to ‘fix’, in a paradoxical way, this gives that mindset more charge, more power. What you resist, persists. Actively fighting against a mindset is emotionally acknowledging that mindset as valid. Conscious rebellion doesn’t work, the path towards true change is counter-intuitive, it is surrender.
By accepting you do have negative self-beliefs, by surrendering to the fact that these mindsets are affecting you, they lose their emotional power over you. This is the path to freeing yourself from your self-imposed limitations.