Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now, here's your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host.
Two episodes ago. We explored this idea that becoming attractive could mean that you're no longer you, and the motivation being, to become more attractive while still being you, and two episodes ago, I covered what personality traits are actually attractive, what the science has shown.
We also covered the question of identity. How do you know who you are? And I brought up the concept of parts, psychological parts. Then the third point two episodes ago was on skill acquisition, that if you approach becoming better with women, becoming more attractive as a set of skills, then it changes the whole question. [01:01.0]
Then, in the episode after that, we explored the objection of “What if my true self isn't attractive, despite all my best efforts at acquiring and learning, and practicing honing this set of skills of becoming attractive? What if, still, then, my best self, my true self, isn't attractive enough?” I dressed that by looking at this concept of your true self and I referenced the “true self” concept from IFS therapy, explained what IFS therapy is, explained the true self, and explained how the self is different from our parts.
Then I looked at the main categories of parts, the protectors, exiles, and then looked at the main divisions of burdened versus unburdened parts, what happens when a burdened part becomes unburdened and unlocking all of those wonderful qualities in the same part. [01:52.7]
Okay, so that was what we covered the past two episodes, and in this episode, I'll be focusing especially on this concept of the best self, this idea of a best self, and this is all with a view towards becoming attractive naturally, and even more importantly, unlocking love, joy, happiness, and fulfillment in your life by you being you.
In the past couple of episodes where you've been keeping in mind this worry or objection that people have, that if becoming attractive, becoming more attractive, means that you'll have to be someone other than you're not, then the objection being “I don't want to be liked for somebody that I'm not. I want to be liked for me. I want to be loved for me,” and that's a fair point.
Imagine that you could be. You could become more attractive while still being you and that's the promise, and when you are still you and you're becoming more attractive, and you're doing it in the way that I am proposing here through the therapeutic method and therapeutic process, then it will feel like a natural outcome of you just doing the therapeutic work. [03:08.2]
Then, later on, when you're ready, there are skills that you can learn and hone to become even more attractive, but that's just icing on the cake, because the foundation is there because you're able to unlock and access those parts of you that are already naturally attractive once you unburden them, and that's what I was getting at in the last episode.
In this episode, diving deep into a concept that's all over the internet, especially in life coaching, especially in achievement coaching and especially achievement coaching aimed at men, which is this idea of becoming your best self. The overall idea is if you can become your best self, then you'll get everything. You get the money, you'll get the babes, you'll get the power, and it all comes from becoming your best self and it sounds really healthy.
There's a way to look at it or a way that you might use this concept that is not toxic, but then it quickly devolves into something that is toxic and most self-help, self-development, personal development, life coaching is toxic in this way and this is one of the ways in which it’s toxic, which is the way that it's using this concept of the best self. [04:11.0]
When you can approach yourself in the right way from a position or a place of acceptance and compassion and appreciation, even for those parts of yourself that you might have been ashamed of before or parts of yourself that other people, if they had those, they might be ashamed of them, then everything changes in a really powerful way—and that's what I've been proposing, not just in the past couple of episodes, but in this podcast overall: a therapeutic approach to the aims that you would normally go to life coaching or personal development for. [04:47.8]
This concept of the best self is often abused in a toxic way and is exploited and roped into the service of a toxic process of shaming and perfectionism, and I'll be getting into that in this episode. This is all in the context of arriving at attractiveness while still being you, and really homing in on and focusing in on what it means to be you, who you are, and just noticing that you are made up of many different parts, many different aspects, sides of you that perhaps you have not developed or explored, or even gotten to know.
Once you do go through that therapeutic process of unburdening these parts of yourself, which is a multi-step process, then this kind of attractiveness that you have—and I know for a lot of guys who follow this podcast, they initially found me because they were searching for dating advice, so I'm addressing that at this moment—natural attractiveness to the right woman for you, but more importantly, unlocking for yourself a consistent access to love, joy, happiness, fulfillment, passion, creativity, confidence, courage, and compassion. [06:08.7]
And having this flow forth from you automatically and naturally, almost effortlessly, just by you being able to access that higher self within and feeling, not just it coming from you, but also to you, because you are also at the same time your parts and therefore the recipient of your higher self's love, compassion, appreciation, and so on.
It's this whole family inside you and it's an amazing feeling when you're able to meet your own needs yourself, and when that happens, you are at the peak of your attractiveness in terms of your personality, especially for a man, because your neediness is at this lowest point because your needs are being met by yourself. [06:54.5]
That's something that I have not gone into the detail on in the past couple of episodes for time's sake, but I've covered it in other episodes and that's part of the outcome, one of the benefits of going through the therapeutic process. You'll naturally learn the needs of your various parts, and then you'll have the resourcefulness and capacity in you to meet your own needs fully.
When that happens, you will recall that formula that I'm quoting Mark Manson on that your neediness is inversely proportional to your attractiveness as a man. The needier you are, the less attractive you are, and the less needy you are, the more attractive you are, in terms of your personality. Really, you can just home in on that one concept and get it taken care of, get attractiveness taken care of by homing in on that neediness, and that happens as a result of the therapeutic process.
Okay, so that can all be yours by going through the therapeutic process and really committing to it, and for many people and for a lot of guys, this is real, lasting change. This is real and lasting. This is true, lasting transformation. It's not the kind of thing that you do in a three-week course or something. [08:07.3]
It can be sped up, especially if you meet a good therapist, especially if you've done a lot of the preparing of the ground of it for yourself through meditative practice and through all kinds of other meditative type of practices that I have in my recorded courses. But it is still a process and it is a lifelong process, and that's an awesome thing.
That's a good thing, because it feels great to go through it, even though, at the beginning, it might feel painful for you and your parts, because you'll have to look at, bring up again and come back to those parts of your life, those times in your life when there was a lot of pain.
But just like anyone who has embraced fitness or working out, after a certain point, it becomes a lifestyle and you actually look forward to it, whereas, before, and for those who never go past that point, they reject fitness and the actual workouts as painful. “I don't want to go through this pain. I want as least the amount of pain as possible.” Then they don't embrace it as a lifestyle, and hence they never actually make fitness a part of their life and part of their identity, and therefore they won't get those benefits. [09:11.0]
But it would be just as ridiculous to say that you before fitness, that was you, and then you’re actually embracing fitness and health, and getting the results, then saying, “That's not me. The me that is, I don't know, natural is obese or out of shape and unhealthy.” That just wouldn't make sense. That's not your natural state to be unhealthy, and similarly for mental health and similarly for your personality, because there are a lot of things that are attractive.
I've listed off, two episodes ago, two dozen traits that are attractive, especially in men, and the more of those you have, generally speaking—generally speaking—the more attractive you will be to more women, and those are all or many of them are accessible to all of us because we have various parts that have these qualities. [10:00.5]
If we were to develop those qualities more, they became more dominant parts of our presentation of ourselves in the world, the way that we come across in the world, if they were to become more dominant. It's not like we've become a different person. It's just that other parts of us have now stepped up to the fore.
Okay, so I've covered a lot of that in the past couple episodes. I just wanted to expand on that and recap it in a way, and now I’ll be diving into the three points I've got for this episode—and the first point is just to re-raise and to bring up that question again of the best self and just homing in on the fact that becoming this obsession in the self-help world and life coaching, of becoming your best self, makes it seem like it's mentally healthy, like it's an emotionally-healthy approach, but it's not in the way that most coaches and personal development people use it. It's, in fact, toxic.
Now, the first point is there are non-toxic views of the best self, if by “best self” you simply mean that becoming your best self simply means getting in shape or going to therapy, or getting your homework done or stepping up to your responsibilities as a father. Then, there's nothing wrong with that at all. [11:08.4]
Then, that's just you doing what you're supposed to do in these various functions of your life and you following through on your promises and you taking care of yourself. If that's all you mean by best self, then there's no problem with it. I’ve got no problems with it.
But what are the toxic uses of “best self”? Pretty much all of the time you hear in those motivational type of videos and the rah-rah, “become your best self,” and the way that the kind of New Age life coach/dating coach approach is, which, hopefully, you can see that I'm not that. I'm really recommending therapy for everyone.
But the life coach way—also, I have a long background in life coaching. That's how I started in this space—and there's a lot of good stuff in life coaching, by the way. I'm not crapping on the entire industry. It's just that if you obsess about becoming your best self with a view to only by being your best self will you be good enough or worthy, and will you finally get the girl or you'll finally find happiness, and that's really the loaded term or the loaded meanings you've put into this concept of the best self. [12:16.0]
Then, of course, it's toxic because of the idea being that, unless you're your best self, you're not good enough, or unless you are your best self, you're not worthy of love or happiness, or joy or peace, or calm or contentment. If that's what you mean by “best self” that, unless you're your best self, you're not worthy of the right woman for you—and that's a big one for the type of guys who are following me or looking for dating advice online, because that's the type of thing you hear a lot that, if you can just be your best self, everything or all the women's stuff gets taken care of, your dating and relationship stuff gets taken care of—and that's toxic, that view.
You might think, Why would that be toxic? It makes a lot of sense. If you are your best self, only then can you get all of these things, because only then will you be worthy of all of these things. [13:03.8]
What's it like to not be your best self? Let's look at that. What are all the other selves that are not your best self? And for a lot of guys who are looking for dating advice online, their “not best self” is often, what they have in mind, are their shy parts or their insecure parts, or their parts that are needing love or connection, or attention or approval, or are in pain or perhaps just want to sleep in on the that might need some tender, loving care.
Those are often the parts that get shoved under the surface. They get swept under the rug: If I can just be my best self, if I could just be higher caliber, if I could just be higher quality by working harder, by having more discipline and willpower in my life, then, then, well, of course, then, it makes sense intuitively that then I'll make more money and I'll have more status, and, therefore, as a result of it, I'll be more attractive to women. [14:03.2]
Notice what gets swept under the rug, what gets exiled out of their lives. These things that they think are bad, shameful. The fear, the sadness, and the anger. The parts of them that are holding the insecurity or the belief that they maybe aren't worthy. The parts that are holding the pain and the hurts, and the vulnerability and the doubts.
These parts are exiled, abandoned, cut out, ideally, right, when you become your best self? Because the idea is not just becoming your best self, but being your best self all the time, and requiring, needing to be your best self in order to get the good things in life of love, happiness, fulfillment, pleasure, and being worthy of the right woman for you.
Okay, so the first point was that there are non-toxic views of being your best self. If all you mean by “best self” is just being better, I’ve got no problems with being better. The real focus here is on the term “best”, and then, of course, how it applies to yourself, that there's a “best self”. [15:08.8]
Again, actually, if you just mean your true self and you'd understand true self in the context of IFS therapy, then I’ve got no problems with that either, but, of course, if you actually are in, so to speak, the state of your true self, you're in “Self”, you would have lots of love for all of those parts of you that were exiled or abandoned, or hurt or in pain. You would have love fully for them and you wouldn't want them to go away or anything. You would be giving them a big, massive hug, and acceptance.
But often what best self means is that hard-charging, achieving, take-no-prisoners self that is always confident, especially in the context of men when it comes to dating, confident, charismatic, harbors no doubts or insecurities, assertive, dominant, comfortable with sexuality, all of these attractive traits, and if that's what best self means, then, yeah, that's toxic. [16:05.8]
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If you require being that in order to be worthy of anything, really, but especially what's commonly put out there is worthy of the right woman, or worthy of happiness or love or fulfillment—and so we come to the second point, which is that you can see this more starkly when applied to dating and relationships—if becoming or being your best self is required for success in dating and relationships, then the type of relationship you'll have will be actually not love. [17:15.2]
What you're telling yourself and what you're setting yourself up for, if you need to be your best self in order to have the right woman for you—and the best self, again, meaning, your maximal level of attractiveness in terms of confidence and assertiveness, and dominance and status, and even humor and connection, just whenever you are in leadership, in control, that sort of thing, well-regulated inside—if that's what you mean by best self, and in order to be worthy of love from the woman you want, you have to be your best self, then your love is conditional. That relationship that you end up creating, if you create it at all, if you end up getting into it, that relationship you end up getting into will be conditional. [18:04.0]
It'll be the same with all of your dating relationships, though there's less at stake because it's just short-term dating, but in a relationship, the relationship over the long term is the life that you are building. In fact, whether a man's relationship is happy or not, fulfilling or not, successful or not is the biggest predictor of not just happiness, especially past the age of 65, but even of longevity, how long you live, and how free from illness and other ailments medically that you'll suffer.
The biggest correlation there, the biggest predictor is a successful long-term relationship, so there’s a lot at stake there. If you have a bad relationship, it is going to be the biggest drag on your happiness in life, so it's high risk, high reward there when it comes to relationships.
What you're doing, if you get into a relationship with this assumption, this belief that you have to be your best self all the time in order to be worthy of her, first of all, you're setting yourself up for a conditional relationship, and maybe you've never considered that love itself, by definition, is unconditional, so you're setting yourself up for a relationship without love. [19:12.4]
I've made many other podcast episodes on the concept of love and the unconditionality of it, unconditional love, so I’d refer you to those, but hopefully you can see that if you enter into or create a relationship based on this idea or based on the assumption that you have to be your best self in order to be worthy of it, again, depending on what you mean by best self, if it just means being better or improving, there are no problems with that, but if it means that you have to be this perfect version of yourself in order to be worthy of it, then you're leaving out massive, very important parts of you, and that has to come into play in the relationship. [19:51.3]
What you really want if you want to be happy in the long run and successful in a relationship is you want to have a relationship with a woman who loves all of you, not just your, quote-unquote, “best self”, not just when you are your best self, whatever that means, but also when you're down and your boss, your crappy boss rained down on you or maybe fired you, or maybe you got into a car accident and are laid up in the hospital.
If she's only there for the good times and the fun times, life is going to hit you hard at some point and maybe at many points, and a long-term relationship of love, one of the reasons why such a powerful predictor of longevity and happiness is because it is the bulwark for facing life's challenges. It's this great support that you have there with you so you're not actually alone.
But if you enter into or create a relationship based on this assumption that you have to be your best self in order to be worthy of it, you actually really are alone because, I mean, if it were true, if she bought into this deal with you, this contract, this relationship contract, explicit or implicit that as long as you're your best self, she'll stay with you, you're actually alone. I mean, you're going to be out there on your own, because, at some point, you're not going to be your best self. That's how life works and that's the moment when you will find out whether there's love there or not. [21:15.5]
It's the same with friendships, by the way. If they're only there for the good times and they weren't really your friends, and if you have to be always up, up, up in order to be worthy of that, that's a really sad and tragic state to find yourself in.
That's the second point. You can see this most starkly for many men when it comes to dating and relationships, and I’ve made a lot of other content on that. A lot of guys just try to get, like young guys in their twenties, try to just check off those boxes on what it means to be attractive. I know I did. That was a very straightforward and easy thing to do and it works when it comes to short-term eating in hookups, right? You’re getting your six pack. You're getting your muscles. You're getting your fashion. Check, check, check, right? Then you're getting your lifestyle together. You’ve got a great pad in the center of town right next to the most happening area. You know all the doormen at the best and hottest places. You’ve got all that stuff lined up, check, check, check, right? You’ve got, in a way, the narcissist view of the best self. [22:08.8]
You're the most charming, fun, funny, well-connected you, right? The most confident, assertive you. Check, check, check on all of those things. There are times in your life, hopefully, you'll have experienced what it's like to be that kind of, quote-unquote, “best self” of yours and that's partly why I was covering what I did in the past couple episodes.
But then there will also be times, let's get real, when life is going to hit you hard and you're going to be laid out for a while, and that's when you're going to find out who your real friends are and it's also when you're going to find out whether your relationship is a relationship of love or not—and those are hard lessons for a lot of young guys to learn, because the way that they've been creating and leading their lives, and setting up parameters of who gets to be in his life, has been such that it has been set up with the wrong metric and on the wrong assumptions, and one of those very toxic ones will be “if and only if I'm my best self, will I then be worthy of you.” That's a guaranteed tragic life or relationship. [23:08.5]
The third point I want to make is actually a quite complex one, so I'm not going to be able to go into a lot of detail, because if I did, I could go on for 12 hours, and that is the fact that this need or this natural desire to be your best self and this intuitive nature of “Oh, it makes sense that I have to be my best self in order to be worthy of love or to be worthy of happiness or fulfillment,” the reason that's intuitive is because of a kind of perfectionism that you've already bought into.
For that to be appealing to you, for that to make sense to you, for that to seem like common sense to you as it did to me, it comes from a place of the fact that you've already embraced at some level a kind of perfectionism, and this is just more of a call to step up to what you've already been trying to step up to.
But now you see, Oh, this is really important. Other people I look up to are saying this, so I'm really going to … motivational video, cue it, let's go, and dun-da-ta-da, you work even harder to be your best self because now there's even more at stake. There's your relationship, there's your career and your business, and so on. [24:09.6]
That perfectionism that's very common for achievers, that perfectionism comes from toxic shame, the shame which is a result of and leads into also the belief that you're not enough just the way you are, that you're not enough for love just the way you are, and therein lies that shame.
To get rid of that shame, the common coping strategy for achievers is to achieve and there's no end to that. It's never enough. There's always another level, so you just keep having to go to the next level and keep beating yourself up because, in fact, you never believe that you are enough yet.
This is a tragic cycle that life coaching and personal development sends people down, and I don't blame, in most cases, the coaches, because they don't even know that they fall into this trap themselves because they're actually also suffering from the same malaise, the same trap, the same endless cycle of shame and anxiety, shame and anxiety. [25:08.7]
Shame then leads to a kind of perfectionistic kind of achievement and that leads to all kinds of anxiety, because it's never enough and you have to always be working, working, working, working, working. You cannot rest, and then you're going to burn out.
When you burn out, maybe you drop the ball at some point or maybe you act out. Maybe you go on a bender. Maybe you drink a bit too much and you act out, and then you wake up with a kind of hangover, or you look at the aftermath of your, quote-unquote, “failure” and then shame again, and so you go through that cycle of shame, achievement, anxiety, and then failure and then shame again.
Maybe it's not failure. Maybe it's just burnout, and then shame again. Then you have shame and anxiety intermixed with achievements and burnout, and that cycle that the achievers keep cycling through, this self-help “best self” kind language just feeds the flames of that engine that now there's even more at stake. “Hey, hey, wake up,” right? In order to get the woman of your dreams, you have to be your best self and always be your best self, and if you slip from that, you're not going to be worthy of her and she'll go cheat on you. [26:13.8]
This is a common thing you hear in Red Pill and this is a very toxic thing, right? Even if you do manage to become your, quote-unquote, “best self” for a little while in that relationship that you end up attracting or creating, it’s a sham. It's a sham relationship and that's why she cheats on you, because it was never love in the first place. It was built on this conditional B.S., which is that you have to be your best self always, and if you're not, then she has license to leave you.
You believe it with your blessing because you're saying to her unconsciously or not that you're not worthy, that you deserve it because you bought into this lie that you have to be your best self in order to be worthy of the right relationship and love for you, that you've got to be your best self all the time, and that's just toxic. [26:59.6]
What is the therapeutic approach then? What's the solution? It begins from radical self-acceptance. In fact, it really begins from just embracing that there's another opportunity, there's another option, and that option being the therapeutic process that I've been covering in pretty much every episode of this podcast.
I most recommend the IFS-therapy approach, but you can come at it from lots of different angles at the start, even just starting from mindfulness meditation. That's a start. I have many recorded courses that will lead you along this process and coming at it from different angles, so you’re bound to find an angle that will work for you if you join our Platinum Partnership, for instance, that gives you access to hundreds of hours of content, and maybe all of them will work for you.
What it does is it prepares the ground for the therapeutic process and then also leads you through it, and then you can also supercharge it by actually getting private therapy with a good IFS therapist and you can look through the IFS Therapy Directory to find one in your time zone that you can do online through Zoom or other means. One of the great things about or the few good things about the pandemic is that it has opened that up, online therapy as an option for many people. [28:09.0]
But it begins, if you can, once you get started, that big step that will feel like it's a really big step is the radical self-acceptance, accepting even those parts of you that you think are not your best self and that you wish it would just go away and disappear. If you could just be your best self, then you won't have to be those other parts that you are ashamed of, and addressing directly that toxic shame by coming from a place of radical self-acceptance. Just getting to the place of radical self-acceptance could take weeks, months or years for some, for some parts that have very strong, very entrenched achiever parts that are full of fear that won't allow them to relax back.
Those are the three points I wanted to make for this one.
I just want to point out why becoming your best self is toxic and that there are non-toxic uses of that term, “best self”.
The second point being you can see this in stark relief and when it comes to the area of dating and relationships, if you are required to be your best self in order to be worthy of love in your relationship. [29:07.5]
Then the third point being it's rooted in a perfectionism that's caused by toxic shame, perfectionism as a coping strategy, coping mechanism to deal with toxic shame. Toxic shame being a result of believing you're not enough just the way you are, and the antidote being to start from a place of radical self-acceptance and then really getting into the therapeutic process to go through the full healing and growth from there.
I just wanted to leave you with a story of a client named Gary. When Gary came to me for coaching and then eventually for therapy, Gary was a very shy, reserved, introverted person, and as he went through the dating skills material, he was able to access more of his fun-loving parts, more of his social parts, and ended up in a career that actually requires him to work a lot with people and really be out there, and actually rub shoulders with the extroverts and really be social. [30:04.0]
He has learned how to manage that, balancing it out with some me time, alone time, whenever he can, and just realizing those are parts of him that come out to do this work and enjoy this work. But there are other parts of him that cherish more the introverted time that he used to have a lot more of, and instead of seeing becoming more outgoing and social as becoming somebody else, somebody he's not, instead embracing that that's a part of him that he's developing and that it's a natural part of him and it's a part of him that he enjoys being and that part really enjoys the social outgoing activities.
But then also taking care of his other parts that don't enjoy that type of activity and prefer to spend more quiet time, and balancing those out and being able to take care of them because he was able to enter into his higher self on a more consistent basis and provide that leadership within himself from the state of his higher self. [31:03.0]
Then getting into a relationship along the way with, of course, a woman who triggers him and he triggers her, and she's a celebrity of sorts that has a lot of high-stress pressures in her life and they've gone through their therapy together in couples therapy, but also separately, and have done really amazingly well.
A big part of it is revealing all of their own parts to each other, so he has seen her at her most vulnerable in her pain and in her crying, and pain and hurt and anger from her family situation, and likewise, she has seen him at his lowest during these years. They've been fully accepting of each other and supportive of their healing journey.
Because when you're at your lowest, you don't enjoy that, so if you love the other person, there is this acceptance and you also are holding the space for them to heal and grow from that. If you really love the person, that would be a natural outgrowth, and there would be no effort at all for you to do that if you actually love this person. You would have to actually try to hold back from it because love would naturally lead you into compassion, which would lead you into care and so forth. [32:13.0]
This is what he has experienced for himself as a result of a really embracing this therapeutic process, instead of seeing and developing these parts of himself as something other than who he is, and instead having a much more capacious concept of himself that can incorporate all of these various parts of him that are looking for different fulfillment and needs and activities, and so on, and then revealing those, being comfortable with being transparent with his life partner. It has just been, really, quite an honor and privilege to witness this and be a part of it, so I just wanted to share how that can work and share the story of Gary.
If this resonated with you in any way, please share it. I’d really appreciate that and I’d appreciate any comments you might have, any feedback. I'd love to get that from you, and any ratings you might put on Apple Podcasts, I'd love to get that from you as well. It always helps. [33:09.7]
I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Thanks so much for listening again. David Tian, signing out.
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