When I started in Pick-up, I focused, like many men within PUA (Pick-Up Artist Community), of creating the illusion of an “alpha male.” I focused on every word I said and how I looked physically.
At the same time I was struggling to find a single woman I could really see myself with in a long-term relationship. I was narrowly focused on how women saw me.
Three years after my first entrance into the PUA world, I experienced a major health issue in my life removing me from the dating pool – I mean, who would want to date a guy with three hundred and twelve red spots who was also depressed?
NO ONE… that’s who. Because of that revelation, I began to explore interests I’ve had for years but never dove into because I was too busy trying to impress women, other men, or myself.
After picking up hobbies like Improv, Salsa, public speaking, and really working on writing and building this blog, I started to notice a shift in how women and men treated and viewed me. Women were calling me bold, confident, attractive, courageous, charismatic, intelligent, and emotionally in tune with myself.
Despite having my self-created body image issues, thanks to my stupid spots, I discovered that a person’s attraction to you, whether it be professionally or intimately, is based on your identity.
Let me explain.
Your identity is how you see yourself. It’s your values and beliefs. It’s what you stand for and it shapes how you hold yourself – it helps shape your state based on how you see events in your own life. Your identity influences your behavior, and your behavior influences how people around you treat you.
If you agree with everything, don’t take care of yourself and blame other people for issues in your life – it sends signals to the other person that you lack the characteristics to be a reliable friend, coworker or mate. Whereas a confident man in a position of authority signals confidence, assertiveness, and responsibility – very attractive traits.
This is why girls go for the rockstar, or the guy that knows three languages. They go for the guy who runs his own salsa dance studio. This appearance implies a strong identity relative to cultural norms.
There are a fair amount of men struggling to build a strong identity in today’s modern world. There are more single men than there were in past generations. Couples are waiting longer to get married. Women are openly writing that they are giving up on marriage as men fall behind professional, socially, and emotionally, which is causing the dating pool of quality men to shrink.
Less confident men lead to more frustrated women.
The pool of attractive marriage-worthy men is lower for women, which is polarizing the dating pool. This shift has lead to the attractive, strong identity men having tons of options while the rest of the guys have none. As these shifts began to happen, the PUA community showed up on planet earth to save the day.
Guys who can’t get a date or don’t know how to keep a girl around needed help solving their lack of confidence. This low-quality dating market is bad for women as well.
A smaller amount of good men enables the good guys to get away with being promiscuous. We are at an all-time low in marriage quality and durability in our generation. A lot of men blame feminism and education, but I don’t see it that way.
These cultural shifts were inevitably part of our social growth as a species, and were made possible by economic forces. 1 Now these forces are, in a way, forcing men to evolve.
The problem is that the PUA community started out focusing on appearance in social situations in order to “escalate” attraction. The problem of focusing on appearance is your focus on saying or appearing attractive, rather than actually being attractive.
The PUA environment I was raised in encouraged guys to use pick-up lines and robotic checklist behavior to get with women. Guys who were lazy, dressed poorly, and spent all their time playing Halo within “the lair” (otherwise known as the community of Pick-up Artists) continuously failed to attract a woman for longer than a month.
Ironically, the guys who looked physically attractive, the ones with the most engaging pick-up lines and well-executed behavior, failed time and time again. I wondered what the hell was going on here. Today I realized that guys with unattractive identities who fake attractive words and behaviors are only postponing the inevitable. Despite faking how they feel about their lives with fancy clothes or pick-up lines, they’d eventually expose their unattractive identities.
Some of these guys would get into a relationship and then be back in the “lair” a month later. Single, chalking it up to some excuse that they “couldn’t be tied down to one woman.” Later I uncovered that most of these guys were dumped.
This act like an “Alpha Male” illusion is prominent throughout PUA and masculine culture. Covering up insecurities up with lines in order to appear like you’re confident only delays the inevitable breakups and compounds the shame within.
Even though I was capable of “gaming” women into bed with me during my PUA stint, most of them never responded to my text or calls when I wanted to see them on a long-term basis. Additionally, being inauthentic to who you are and what is going on in your life leads you to attract women who are in the same situation. Hence: Assortment Theory.
Whereas if you’re confident, assertive, responsible, in-shape, well-dressed, have a healthy self-esteem, good relationships in your life, you can get away with a lot of things and still be perceived as attractive.
For example: guys will date attractive girls who stay in shape and dress well, despite the girl treating them like shit. Why? Because physically, the girl is attractive. On one side of this coin lies external validation, and on the other is what psychology calls the halo effect 2 – a specific type of confirmation bias where positive feelings in one area cause ambiguous or neutral traits to be viewed as positive. I can relate to this.
I’ve dated beautiful women who walked all over me. I would always make excuses about why they did it and I would convince myself that I should stay in the relationship. Honestly, if she was less attractive, I would have dumped her. I know I am not alone in this arena of low self-esteem and appearance focus. Marketing does this to us.
There is a way out, and that is through building a strong identity which builds your self-esteem as well as evaluating your metrics about love. But before we head down that path, I want to talk about how we came to be this way.
Our world of post-modern mass consumption provides endless opportunities but also fuels mass insecurities and anxieties to appear as if you are saying the right things and being perceived as doing the right things.
Guys go into debt by buying a BMW M3 and by taking women out to fine dining restaurants. They’ll end up spending money just to provide the woman the image of success, despite the piling debt. This image identity is not surprising considering our advertising world that portrays images of merchandise that supposedly makes us feel more confident.
These images pressure men to form an impression management system and a desire to passively discover what kind of man they are through cultural norms, instead of one’s own choices. 3
These cultural pressures create a sense that illusions are used as a basis for key interaction with others. As a result, guys have little concern for the future, and are highly receptive to changing their identities and values with shifting trends.
This makes it increasingly problematic for men to establish strong and attractive identities- identities women are craving. When we try to appear attractive, we are performing and reinforcing our low self-esteem. Additionally, the PUA world lead me to focus on metrics of behavior that didn’t actually transform me into being the attractive man I want to be.
Success in dating, especially in PUA and guy culture, is focused on metrics. Many men get hung up on thinking that sleeping with 40 women, despite how terrible the sex feels during the act, somehow makes them more confident. This is false.
Other guys focus on wanting to make a million dollars, among various other external validations.
Considering how we were raised to set SMART – Specificity, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound – goals, this is not surprising. We might set our life goals by telling ourselves “I want to be confident” or “I want to be rich” or “I want to have a six pack.”
This is a great start, but you haven’t followed the framework. Get specific.
So then you tell yourself, “I want to be so confident that I can speak with 30 girls in one night,” or “I want to make a million dollars by the time I’m 30,” or “I want to have a six pack by July first.”
These metrics for success are focused solely on meeting your performance so you can appear attractive, without actually BECOMING attractive. It’s a band-aid.
Ever since my real self-improvement path began, I’ve struggled with the metrics prominent in PUA and guy culture in general.
Why would I want to talk with 30 girls in one night?
Why would I want to approach 1,000 women in one month?
These metrics do not provide deep, vulnerable, healthy relationships. It only leads to superficial self-improvement and relationships. Instead, I should focus on trying to become the man I want to be, so I can attract the type of woman I want to be with.
The truth is success with women and life is merely a side effect of developing one’s identity. The only way to become attractive in the long-run is to improve oneself and one’s identity.
What makes up your identity? Your identity is your perception of your own life experiences within the specific cultures you have lived. These experiences form your beliefs, your biases, your values, your passions, and your relationships. Your identity is what you have chosen, whether consciously or unconsciously, to define yourself.
Some guys label themselves as the funny man, while others become known as the stud athlete or the successful entrepreneur.
When we are babies we all cry and fuss proportional to our needs. Some babies cry a little when their diapers are soggy. Others cry the fucking Amazon River when they are hangry. After 18 months there is a shift in how adults begin to treat us as our minds are able to understand more words every day. 4 My sister used to say, “Fire Fuck” whenever she heard a siren. It made me laugh.
During this time we are taught a specific language, as well as the process of socialization specific to our culture becomes more intense. 5 Not only are we taught a language specific to where we were born, but we are also taught through the process of shame and praise about what is acceptable relative to both that culture and the collective identities of the groups our caretakers are in.
Our identity is similar to the habit loop. We act out a certain behavior, and then that appearance of the behavior leads our caretakers and peers to either shame us or praise us (feedback) based on cultural norms.
If you wanted to play with dolls as a boy, you were told that those toys were for girls. In the case of these gender social constructs we are funneled into creating our perception of how we are supposed to behave. Based on our perception we choose to decide if it’s something we want to do. The more times we do it, the more times it gets reinforced, and the more likely we are to accept it as part of our identity. Just like a habit, the more feedback you receive and the more times you perform the behavior, the more it becomes a part of your identity.
The more you go to the gym, the stronger you get, and the more you identify yourself as someone who works out.
This feedback loop conditions us into being who we are today.
Our current behaviors are merely a reflection of our current identity. How we choose to behave is a mirror image of the type of person you believe you are – James Clear
When I was growing up, I had a few good soccer experiences and received a lot of praise from my peers and parents. That positive feedback encouraged me to play more soccer and become better. By the time high school rolled around, I was known as the soccer guy. As a result, I also dressed like a soccer player by wearing soccer sweats and I carried a ball frequently to class. These behaviors reinforced my already strong undiversified identity, encouraging me to continue to be the soccer guy.
The loop for me starting in my childhood went like this:
Appearance – The general message to parents – “ Your kid should play soccer so he will learn about working with other kids and make friends.” All of the motivations for signing a child up for soccer were generally socially related.”
Culture – Parents and peers told me “You’re good at soccer, Kyle.” This praise made me feels good, motivating me to want to do it again.
Perception – I thought to myself, Hey, I am kind of good at soccer, and I feel good about it.
Identity – I am a soccer player.
Behavior – I played soccer at recess.
Appearance – Kyle’s playing soccer at recess again.
The original appearance is the motivator that causes us to try something. The cultural narrative told my parents that “good kids play sports.’ As a result, my parents formed the perception that their son, who they wanted to be a good kid, should play a sport.
They accepted the identity as the parent that had a kid that played soccer. Then they acted on this identity by placing me on a soccer team. Their behavior in this situation was watching me play soccer. Their appearance is having a son that is recognized by peers as a kid that plays soccer.
My parent’s identity feedback loop is intertwined with mine, which is intertwined with that of my peers’, which is intertwined with that of my peers’ parent’s feedback loop, and so on.
All of this is intertwined with the norms of our culture. For instance, kids who play soccer in Europe are recognized as manly guys, whereas soccer guys in the US were deemed “Fags or Pussies” by other guys.
Our identities, the voices in our head, the words we speak to ourselves, are not just our own. It belongs, in some degree, to everyone.
This is what is so magical about human nature. Our actions and languages connect us with other people. We speak through them and they speak through us. This is how we come to understand each other and ourselves. It’s how we build each other up, or tear each other down.
Counter to my praise in soccer, I was shamed by many professors, teachers, and girlfriends, from middle school through college, that I was not a good writer. The feedback I got from my experiences within my culture lead me to stop writing, despite how much I loved the experience. These experiences formed my belief about what I was capable of.
Each action we perform in our life is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible.
If you believe something is possible, you take a large action; if you believe something isn’t possible, you take little action and reinforce your belief through that feedback loop. Every one of your beliefs can be self-fulfilling. Being conscious of your beliefs and the groups that enforce them can help you work on becoming the man you want to be.
Our behaviors are driven by two things: our environment and our beliefs.
As you can tell from my soccer and writing identities, my beliefs were shaped by my environment, particularly people around me. Not only does your identity impact your beliefs, but so do the groups you surround yourself in.
Every culture has an identity:
- America includes Football, Beer, quick meals and production.
- Spain includes a daily siesta.
- China includes greeting the oldest person first.
Even sub-culture groups have their own identity:
- Improv actors have a set of actions and beliefs that are part of their cultural identity. We cheer when we make mistakes.
- Crossfitters have a set of actions and beliefs that are part of their identities. Everyone competes for the best time in the WOD.
- Lawyers have a set of actions and beliefs that are part of their identities.
- Men have a set of actions and beliefs that are part of their identities, although this is now challenged due to economic forces.
Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, music’s, what we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the table, how we greet visitors, how we behave with loved ones and a million other things. –Cristina De Roosi 6
We all mirror behaviors and identities of the groups in which we live and the communities to which we belong. If one kid perceives the pot smokers in high school as the cool kids, they may be tempted to start smoking pot and begin their path toward building that identity by spending more time with that social group. Another kid may think the pot smokers will turn out to be unsuccessful later on in life and are losers, therefore accepting the identity that they are not pot smokers. The more they believe this, the further they get from interacting with pot smokers.
If we believe Pick-Up Artists are popular and have the ability to date beautiful women, we begin to engage ourselves in that community, and eventually recognize ourselves as a Pick-Up Artist. If we believe Pick-Up Artists are slimy and creepy, we stay away, and over time we identify ourselves as not being a Pick-Up Artist.
Our beliefs, biases and perceptions also shape our conversation and unconsciously lead us to joining groups that reinforce our beliefs about other groups. This is also known as stereotyping.
Our perception of the identities within culture and smaller groups leads us to accept and form our own identities. How we see ourselves influences our behavior, and our behavior influences how other people see us.
It’s a story about a beautiful girl and two men. And no, it’s not a threesome.
- Book: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (1999) ↩
- Wade, J., & DiMaria, C. (2003). Weight Halo Effects: Individual Differences in Perceived Life Success as a Function of Women’s Race and Weight. Sex Roles,48(9/10), 461-465 ↩
- Cote, J. (1996). Sociological Perspectives on Identity Formation: The Culture-Identity Link and Identity Capital. Journal of Adolescence, (19), 417-428. ↩
- Banks, A. (2011). The Mythic Reality of the Autonomous Individual. Zygon,46(1), 168-182 ↩
- See Footnote 3 ↩
- Zimmermann, K. (2015, January 15). American Culture: Traditions and Customs of the United States. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/28945-american-culture.html ↩