One of the best ways to become more attractive to women, to feel more fulfilled in your life, and to generally boost your happiness is by building up your internal self-worth.

But this practice is easier said than done. And men today often make the mistake of trying to build their self-worth on external sources, like needing attractive women to be attracted to them. This not only backfires, but creates an unrelenting source of neediness that’s waiting to poison any relationship they get into.

That’s the bad news.

The good news?

Even if you rely on external validation for your self-worth today, it’s possible to fix this. I did this myself after building my persona on external validation, going through an existential crisis, and attempting suicide.

But you don’t have to go through these same struggles if you listen to this episode.

In today’s show, you’ll discover how you can cultivate a sense of value and self-worth that’s rooted in yourself. You’ll learn how shifting this mindset not only makes you more attractive as a person, but also leads to healthier relationships and a more fulfilling life. And I’ll share some practical tips for starting your internal self-worth journey today.

Listen now.

 Show highlights include:

  • The “world within” secret for building authentic, unshakeable self-worth that doesn’t hinge on anyone’s opinion of you (1:55)
  • Where does the need for external validation come from and how does it spoil a relationship from the inside out? (2:53)
  • Why “shame-based programming” from your childhood keeps you stuck in the friend zone (and how to avoid putting yourself in the friend zone) (9:13)
  • How pegging my own self-worth to how women viewed me led to me attempting suicide (and how to prevent making the same mistakes in your love life) (13:03)
  • The proven “AFR” method for creating your own source of validation instead of relying on external sources (16:42)
  • 3 practical ways to start uncovering your emotional wounds that prevent you from building internal self-worth (and how to easily turn these into a daily routine) (20:28)

    Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to take this quick quiz to access my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at now.

For more about David Tian, go here:

    Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:


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Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in relationships, attraction, success, and fulfillment. 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, and in this episode, we’re diving deep into a topic that I think will hit home for a lot of us, the idea of self-worth, and where it really comes from, and how best to mark your progress in your personal growth as a man.

We’re tackling head on a big misconception here that a man’s value should somehow be tied to what women think of him, or that attracting a woman or getting married would somehow be the ultimate trophy for personal development. By the end of this episode, you’ll see why this belief is not just misguided, but actually counterproductive to genuine self-improvement and lasting happiness and fulfillment in life. [00:57.4]

By the end of this episode, you’re going to understand why your self-worth as a man should never hinge on anyone else’s opinion of you, especially not just because she’s an attractive woman, and why viewing women as a prize for sorting yourself out is the wrong approach. More importantly, I’ll be sharing what you should be focusing on instead.

Relying on external validation to gauge your self-worth is like building your house on quicksand. It might hold up for a little while, but it’s always one shift away from collapsing. Even if you’re successful in getting that validation, it’s a hollow victory. You’ll constantly be on edge, wondering if and when it might be withdrawn. This perpetual insecurity isn’t just exhausting. It’s also completely at odds with genuine self-confidence and self-worth. [01:47.6]

Also, if you’re treating relationships or marriage as the end goal of your self-improvement journey, you’re missing the point entirely. The foundation of true self-improvement has to come from within, not from a desire to be validated by someone else. If it’s all about attracting someone else, then what you’re really saying is that you don’t believe you’re enough on your own, and that neediness, that sense of lack is like a ticking time bomb in any relationship, or even in any kind of dating interaction. It might not blow up immediately, but it’s only a matter of time before it does.

So, if tying your self-worth to external validation is like a road to nowhere, then what’s the alternative? Stay tuned because that’s exactly what we’re going to explore in this episode. We’re going to dive into how you can cultivate a sense of value and self-worth that’s rooted in your own beliefs, actions and character, something no one can take away from you. We’re going to look at how shifting this mindset not only makes you more attractive as a person, but also leads to healthier relationships and a more fulfilling life. [02:53.2]

Okay, so let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of where this need for external validation comes from. Especially the kind that we seek in relationships or dating interactions. Now, through the lens of Internal Family Systems therapy or IFS therapy—and if you’ve been following my podcast for any length of time, you would have heard me mention IFS therapy. It is one of the most validated, evidence-backed experiential therapy methods—if we approach it from the IFS therapy model, we get a fascinating view on this.

The IFS therapy model suggests that our psyche is made up of various parts, each with its own agenda and emotional baggage. They’re basically like sub-personalities with their own preferences and histories, and roles and fears. Understanding how these parts interact can shed light on why so many men find themselves craving validation from attractive women in order to feel worthy or complete.

Imagine you’ve got these inner-child parts that this therapy calls exiles. Okay, so these are parts of you carrying old wounds, often from early childhood. They’re holding on to feelings of not being good enough, of rejection, or maybe abandonment. These exiled parts are in pain, and they desperately want to feel valued and accepted. [04:10.6]

Now enter the manager parts. These parts are all about keeping you safe and in control. They’re the ones that say, “Hey, if we can get that person to like us, then maybe we’re not so bad after all.” They’re trying to protect those more vulnerable inner-child exiles by seeking validation from outside, especially from attractive women in the context of romantic relationships for men.

It’s like they’re constantly on the lookout for someone to put a band-aid on those old gaping wounds, and when things get too intense, when an exiled part’s pain threatens to break through the surface, the third category of parts jump into action, and these are called the firefighter parts. These parts will do anything to distract or numb the pain that’s coming up, and this might mean pursuing even more external validation, sometimes in unhealthy or compulsive ways. [05:05.0]

Okay, let’s bring it home with an example. Let’s talk about a client of mine. We’ll call him Alex. Alex grew up feeling overshadowed by his siblings, never quite measuring up to his parents’ expectations, and this left him with a deep-seated belief that he wasn’t good enough, unless he was the best at something. As an adult, this translated into a relentless pursuit of approval from his romantic partners. Every compliment was a hit of validation and every criticism or argument felt like a confirmation of his deepest fears.

Through working with Alex, and especially using the IFS therapy model, he and I explored these different parts of them. We discovered his manager part was constantly on high alert, trying to prevent him from feeling the pain that those exiled inner-child parts were holding. His firefighter part would take over during conflicts, leading Alex to either shut down completely or go above and beyond to win back his partner’s approval, often ignoring his own needs and the process. [06:05.8]

By acknowledging these parts and understanding their roles, Alex began to see that his self-worth didn’t have to depend on anyone else’s opinion. He started to work on healing his exiled parts, offering them the compassion and acceptance that they were seeking externally. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. It was a journey, but over time, Alex found that he was seeking less validation from outside or from his relationships, and instead, he began to find a sense of worth from within, from acknowledging his own value and learning to meet his own needs.

This shift didn’t just change how Alex approached relationships, it transformed his entire outlook and experience of life. He became more confident, more grounded, and ironically, more attractive to others because he was no longer emanating that energy of neediness. [06:58.4]

Seeking validation from others, especially in our romantic relationships or dating interactions, is often a sign that there are parts of us in pain, parts that we’ve maybe been ignoring. By understanding and addressing these parts of us, not only can we heal old wounds, but we can also build a foundation of true self-worth that’s independent of anyone else’s approval. This is the kind of work that leads to true lasting change, not just in how we see ourselves, but in how we relate to the world around us.

There’s another helpful therapeutic approach called Gestalt therapy that helps to shed light on the role of cultural and social conditioning that might shape how men perceive their self-worth in relation to women. Gestalt therapy emphasizes awareness and the here-and-now experience, pushing us to look at how our past, particularly our unfinished business, influences our current lives. [07:56.6]

That Gestalt term of art “unfinished business” is referring to the unresolved issues from our childhood or from many years ago that we now carry through into the present and are influencing our lives in negative ways. This unfinished business or these unresolved issues often stem from impactful childhood experiences and societal expectations that we grew up with that dictate how we should view ourselves and others, including in the realm of romantic relationships or dating interactions.

Consider the case of a client. Let’s call him Brian. Brian story is a textbook example of how societal conditioning and personal upbringing can twist with somebody’s views on relationships and self-worth. Growing up Brian’s mother grappling, as she was with her own unprocessed sexual shame, instilled in him the belief that women were to be placed on a pedestal. In his mother’s eyes, and subsequently in Brian’s eyes, women were like damsels in distress, princesses to be saved, and essentially perfect beings incapable of wrongdoing. [09:02.8]

Alongside this, there was a strong undercurrent of sex negativity. Lust, sexual thoughts, or any expression of sexuality were deemed sinful and reprehensible. This shame -based programming led Brian to navigate his relationships with women through a kind of nice guy lens, always the fixer, always the protector, yet consistently finding himself relegated to the friend zone over and over.

Over time, as this pattern persisted, the fairytale narrative that he had been sold began to crumble, leaving in its wake a profound bitterness and resentment towards women in general. He felt duped, betrayed by the very ideals he was taught to uphold by his mother and his community, not recognizing that these feelings stemmed from his childhood conditioning and the societal norms rather than any inherent deceit on the part of the women that he was encountering. [09:56.7]

Brian’s journey through our therapeutic process began with acknowledging his unfinished business in his relationship with his mother. By bringing awareness to how these early experiences in the societal script around masculinity and femininity shaped his interactions with women, Brian started to untangle his feelings of bitterness and resentment.

Through the process, it became clear that his anger was less about the women he dated, and more about his own unaddressed sexual shame, and the unrealistic idealized view of women that he was sold from his mother and the community, and that he’d clung to. Our focus on self-awareness and presence was instrumental in helping Brian recognize these patterns.

By becoming more present with his feelings, his thoughts, and the bodily sensations that were associated with them, Brian began to challenge and change his conditioned responses. Of course, this wasn’t some overnight change, but it was a gradual process of transformation of coming to terms with his past and the societal messages that he had internalized, and how they had influenced his self-worth and relationships. [11:05.8]

As Brian worked through his unresolved issues, his unfinished business, particularly in his relationship with his mum, he started to release the grip of that love–hate dynamic that he found himself in with women. He learned to see women not as some mythical creatures on pedestals or sources of validation, but as simply fellow human beings that were fallible and imperfect just like him, and each of us with her own complexities and imperfections. This shift not only alleviated his resentment, but also opened up new possibilities for genuine, authentic connections based on mutual respect and understanding rather than a quest for validation or rescue.

Brian’s story is a powerful reminder of the impact that our upbringing and our societal conditioning can have on our relationships and sense of self-worth. It underscores the importance of developing self-awareness and presence to navigate and heal these deep-seated patterns. Through this work, we can begin to forge healthier relationships, both with ourselves and with others, grounded in reality, rather than myth. [12:14.8]

Now, let’s turn our attention to a third approach to psychotherapy that is very helpful here and this is existential therapy, a perspective that really zeroes in on the individual’s search for meaning, authenticity, and purpose. This approach is all about confronting the often uncomfortable truth that we are responsible for creating our own sense of worth, and direction in life independent of external benchmarks like relationship status or attractiveness to women.

Existential therapy invites us to challenge the deep seated notion that a man’s value is somehow tethered to how he’s perceived in the romantic marketplace. It’s a call to arms for authenticity, for owning up to our freedom to define ourselves, and for taking responsibility for our lives in our own happiness. [13:02.8]

This is crucial, because once you realize that outsourcing your self-worth, especially to something as fluid and unpredictable as romantic success, results in you setting yourself up for an existential crisis, that moment of reckoning when you see that your sense of value has been externalized, and this can be both daunting and, if you stick with it, incredibly liberating.

I had my own experience of this and I’ve talked about this in the video on my YouTube channel that currently is the home video when you land on my channel on YouTube, on the true meaning of life, where I shared how I had attached my own self-worth in a kind of narcissistic way to how women viewed me. [13:46.6]

When I was cheated on and she had rubbed it in my face in a very public way on her social media, this had brought my, at that point, this narcissistic, ideal or fantasy crumbling down around me and I had my existential crisis, which, at the beginning, I didn’t realize had a solution or a way out, so I just thought, If this is life and that’s it and the rest is just hard work, it’s not worth the hard work, so I tried to commit suicide a couple different times. I described all of that in a short 10-minute video and I am writing a book to go into more detail so you can understand.

I’m saying this also to make sure that you know that I am not sitting high up on some pedestal looking down on you if you have pegged your self-worth to how women view you. I did that for several years consciously, thinking that that was the thing to do. [14:41.7]

No matter their physical strength, for many men, emotions are too much for them to handle. It’s why they can’t give women the deeper levels of emotional intimacy and connection that they crave. It’s why they fail to be the man that modern women desire most: a man with inner strength, a man who has mastered his emotions.

Find out how to master your emotions through David Tian’s “Emotional Mastery” program. The Emotional Mastery program is a step-by-step system that integrates the best of empirically-verified psychotherapy methods and reveals how to master your internal state and develop the inner strength that makes you naturally attractive, happy, and fulfilled.

Learn more about this transformational program by going to

That’s D-A-V-I-D-T-I-A-N-P-H-D [dot] com [slash] emotional mastery.

Unfortunately for me, I stayed through it for several months through my existential crisis. In case you don’t know what that’s like or maybe you’re not of a philosophical bent, because anyone who thinks deeply ought to arrive at an existential crisis, because that will help them focus in on the biggest, most important questions of the meaning of life and the meaning of their life. [15:59.2]

What it’s like is, imagine this, you’ve been on autopilot, chasing after validation through relationships or interactions with women, maybe even tailoring your personality or interests to what you think will be more appealing to others—and then it hits you, this relentless pursuit hasn’t actually brought you any closer to feeling genuinely worthy or fulfilled. This realization might initially feel like the ground is giving way beneath you, but it’s actually the first step towards genuine freedom.

That thing that you’re getting that validation from may not be attraction from women. It might be money or career or status, or any other idol that you stick in as a placeholder there. All of those external sources of validation will leave you empty in the long run. This is where the existential concepts of authenticity, freedom and responsibility come into play. [16:53.8]

Authenticity is about being true to yourself, embracing who you are, quirks and all, and seeming weaknesses or seeming imperfections, without donning a facade just to fit into someone else’s idea of who you should be. Freedom in this context is the recognition that you have the power to define your own life’s meaning, to choose how you engage with the world, and how you perceive your own worth, and with that freedom comes responsibility, the duty to make choices that align with your true self, not based on society’s expectations or external validation.

Okay, let’s consider another case where this played out, a client of mine, Paul, let’s call him. It was a guy who came into therapy with me feeling like he’d hit rock bottom. Because his self-esteem was so tied to his dating life, he thought that if only he could make himself more attractive to women, then he’d finally feel complete.

Through our therapeutic work together, Paul confronted the uncomfortable truth that he had been outsourcing his self-worth to something outside of his control. Together, we explored what authenticity meant for him, peeling back layers of pretense to uncover his genuine interests, values and aspirations, many of which had been sidelined in his quest for approval. [18:13.4]

Of course, this journey wasn’t easy. Taking responsibility for his own self-worth meant letting go of long-held beliefs and opening himself up to the uncertainty of forging his own path. But this shift also brought a profound sense of liberation. Paul started to engage in activities and pursue goals that resonated with his authentic self, not because they might make him more appealing to others, but because they fulfilled him.

This transformation is at the heart of existential therapy’s power. It moves us away from seeking external validation and toward cultivating an internal wellspring of self-worth. This doesn’t mean relationships aren’t important. Rather, it means entering into them not as a half looking to be made whole, but as a whole person seeking to share a life with another whole person. [19:04.0]

In essence, existential therapy offers a pathway to discover that our worth isn’t a prize to be won from others, but a treasure to be unearthed within ourselves. It’s a call to embrace the freedom and responsibility of crafting a life that’s authentically ours. A journey that is fraught with challenges is infinitely rewarding.

Okay, so we looked at how those three main therapeutic models would approach the problem or the issue. Now let’s get into how we can start building that solid, unshakable sense of self-worth from the inside out. How would these three different treasure troves of experiential therapeutic approaches deal with this deal?

Let’s start with IFS therapy. The first step would be to get in touch with your true self. Sounds simple, right? But in practice, it’s about distinguishing between your core self and the various parts of you that have been driving your behavior and your feelings, especially those tied to seeking external validation. [20:07.2]

These parts might include the manager parts that have you trying to keep you safe by earning approval or it could be the firefighter parts that distract you from pain through external achievements. By accessing your true self, you can start leading with compassion and confidence leading your own parts in your own what’s referred to as your system of parts with compassion and confidence, recognizing that your self-worth isn’t contingent on anyone else’s opinion.

A practical step here is to simply begin noticing these parts when they show up. You can ask yourself, “Which part of me feels this need for validation right now?” and that’ll get you started. Of course, there are dozens of steps after that, but just this awareness can start to shift your relationship with yourself.

Now, moving to Gestalt therapy, Gestalt therapy offers another powerful toolkit for building self-worth. This approach emphasizes staying present and becoming more aware of your current experiences. One practical exercise involves sitting quietly and observing what you’re feeling in the moment without judgment, notice the sensations in your body, the emotions you’re experiencing, and any thoughts running through your mind at that moment. [21:18.4]

This practice of present awareness helps you become more attuned to your own needs and feelings. Rather than being driven by old patterns, or societal expectations, or external validation, when you’re more connected to your present experience, you’re better equipped to resolve the unresolved issues or that unfinished business that we talked about earlier, whether it’s your emotional wounds from the past or unmet emotional needs.

Okay, so existential therapy brings us to the profound task of creating personal meaning and embracing authenticity. This might sound daunting, but it starts with asking yourself some key questions, like “What truly matters to me? What actually are my values? What makes me feel most alive?” [22:10.4]

There are many steps to this, obviously, from there, but from there, it’s about making choices that align with your answers, even in small ways to start. This could even mean picking up a hobby that you’ve always been interested in but never pursued because it didn’t seem cool enough, or spending time with people who appreciate you for who you are, not just for what you can do for them or what they can do for you. Creating personal meaning is about taking action based on what resonates with you deeply, not based on what you think will earn you approval or admiration from the outside.

Combining these approaches, and there are many other approaches that can be helpful here, especially dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, psychodrama. I’m trained in all of these, so generally, in my practices, I draw on and combine a mix of whatever I think at the moment will be most effective. Hopefully, whoever you work with will be able to do the same for you. [23:08.8]

But in this episode, given the constraints of time, I’ve just focused on those three very powerful therapeutic models, and even just these three together, they offer a comprehensive strategy for developing a deep internal sense of self-worth. From the IFS therapy model, we learn to lead with our true self, and understand and appreciate the various parts of ourselves. In Gestalt therapy, it teaches us the power of present awareness and resolving the past in order to live more fully in the now. Existential therapy challenges us to create personal meaning and live authentically.

A practical daily practice could look like this. Start your day by identifying one small action that you can take that’s aligned with your true self and personal values. Throughout the day, practice present awareness, especially when you notice the urge for external validation creeping in. Finally, reflect on your day through the lens of personal meaning, acknowledging the choices that you made that felt authentic to you. [24:07.3]

By weaving together these strategies, you’ll find yourself building a sense of self-worth that’s based on your own terms, grounded in who you are, and how you choose to engage with the world. This isn’t a quick fix. It’s a journey, but it’s a journey that leads to a richer, more fulfilling life, where your sense of value comes from a well within you, not from the shifting sands of external validation.

Alright, let’s quickly recap the major beats that we’ve hit today on this journey towards understanding and cultivating our internal sense of self-worth, steering clear of letting it be determined by external validation, especially in our dating interactions with women.

We dove into the world of IFS therapy, highlighting the importance of recognizing and integrating the various parts of ourselves to lead with our true self, rather than relying on external approval. Then we explored the Gestalt therapy approach emphasizing the power of present awareness and addressing unfinished business to live more authentically. Finally, we ventured into existential therapy, discussing the significance of creating personal meaning and embracing authenticity, setting ourselves free from the chains of needing validation from others. [25:18.2]

Now, to wrap up, let’s talk about a case study that really brings home the consequences of outsourcing our sense of worth and the transformative power of therapeutic work here. Okay, so meet Tom. Tom spent two years believing his value as a man was directly tied to how desirable women found him. He chased after relationships, believing each one would finally make him feel whole, complete.

But even when he was in a relationship, there was this gnawing feeling of inadequacy of fear that it would all fall apart if he wasn’t perfect, and more often than not, it did. Tom was stuck in a cycle of short-lived relationships and deepening self-doubt, his sense of self-worth teetering on the brink with each breakup. [26:02.5]

The turning point for Tom came when he finally sought me out for therapeutic coaching, embarking on a journey through IFS to understand his parts, Gestalt therapy to become more present and address his past, and existential therapy to redefine his values and what made life meaningful to him, along with other therapeutic approaches that we drew on.

It wasn’t easy, of course, and it, of course, didn’t happen overnight, but gradually, Tom began to see himself in a new light. He learned to find worth within himself, not from how others, particularly women, perceived him, and he was able to meet his own needs more consistently. The change was profound. Tom started to pursue interests and goals for the sheer joy they brought him, not for how they might make him appear to others. He built healthier, more genuine relationships, both platonic and romantic, based on mutual respect and understanding, not on a desperate need for validation. [26:56.8]

Tom’s story is a powerful testament to the positive possibilities that open up when we invest in our own therapeutic work to reclaim our sense of self-worth. It’s a journey from seeking approval to finding internal validation, from living in fear to embracing life with confidence in authenticity. It’s a journey that we’re all capable of embarking on. It starts with recognizing the need for change and taking that first step towards therapeutic coaching or self-awareness, and ultimately, self-acceptance. Remember, your worth is not in someone else’s hands. It’s in yours.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you liked it, hit a like, or follow or subscribe on whatever platform you’re listening to this on. If you’re interested in coming on to the podcast as a guest, and we can do some private therapeutic coaching together live on air, so to speak, for the podcast, then write to, “support” [at] my URL Let us know what your issue is or issues are that you’d like to work on and give us as much background as you can, and if we’re able to work together, if we’re a good match for a one podcast episode type of session, then we will reply to you. [28:14.7]

If you have written to us any time in the past few months and are still open to going on live on air with me, so to speak, to be a guest on the podcast, then write to us again and update us on whatever your background or issues are, because we’re starting a new round of guest podcast episodes.

Hopefully, this announcement will be evergreen. I’m hoping to make this new consistent part of the podcast. So, if you’re interested in working with me and sharing parts of our session as a podcast episode, write to and tell us about yourself and what you’d like to work on.

Thank you again so much for listening. If this has helped you in any way to send it to anyone else that you think could benefit from it. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [29:02.5]

This is