The self-help business is a multi-billion dollar industry that feeds off your insecurities like a poisonous leech.
And while they promise to boost your confidence, attractiveness, and happiness, it actually does the exact opposite. Especially over the long term.
The self-help industry lures you into a trap which leads to burnout, misery, and even self-contempt.
In this episode, you’ll discover why self-help is toxic and how to improve your life without relying on shady self-help tactics.
Listen now and you’ll learn to accept yourself by the end of the episode.
Show highlights include:
- The insidious “Toxic Trap” you learn from self-help and life coaches that obliterates your happiness and confidence (1:03)
- The “Radical Self-Acceptance” secret for being content no matter what curveballs life throws you (9:47)
- How self-help weaponizes your biggest insecurities and sabotages your long-term fulfillment (14:31)
- Why trying to exile your shyness or social awkwardness actually steals your confidence instead of building it (16:58)
- The counterintuitive way attending Tony Robbins events can cripple your self-esteem (22:58)
- Why playing video games and watching porn reveal a deep psychological part of you that’s unsatisfied (37:20)
- How studying Loki can instantly make you satisfied with your life right now (even if you haven’t accomplished everything you want yet) (42:28)
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 check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
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.
In this episode and the next couple episodes, I’m going to be getting into some material that I hope will be very jarring, because I’m going to be contradicting almost all life coaching and self-help.
Ordinarily and in the past, I’ve been allied with these fields, with these practitioners of life coaching, the self-help industry. However, it has gotten to the point now where I’ve noticed how toxic their underlying assumptions are. Fortunately it all boils down to this one thing, and if you just get this one thing, right, then it will unlock for you all of the long-term and consistent happiness with fulfillment and success, and help you to avoid the toxic trap and lie of life coaching. [01:08.5]
Not all life coaching, of course, because that’s an unregulated term. It could really mean anything. But the majority of life coaching, the vast majority of life coaching, suffers from these toxic blind spots. When I say “the lie of life coaching,” I’m not saying that they purposely lie or consciously seek to mislead, but that there’s this temptation, this kind of leer that draws people to life coaching, and it’s founded on a lie, something that’s just not true.
If you take to heart what I’ll be covering in this episode and in the next couple of episodes, you’ll have the key to your long-term, consistent, long-term, lasting and consistent, as a default, happiness, fulfillment and success. You’ll have the trigger that is the tipping point to take you over the edge to create at that momentum that makes all of the healing and unburdening work, and of the growth to consistent long-term happiness and fulfillment and of success to make that almost effortless. [02:17.4]
But most people don’t get to that tipping point, because once you get to the tipping point and once you go over the edge, then you just have this momentum like a ball rolling down a hill and you’d have to actually exert extra energy to stop it.
But most people never make it over the tipping point. They never make it over that hill. They never make it over the peak or to the peak, and the peak here isn’t the whole process, but it’s, in many ways, the most important step. It’s a necessary step, and if you don’t get this step, you won’t get the necessary momentum to take you through the rest of the steps.
But if you do get this step, then all of the rest of the steps that come after it in your healing and unburdening, and growth, unfold naturally and relatively quickly, and that’s where you get all of the intrinsic enjoyment from the actual process. [03:09.0]
Then the process becomes an end in itself rather than how most guys are trying to approach finding happiness and fulfillment through life coaching. It’s like a chore. It’s like hard work. It’s painful. Then they might hear people like myself and other therapists or people further along on their journeys, who describe, sincerely describe, sadness as a beautiful feeling or any feeling or any emotion as welcome.
Once you take to heart the main concept that I’ll be spending this episode on and the next couple episodes focused on, then all of it will make sense to you, if you take it to heart, if you embrace it. If you don’t understand or take in this concept that is the focus of these few episodes, and you instead buy into the lie that life coaching sells you– [04:04.1]
Again, it’s not all life coaching, just the vast majority of it, and it’s not all self-help, it’s just the vast majority of it—and from a psychotherapy perspective, what they engage in is a form of repression and this type of toxic repression leads to burnouts, is unsustainable, and from a long-term perspective, is, obviously, unhealthy, because you’re repressing parts of yourself, and in that sense, is toxic because it’s like a poison that eats away at you, and it’s like developing an overreliance on Red Bull or steroids, where it gives you a boost that maybe for that moment is necessary and a temporary boost for some emergency or crisis. [04:55.1]
But then if you just rely on that and just hope that you develop a tolerance for it so that you can take on more and more of it, and so life coaching itself help often loses sight of the original intention of why people were going to it in the first place and makes it an end in itself to become, to grow for its own sake, and then making yourself feel bad because you’re not growing fast enough, and then creating the whole cycle of shame and stress around just growth itself, as an example of many dangerous fallouts of the life-coaching lie and the self-help trap.
All of that is unsustainable and will burn you out, and it’s a good thing if it burns you out because then it forces you to stop. But if you’re good at the stuff that life coaching teaches you, then you develop calluses. You get better at repressing and you fight the burnout, so you go back out for another bout of battle, and, obviously, over the long run, this becomes incredibly toxic and is, from a mental health perspective, unhealthy. [05:58.8]
Perhaps most disturbing for you as an individual is that it blocks and prevents and sabotages your long-term happiness, your long-term and consistent fulfillment, and meaningful, enjoyable success. You might get very toxic, tiring, exhausting success by overreliance on repression, but it won’t be satisfying in itself and it won’t be enjoyable along the way. It will warp you into a path that you and your parts have a lot of resistance to for good reason. But instead of listening to the resistance, you just plow over it and repress it through the typical techniques of life coaching and self-help.
I’d even throw in there some types of psychotherapy. Especially the basic cognitive types of psychotherapy can veer very closely to and be recruited for the aims and methods of life coaching and catch you in the trap of self-help. [07:08.0]
I like the word “trap” for this because we start in the world of self-help with relatively innocent intentions, which are just to improve some area of our lives, and then we find out that there’s an entire billion dollar, multibillion dollar industry built up around helping us do that, and as we get some results from an enjoyable bit of digging, then we’re told or are upsold on the next level and there’s always another level, which is, in and of self, not a bad thing. Maybe they’re just pointing out the fact that there always are levels.
But then, as you get sucked into this trap, you lose sight of why you were doing it in the first place and now you’re made to feel bad about yourself because you’re not good enough in yet another area, which is whatever the heck the life-coaching guru or self-help guru you follow tells you you ought to be like. [08:02.6]
I could fall into the same trap if you don’t understand what I’m doing here and if you don’t understand the main concept that I’ll be digging into in the next few episodes. It could easily become the same sort of thing, and I’ve discovered, to my chagrin, some followers or listeners and readers, students, who have not noticed the main messages that I’ve been trying to emphasize over the past few years, and instead have made this work, these courses for happiness and fulfillment, made those into yet another assignment, test, hurdle that they have to pass or conquer in order to be enough, in order to be good enough—and this is the life-coaching lie that you’re not good enough, just the way you are right now. Okay, that’s the life-coaching lie. [08:58.5]
You also hear this in some of the old styles of psychotherapy, some types of CBT or ACT, or any kind of heavily cognitive therapy that basically tells you you’re not good enough, and then, instead, you need to do X, Y and Z, or ABC or whatever steps, 1, 2, 3, whatever, in order to finally be good enough.
All of these life-coaching and self-help and cognitive psychotherapeutic approaches are in contrast to the only approaches that are effective in the long term, which are a kind of experiential therapy and a great example of that is IFS therapy, which I have championed in many episodes and am a certified practitioner myself, IFS being Internal Family Systems therapy, which promotes or has as a foundational assumption a radical self-acceptance. [09:55.3]
It’s often helpful to also arrive at a kind of acceptance of the outer reality, and in the most literal basic sense, it’s always helpful to accept reality, because if you’re in delusion or denial of reality, that’s not going to be helpful. But even more than just the acceptance, mere acceptance, is within yourself to arrive at an experiential emotional acceptance, not just an intellectual one, of yourself, of all of the parts of you.
That’s the one I’m going to be focusing on here, that concept, self-acceptance, radical self-acceptance, that however you and the parts of you are right now are just fine, that from the perspective of your higher self, they don’t need to change, and as your higher self, you don’t need them to change or even to do anything for you. Now, if they’re in pain or distress and want to change, then, of course, you can, as your higher self, help them to change, but you don’t need them to change. [11:01.8]
I sat in on a reading group of a bunch of life coaches and kind of toxic achievers, and one of the guys in the group uses an example to make the point. His point was that life is evil and human nature is evil, and he gave the example. For example, your child could be born with Down syndrome, and I was just floored by that. It made so many errors, this type of reasoning, this particular line of reasoning, one of which is to confuse tragedy with evil.
But, more importantly, let’s just pause there on his remark about Down syndrome, and I find this to be kind of a background assumption in the unconscious of many practitioners of life coaching or fans of life-coach gurus, which is that they might pay lip service to this idea of embracing vulnerability or something along those lines, but, really, what they’re spending so much time and, especially, effort in, is trying to become better, with the standard being relatively toxic, and one of those standards is achievement. [12:14.8]
It’s difficult for them to see, to recognize, emotionally, how you could, how someone could love and fully accept a person who has Down syndrome. I can give you a personal example from my own personal growth in this area over the many years. I have a nephew who is a teenager now and he is a non-verbal autistic, and up until the age of 11, we didn’t know how to really communicate with him.
It turns out he is a genius. No kidding, he’s a savant with a photographic memory, but at 11 years old, we didn’t know any of that. He was non-verbal, so I was already having as one of my motivations to put aside a trust fund for him to help care for him in his later life, because I assumed he wouldn’t be able to take care of himself or to support himself. Of course, now he is enrolled in a degree program at Harvard, so he is doing incredibly well by any kind of achiever’s standard. [13:16.8]
The dangerous thing and the thing that really is helpful for me to reflect on every now and then is to remember what it was like to love him before he was able to communicate with us in any deep sense. At around 11 years old, he was introduced to a letter board and became very proficient with it, and that just opened up a whole bunch of things that we didn’t even know about of his inner life, and just remembering that all of these achievement that he’s been able to accomplish over the last less than 10 years does not make him more worthy of our love, or of love, in general—and that’s something that’s really important to remember because so many of us buy into the life-coaching lie that we’re more worthy because we’ve accomplished more or have developed more skills. [14:13.5]
Now, obviously, we might be more worthy of a promotion or of a job, or of an A on the test or the course, but I’m not talking about any of those. I’m talking about being worthy of love and acceptance and significance that you are important just in who you are without needing to accomplish anything.
For those who bought into the life-coaching lie and part of the reason why the self-help trap is so appealing to achievers is because it connects to their core insecurities and the lies they’ve been telling them or that they were conditioned into and have been telling themselves since they were children that they have to go and earn love, that they have to do, that love is conditional and is conditional on achievements or whatever conditions that they’ve adopted. [15:04.8]
Now, you might have parts right now in you that you are ashamed of that you wish weren’t there, and maybe for the guys who are trying to get better with women, it might be the parts of you that are shy or that appear socially awkward, or that are anxious, and you would pay a lot of money, and I know this for a fact, there are a lot of men who would be willing to pay or a lot of money to excise those parts of themselves for good, permanently, and I’ve been through this process.
Of course, you can’t pay to have that happen, but you can pay for knowledge and some training, and then just through hammering it over and over through experience, exile these parts of yourself. But here’s the truth. That’s just called repression and it might work in the short term. [15:58.8]
Like I said, life coaching is great, if you are just aiming for some kind of event in the next three to four months and you don’t mind sacrificing a whole bunch of parts of your personal life and of yourself in order to accomplish that goal.
Maybe you’ve got a championship match coming up, and when it’s those cases where you’re kind of just sprinting or, I guess, in a way, it’s kind of like a bounded marathon and you know it’s going to end, you can give up sex or meeting with your wife and kids, and whatever it is, so that you can focus on the Olympics or something like that, right? You’ve got something like three to six months at the most.
After six months, I’ve discovered, for most people, that toxic repression starts to eat away at them, and maybe if you only do it for six months or only do it for one year of your life, you’d be okay and you can then, after that, go into the healing process and then have to make up for that toxic repression, but maybe that goal was worth it to you for some reason. [16:58.2]
But just realize that every time you do that, you are exiling, you’re locking up in the basement of your mind, those parts of you that are actually needing love and connection, and attention and a hug, and play and adventure, and connection.
Again, as an aside, I’ve been saying this from the beginning of this episode, but I want to just reiterate it, life coaching is great if you are just focused on some goal in three to four months. It’s especially great for athletics or some sport. If you’re gunning for the championship or you’ve got some big tournament coming up or some big fight coming up, if you’re a fighter, life coaching is great for that.
A great example of it that kind of encapsulates the whole thing is Tony Robbins, which is Tony Robbins, probably “the” premier life coach in the world, maybe in history. In terms of life coaches, I think he had a lot of influence in just the beginning, the creation of this life coaching industry. He might have even coined the term, but I’m sure about that. [18:01.4]
But his event, Unleash the Power Within, his feeder event, the first one that most people go into and then he upsells you on the expensive events during that feeder event, Unleash The Power Within is a ton of fun, and if you’ve never done it, I highly recommend it. It’s great for many reasons, one of which is it gives you this, teaches you and kind of trains you to adopt this kind of physical energy. It helps you to control the energy that you have, your mood and your emotions, and literal energy in your body, by manipulating your body, by just taking control of your physiology, but it’s not sustainable in the long run.
But if you just want a burst of energy to get you through the day or to pull an all-nighter, or to get you through a really tough, I don’t know, audit week or something at work, then it’s really helpful to have that in your toolkit. I’ve walked on fire with Tony at the event, I think, now nine times in the span of, I think, four and a half years or so and I’ll do it again. It’s a fun event. [19:04.2]
However, if you make your go-to, if your default is to walk on fire and you walk on fire all the time, and I don’t get people who fire-walk multiple times a week and the fire walk that you do at the UPW event with Tony Robbins is relatively short, depending on which event. It varied in length and sometimes I was walking on fire in hot and humid Singapore, and then walking on fire in the middle of winter with snow on the ground in London or New York or something like that, and so those were quite different experiences.
But, I mean, I know people who walk on fire almost full time, as part of their profession. They do it every other week or so and they’ll do it for very long walks. You could just build up your tolerance for this sort of thing and become more skilled at it, and there’s no question that, as an athlete, you can build up your resilience, or as a soldier in the military, if you’re going to be in a deployment life, coaching is the way to go. It’s not a good idea to– I mean, it’s helpful to repress in crisis or emergency situations for short, relatively short periods of time. [20:10.8]
But just like if you became a career soldier, always on the front lines, you’re going to suffer from trauma, and, of course, there’s a well-known type now, PTSD. I mean, the military cases are almost the textbook examples of PTSD, and you don’t want to be suffering from PTSD for the rest of your life, just because you unknowingly sacrificed these vulnerable parts of yourself for some burst of energy that you thought would only last for three months, but then you relied on that.
Like I was saying, it’s like making Red Bull your go-to drink in the morning. It’s like you’re drinking water, but you switch to Red Bull and this ends up creating– There’s going to be a reason for why you’re doing that because you’re trying to keep back other parts of yourself that would ordinarily burst out, and, right away, if you are relying on repression, I know you’re exhausted. You, as I’m speaking to you, the parts of you that are dominant and relying on repression will be exhausted as a result. [21:12.5]
But then underneath that are the parts that, when the exhausted parts rest, they are the parts holding fear, sadness, anger, deep desire for love and connection, that are exiled with unmet needs, and those needs are being repressed so that you don’t have to feel them, but they’re still there. They’re always there in the background and that’s part of the reason there’s so much exhaustion, because of all of the energy that has to go into keeping back those parts of yourself that would otherwise sabotage you.
For the average achiever or for the beginner, which I think is almost everyone starting out in this, buying into the life-coaching lie, there are the fears that you’re trying to hold back—so the fear of failure, the fear of not meeting your potential, the fear of not being enough, and those are the three that I’m going to hit here, but there are many fears that that’s where they’re repressed. That’s where all the energy goes into repression, to hold back, to repress, to suppress, to hold back all of that fear. [22:18.0]
Along with that fear, if you give into the fear, there’s not just fear, but there’s also sadness and anger, and alienation and loneliness, and all of these things that your protector, your manager parts just don’t want to feel. They’re afraid of feeling those things, so then they lean on the techniques, the strategies and methods of life coaching to try to make it so that those parts of themselves never show up ever again. That obviously is toxic and is mentally unhealthy.
You can see this, if you follow the life coaching industry, which is still relatively young. If you follow it closely enough, you see the chinks in the armor and the cracking of their facade of keeping it all together. I’m not going to name names, I mean, besides Tony Robbins. That’s an obvious one, but, again, he’s not all [toxic]. Hopefully, I mentioned this. He’s not all toxic. It’s just part of his message. [23:10.8]
But I’m not going to name names because I’m also talking to them and I want to give them grace and room to grow and change, and I also accept them. Again, it’s part of a whole radical self-acceptance. Start with self-acceptance and that will lead you to be able to see more clearly how to accept other things in life that are healthy to accept, and one is other people.
If you actually are their friend or if you’re actually going to help them, you actually have to get to the point where you accept them for the way they are and don’t need them to change, unless, of course, they want to change and you support that change. Then that’s a separate story, but you don’t need them to change for you to be connected to them or love them. That’s actually what it means to love, and the therapeutic relationship, the relationship between a therapist and his client begins from acceptance. [24:04.8]
It’s an ironic thing. Clients show up into the room or into the Zoom room, wanting to change themselves, and right away, the therapist’s attitude even getting off the ground has to be that they don’t need to change. It’s easier when you’re just the therapist, but when you are now siding with the client because the client wants this change, then because the client wants to change, you are now motivated to help them.
But it’s important to just realize and to remind yourself as a therapist, or for those who are life coaches who style themselves as or fancy themselves as therapists, that it begins from a place of acceptance, a not needing of them to change—returning to the example of children with Down syndrome or I gave the example of my nephew who was severely autistic, that I don’t need him to change in any way for me to love him and for me to love him just the way he is, not needing him to get into Harvard or have photographic memory, or do any of the other kind of achievement stuff that he’s done, which I’m happy for him that he’s proud of. [25:12.5]
I’m also relieved that he’s going to be able to support himself and is able to communicate with others more easily and at a much greater depth. That’s all good news for practical reasons, but in terms of just my love or acceptance of him, that achievement doesn’t change that, and, suddenly, if he were to have some, I don’t know, or if any of my loved ones were to have some kind of accident where they lost their faculties, if I really loved them, that would include acceptance of them for however they are and my love for them wouldn’t be contingent on their achievement. [25:54.6]
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That’s the first fear. I wanted to base this on three different fears, to organize this episode on three different fears, so that’s the first one, the fear of failure of making mistakes, the fear of losing, like in a competition. I’ll just encapsulate that as the fear of failure and that fear of failure is what drives a lot of life coaching. [26:58.0]
Again, if it’s for the short term and it’s a burst of energy that you need every now out and then just to get something done, and you’re willing to repress or sacrifice for a little while and it could be a day or, I don’t know, it could just be an hour for some performance, or it could just be three months. Anything more than six months will now lead to and will have toxic downstream effects.
That fear of failure is, if it’s just to win at some competition that will be over in a couple months and then you never have to deal with it again, that’s a good time for using life coaching. But if it’s a way of life as the way that many people use it and they create these elaborate morning routines, as an example, two, three, or four hours before they get on with the day, and then just to start their day, they have so much stress, because in order to be good enough as a human being, they have to become really good at all of these various things. Fitness, meditation. [27:57.4]
They just add all of these things, and before they even start their day, it’s so stressful for them and it’s so exhausting for them, and they have to check all boxes before they can even be good enough as a human being or to accept themselves so that they’re not lazy, because if they give in to their natural impulses of sitting around and doing nothing, then they’re afraid that they’ll become failures. Right? So, this is the normal way.
In their minds, those people who have bought into the life-coaching lie, in their minds, it’s either “I’m going to become perfect or I’m going to be a total bum and a total zero and a total loser,” and they’re not aware, first of all, that there is a part of you that is tempted to do that and you’re not listening to the one that wants to just kind of be lazy, because there’s an important lesson there, which I’ll get to in literally a few seconds or I’ll get to next. [28:46.8]
This fear of failure, of losing, drives them to obsessively attend these life-coaching events to the point where they don’t even enjoy them anymore, but it feels like they’re haunted. They have to go because they’re not good enough just the way they are right now. By God, I’m going to become good enough. If I go to enough of these events and walk on fire enough times, then I’ll be able to burn off the sinful nature, so to speak, right? Those parts of myself that I’m ashamed of that I want to get rid of, and that is toxic.
Hopefully, if you’ve been following my other episodes and my material for long enough, you can see how this is not mentally healthy. Of course, a great check for it is the concept that is the focus of this episode, which is self-acceptance. Do you accept yourself just the way you are fully without conditions?
Now, again, if the part of you wants to change, because it literally wants to not because it’s haunted to change, not because it’s forced to change, not because it doesn’t feel good enough unless it changes, but just maybe because just the way that, if you’re sitting in one chair and it’s kind of uncomfortable and you want to get up and switch chairs, you can do it. If you want to stop eating chocolate ice cream and you’d rather, I don’t know, have vanilla, go for it, right? [30:03.2]
If it’s just a preference or if it’s just something that’s more enjoyable, then that’s an easy one. Just let them do it and maybe help them out, or if they’re in pain, if it’s a painful place for them to be, then you, as your higher self, can help these parts of you that are in pain or distress to no longer be in pain or distress. But you, as your higher self, to know whether you are in the state of your higher self, check to see whether you need them to change in order for you to fully accept them and if they’re just fine the way they are, because you can love them just the way they are.
Now some examples. All parts are motivated to do something already. Part of the fear of the achievers who then pursue life coaching and buy into the life-coaching lie, one of their fears is that they’re not motivated to do anything, that they’re afraid of just being lazy or getting into destructive behavior in the more extreme, like drugs or abusing substances or something. [31:03.8]
They’re worried that without the whip of life coaching, without the forcing of achievement, they’re afraid that they’ll fall back into nothingness and fail at life. But all parts are already motivated to do something that is enjoyable to them and healthy, but that this healthy motivation that is intrinsic to them has been either not accepted when you were younger—so you were made to feel that you had to be different or not how you are or how you were, and you had to be different in order to be worthy of acceptance or attention, or love or connection, most often by your parents or your caregivers, and sometimes by your peers or teachers. [31:58.3]
As a result, those parts of you that had intrinsic motivation to do these enjoyable and healthy things instead were either repressed so that these healthy desires were warped into some other area or they acted out, hence the destructive behavior, especially self-destructive behavior.
But if you go through the therapeutic process, you will then be led to encounter these, your child parts, that you’ve been trying to repress and do away with, the ones that these protector parts of you might consider to be weak or vulnerable, or shameful, and instead to look at them with full acceptance—as well as to look at the protector parts that are shaming with full acceptance and give them a big hug as well and earning their trust, and then turning to the exiled ones that are holding the pain and are acting out. [32:55.5]
Just like real children, if you really get to know them and give them a safe place and a secure attachment, then they’ll let go of their self-destructive behavior and become them and more of them. You’ll discover that, as they become more of them themselves, that they’re already intrinsically motivated to do something.
That’s also part of the toxic nature of group education or childhood education, or education for the masses, general education, where you’re forced into a classroom of 20 to 30 or more students with one teacher and the teacher just has to keep the chaos down. In order to do that, these kids, because you don’t have one-on-one attention, they can’t all pursue what they all want to pursue, so you have to have a curriculum that works for everyone, like a cookie cutter, and you’re forcing those little boys especially to sit still for hours on end, right when they are most motivated to get up and run, and move and explore the outside world and everything. Anyway, I’m not going to get started or get too much into the toxicity of general education, but that’s part of what has happened to our own child parts. [34:09.2]
I’ll give you an example. I’ve used this example of my client, Vic, before, who was in a very conservative, achiever-driven community and call culture in Asia that only respected lawyers, doctors, and then, increasingly, engineers and the tech world. He moved into the tech world and his heart was totally not into it going through most of his twenties.
He had, as a part-time job, woodworking, and he worked in various woodworking workshops and really loved it, and he then moved. Because of familial or family pressure, societal pressures, he joined a startup that demanded 80 hours a week of his time and he sold his soul to that job and really missed his hobby, which was woodworking that made his soul sing, so to speak. [35:04.3]
It got to a point where, luckily, that startup failed and he was forced to go back into the workplace, so that’s what he did. He got a job and he was very employable, but his passion was still woodworking, and when he came to me, part of the work we were doing in his lifestyle was he really wanted to spend most of his time in his passion. He thought he was good enough to strike out on his own and actually make a living off it, but none of his community or family, or most of his friends, did not support him, told him not to do it.
We came up with a relatively easy thing. You could take six months to a year, give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, you can go back into the workforce again. What was amazing was he not only was able, within a year, to make enough from his woodworking that it exceeded what he was getting in the salary at the previous job, but even more important was how much happier he was and how much more alive he was. [36:07.0]
Then his dating issues got taken care of on their own because he was radiating this joy and happiness in his life, and he was going to places that were around his passion and to conventions around his passion and meeting a lot of people who also shared his passions, so it was just so much easier for him to find connection.
He’s now married with a beautiful child and it came from the courage to face this fear of failure, instead of just repressing those parts of him, that part of himself that had this useless hobby, according to everyone else in his life and that can’t make any money. I realize, the way I’ve just presented it seems like much more of a practical issue or a logistical one, but I’m really bringing this up because most of the struggle there was emotional. [37:00.0]
It was the struggle of decades-long repression from a repressive society and community, and upbringing, to face the fear of being a loser, in that context, to follow the parts of himself that were really speaking to him, because he paid attention to it.
Now, for many others, it could just be that you haven’t even paid attention to it, so all you do is a kind of mind-numbing activity, even just sitting and playing video games for hours on end in a kind of mind-numbing way just to distract yourself, and this is the way that many people use porn. A lot of guys use porn and they use it not out of real pleasure. There’s relatively little intrinsic enjoyment for them in the use of it. Instead, they feel dirty and ashamed afterwards, and their eyes are bloodshot and they’re not energized by it to get on with the day. [37:58.3]
If that’s the, if that’s how these parts feel, that’s how you feel after doing that activity, then that’s probably not the intrinsic motivation of those parts that are doing. Those are parts that are just acting out and you won’t learn about their intrinsic motivation, what they’re really motivated to do, what they really want to do, what makes them feel alive.
You won’t really learn that until you attend to them, until you turn towards them with acceptance for how they are, and you learn about their pain and their stories, and how they became this way and what they really want to do, and the burdens that they’re carrying. Until you help them to let go of those burdens, you won’t really be able to discover what it is they really want, and then because of that, you, as your system, won’t feel fully alive.
It might be the case that video games are your passion and you feel really great playing them. Then there’s nothing wrong with that. I know a lot of old folks or old-school people look down on video games, but, man, you can make millions of dollars as a professional video game player these days. [39:07.7]
It wasn’t the case in the ’80s, when I was growing up, the early-90s. There were very special circumstances that you could do that, but now it’s a much bigger industry and I don’t think parents should be dissuading their children from doing that if they’re good at it and if they’re really passionate at it.
Okay, the second fear is the fear of not meeting your potential, and this I’ve come up against as a kind of secondary fear, as kind of an excuse. I’m just going to address that really quickly here.
The fear of not meeting your potential, as if there is this ideal perfection or this ideal you, that if you don’t become this ideal you, then, I don’t know, you’re not good enough and you’ve got to beat yourself up really hard. You’ve got to use the whip of life coaching to get to that ideal because the pain of not meeting your potential is so great. [39:58.2]
Here’s the thing. There’s no such thing as meeting your potential. Be smarter about it. Here’s an example from physics. Already now, in popular consciousness, you know that there’s this idea, hopefully, that’s gotten out there of multiple universes, different realities, and that’s what you’re dealing with. You’re dealing with counterfactuals. That’s the term in philosophy, counterfactuals. What would it be like if–? What if? All of the “what-ifs” and the branching off of potential realities.
For you to feel bad about not meeting your potential, you would have to think that there’s some kind of potential, like there’s a one dimensional route and you didn’t get there. But, actually, there are thousands, if not millions of potential yous that could have been instantiated, but were not in our reality. This is the you in this reality.
There is a possible world in which I would’ve been a really good lawyer. I think it would’ve been a really good lawyer. There’s also a possible world in which I would’ve been a good management consultant. Those two, lawyer and management consultant, had been sort of haunting me all the way through grad school as potential paths I could have taken. [41:07.5]
There’s a me in a possible world that was a soldier in the military. My grandfather, my father before me were military men, career military beyond just description for a period of time, and I think I would’ve done well there, but I wouldn’t know because this is not the world that I happened to find myself in, but that’s a possible world.
There’s a possible world in which I was a mediocre jazz musician. In high school, I majored in performance, saxophone performance in a performing arts high school, and I was really good for that age, but I could see my limits and I could have been good for my city or maybe my province.
There’s a possible world in which I was a good preacher, a pastor. I come from a long line of pastors and much of my extended family are ordained ministers. There’s a possible world in which I could have been a missionary trying to save the lost, I don’t know, in some developing world or something like that. [42:08.4]
There’s a possibility … This is just endless. I could just go on and on and on. I’m using myself as an example because I know myself well. I’m sure you could come up with many possible worlds in which you could have your career. I mean, I just use jobs as an example, but I mean, I could have been a lawyer, but very different in many different possible worlds.
You can see this is illustrated in an entertaining way in the MCU, the Marvel Universe. The recent Loki series did a really good job with that, all the different Lokis that were funny. There was one that was a crocodile Loki.
There’s a great book called The Midnight Library that I read with a reading group that did a really good job also, pointing out all of these different possible paths. These are real possibilities and there’s a whole science around it, around possible worlds, and you could spend all of your time the rest of your life, studying modalities, these possibilities, necessity and possibility. [43:08.2]
To think that there’s one potential that you could have, and that if you don’t have that potential, then you don’t fulfill that particular specific potential, then you’re not good enough, is just ridiculous. It’s not even intellectually viable. It’s a complete myth of this ideal you. There are just different yous. Some of them might have made more money. Some of them might have more sex. Some of them might have lived longer.
There’s a possible me that died in a plane crash. There’s a possible me that died in a motorcycle accident or that committed suicide successfully. These are possible worlds that I inhabited and where the reality turned out different from how it is right now. Some of them, given how I am now, I would prefer rather than others, and maybe some of them, I might have preferred aspects of them more than the current reality. [44:01.7]
I certainly would prefer to lose some of this fat that I’m carrying around my midsection right now, and if you wanted to say that if I had a six-pack and made 10x more or 100x more, or had 100x more money or something like that, that would be my ideal. There’s something to that. I wouldn’t say no to it, but would that be perfect? No, because there’s always better.
Why settle at 100? Why not 1,000x? Why settle at just a six-pack? Why not more muscles? Why settle at just muscles? Why not speed? Why can’t I have better vision, literally, with my eyes? Why can’t I have better hearing? The sky is the limit. There is no ideal. There is no potential. There’s just what you have and the choices that you make. Of course, there are possible worlds. There are possibilities and all of them hold potential, but there’s not just one potential, and if you don’t meet that one potential, then you’re not good enough. [45:01.6]
Okay, if this isn’t clear to you, you just need to study more. You just need to think more and understand deeper about possible worlds.
Okay, then the third fear is the fear of not being good enough, of not being enough for love. It’s important that you realize, if that’s the fear that’s driving you to use the whip of light coaching, to repress parts of yourself out of fear that if you don’t succeed in whatever arbitrary thing or goal that you’ve given to yourself, and by the way, it’s arbitrary. It’s always arbitrary. Guys don’t realize it.
So many guys don’t realize how arbitrary their goals sound to me, because it’s like so many of them think, If I don’t make $5 million, then I’m not going to be good enough. Why five? Why not 50? Why not 500? Why not a billion? Then some guys come up to me and say, “I need to make a billion.” Okay, why not 10 billion? Why not 100 billion? [45:55.5]
Then to some people it’s just, why money? Why not your body, because it looks like crap? Then I’ll meet a guy who is focused on his body and not his money. Okay, then maybe I’ll meet a guy eventually who focuses on every single potential thing, but that’s impossible because there’s always a tradeoff. Then why don’t you focus on being better at swimming? Why don’t you measure your worth based on how well you play chess? Why don’t you measure your worth on how well you speak Chinese?
There could be a whole number, an almost endless number of things that you use to judge yourself, whether you’re good enough or not, and it’s relatively arbitrary. What you’ve bought into as a child, really, which is where it almost always comes from, from your family, your community, your school, your peers, that you use now to judge whether you’re good enough as a man or whatever it is.
Some of you, bringing up the one as a man, a lot of guys who find me on the internet are obsessed with being good enough for attractive women, and they’re judging themselves and allowing women to dictate, or they’re mythical women. They don’t even really talk to real women, just what science says to them women want, and they use that, the faceless woman, the faceless attractive woman, the unreal, the non-real woman, as the judge of who makes them feel either enough or not enough. [47:14.0]
Your happiness, dude, is in the hands outside of you. It’s not in your hands. It’s in the hands of some faceless entity called “attractive women” and it’s being dictated, really, by some science textbook that says attractive women want this or that. Then you set that as your standard and you go and get that, and you think that when you finally get that—and this is true for all of these arbitrary goals that life coaching and anyone who follows that sets for themselves—whatever goal you think will finally make you enough so that you can finally rest, because finally you’re enough, whenever that goal is, it will not bring what you hope it will bring. It will not make you feel enough. It is not enough. [47:55.4]
It will never be enough, and even if it were enough temporarily, you’re going to have to keep it. You’re going to have to sustain it, because it’s never just get it once. You’re going to have to keep it going because it’s for life, right? Because time continues and you’re going to have to keep that six-pack or you’re going to have to keep that money, and you know what live coaching will tell you. The great lie is that money is not good enough because you’ve got to keep growing it, because growth is what leads to happiness, which is true, and all of these are half-truths.
In some sense, it’s true that watching or seeing progress can lead to happiness. It’s not the only thing that leads to happiness, though, and if that’s the only thing that you’re counting on to lead you to happiness, you are really screwed. Right? That’s just one of many things and it’s nicer to see growth than not to see growth. It’s nicer than seeing the opposite of it, losing progress.
But it would be even better if you didn’t give a damn about whether you were making progress or not, and you’re just fully accepting and happy with where you are right now. That’s the great secret that is hidden away from life coaching. [49:04.8]
I don’t even think life coaches know that. They’re so caught up in their own fears, and they pass them down to their clients and to their followers. Their own insecurities are ripped large on their own messaging and you can just tell what this person’s demons and his insecurities and his shadows are, based on his messaging or her messaging. It’s what they’re putting out there that they’re so afraid.
For instance, the big three fears that I’ve brought up here—there are many of them, I just chose three—the fear of failure or making mistakes, the fear of not meeting your potential, the fear of not being enough, I can see these fears embedded or on the face of those life coaches and those followers of life coaches, because of the energy that they’re using to fight off these fears. [49:54.8]
That final one, the fear of not being enough, the way in which you go about trying to deal with that fear is conditioning in yourself that you don’t love yourself. If you care about happiness and fulfillment, not just about success or not just about worldly success, but you actually care about your happiness and finding love and connection, as you know, if you’ve followed any of this material for long enough, you’d know that it requires loving yourself.
Of course, loving yourself requires accepting yourself. I mean, love is a much bigger thing than just acceptance, but it’s got to start with acceptance. That’s the easiest gateway in. That’s your foot in the door, your acceptance. The fact that you are doing so much to fight off the fear of not being enough is already telling yourself that you’re not good enough, and as a result, that you don’t love that part or those parts of yourself that you think are not enough right now, that you don’t love them because you don’t accept them, and that only when they change or when you can change them, or when you can get rid of them, then you’ll be worthy of love. Guess what? Unconsciously, you’re telling yourself that you’re not worthy of love. [51:09.5]
All of these fears and many other fears are what drive the agenda of life coaching. If you buy into it, it’s the great lie that will hurt you in the long run.
Just to recap, the fear of failure, and mistakes and loss, the fear of not meeting your potential, the fear of not being enough, these three fears and many other fears are behind the life coaching lie and the self-help trap. What you are really after is long-term and consistent happiness, fulfillment, and meaningful success that’s enjoyable to pursue.
Then you’re going to have to take seriously this idea of radical self-acceptance and really embrace it, because if you don’t, then all you’re going to have is an unsustainable energy of repression leading to burnout, if you’re lucky, or if you’re not, leading to an unhealthy, toxic repression there in the background, exhausting you, where you would feel tired, just closing your eyes and just feeling into those parts of you that are feeling like they’re not enough. Those needs are not being met by this repressive energy of striving. [52:20.3]
I’ve experienced all of these fears myself. This is how I know it so intimately. For most of my life, I pursued the life of an achiever, the strategy of an achiever, so I took very easily to life coaching. I was a natural with it. Like I said, I still love it. I love going to these life-coaching events, where you jump up and down and you scream at the top of your lungs, and you walk on fire. It’s a high. It’s a hoot. I love it.
But I know that, I know that and, hopefully, you are aware now that that is not a sustainable energy and it will lead to burnout. But it’s a great tool to have in your toolkit to use every now and then when you need a short burst, a sprint to some deadline, but this is not something to rely on as a default and it’s not something that can bring you consistent happiness or fulfillment. [53:10.8]
If that’s what you want, happiness, long-term happiness and fulfillment, and consistent enjoyable success, come to the next episode. I’ll be covering how to actually get this radical self-acceptance. How do you do it? I’ll be using some case studies to illustrate that over the next couple episodes.
I hope to see you in the next episode, and thanks so much for listening to this and any other episodes you’ve been listening to. Thanks for listening to this podcast. If you like it, hit “Like” on whatever platform you’re at. Give it a rating on Apple Podcasts and share it with anyone that you think would benefit.
Thanks so much for listening. I hope to see you in the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [53:50.3]
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